Hank

Another Commencement time in Chickasaw County, and across the rest of the nation for that matter, has passed into history.

That means a lot of high school and college graduates and their parents were subjected to useless, sometimes harmful advice.

Yes, it’s the season when graduation speakers shovel smoke, polish mirrors and try to pass off trite aphorisms as wisdom.

We hope graduates listened carefully, used their common sense, and separated the wheat from the chaff. PhD sometimes stands for Piled High and Deep.

We hope the grads were especially suspicious of advice touted as being universally true, because precious few things are. We pray the grads are smart enough to know the difference.

For instance, graduates likely heard that oldie: “If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” Well, remember, if you win the rat race, you’ll have no trouble feeding your family.

And should you, as a graduate, decide to drop out, not try to better yourself or help support your spouse or children or significant other, and not enter the rat race at all, well, remember, two can live as cheaply as one, but only for half as long.

A second hoary saying grads might have heard: “ It’s lonely at the top.” Actually, it’s a lot lonelier at the bottom.

And a third: “Every time one door closes, another door opens.” Look carefully before taking the second door. It is sometimes a trap door, leading directly to that lonely place at the bottom.

A fourth worn-out cliche: “Failure is a better teacher than success.” This one is often mouthed by some highly successful individual, to an individual, or to an audience composed of graduates’ parents, many of whom may be on food stamps or other forms of welfare.

And a fifth: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Not always. Let’s say you are suffering from a severe case of flesh-eating bacteria. Would you rather be treated by a doctor using a powerful antibiotic, or by Chris Rock?

And a sixth: “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” Take this phrase in context. Few people actually believe this saying, although it continues to show up in many “motivational” speeches. Those who actually do this generally do so because they have no place better to go, such as to a loving spouse, supportive family, good dog, or even a worthwhile hobby.

Such people may be captains of industry, but they’re privates – not even privates first class – in the rest of life. It’s a poor trade. Some Enron or WorldCom executive may someday whisper on his deathbed: “I spent too much time at the office, which is why I’m in prison.”

Some of the advice graduates heard is right for some, but wrong for others.

Graduates likely heard a speaker use the phrase, “pinpoint your passion.” Remember former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay did just that. He followed his passion to business, and made millions while his employees and stockholders were losing their life savings.

In short, not everyone should pinpoint his or her passion. Slobodan Milosevic, Hitler, Stalin, John Wayne Gacy and Jeffery Dahmer come to mind.

Graduation day should be one of life’s most joyous occasions.

I hope some well-meaning speaker didn’t ruin it with ridiculous advice.

Graduates should remember that throughout their lives, they will encounter bad advice, even from well-meaning people they respect.

They should feel free to ignore it.

But remember, advice is not the same as laws. Don’t ignore a law just because you don’t like it.

Now that’s good advice.

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