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Survey says…The top tips for the high school graduating class of 2013

My husband and I were in Virginia Beach last weekend for our nephew’s high school graduation. (Congratulations again, Cuyler!) My hometown of East Aurora, New York, will hold its ceremony this weekend. Some graduates turned their tassels almost a month ago.

Thank you again to all who responded to my one-question survey: As you think back to the “aha” moments you’ve had since graduating from high school, what is your top tip for the class of 2013?

Tips for the 2013 high school graduation class from the "aha" moments of prior graduates - a survey conducted by Donna Hartney, author of "aha" moment self-help bookDrum roll please. Here are the top three most frequent tips in a survey of more than 200 contacts and colleagues, ranging from recent grads to those who had been out of school for decades. As a bonus I’ve thrown in the most poignant tip and the laugh out loud funniest tip.

Let’s do this the David Letterman way. Shall we?

Tip #3 – Focus on your connections

As Anne Rogers (class of 1981) put it, “Always CONNECT with the people in your life!  Whether it is university professors, cafeteria servers, people in your dorm, or the provost, learn their name and make sure they learn yours.  We are all human, we are in this together, EVERYONE needs to connect.”

Tip #2 – Do what you love

“If I had a time machine to bring me back to the day I graduated high school, the one tip I would give to my younger self is do what makes you happy,” wrote Kelly (class of 2001). “Life is too short to live it the way you think you have to or the way society tells you. If you are not doing what makes you happy, inevitably you will live a mediocre life. You are only as rich as you are happy and now as an adult I have truly realized the meaning in that.”

Tip #1 – Be a learner

Ronni Price (class of 1987) summed it up, “Even though you’re graduating, don’t stop being a student.  Become a learner for life. Take each day or year as an opportunity to grow. Seek, discover and engage in something new; learn from an experience.  If you make the effort to do this, life rarely (if ever) gets boring and you’ll most likely always have something to look forward to.”

The most poignant response came from Nancy Maloney (class of 1977 and winner of the random drawing for a $25 gift card).

“When my former CEO,  who had devoted his life to his job (running through multiple marriages, always working, being thrown out by the Board after executing the most successful area merger) died of a heart attack at age 51, I thought, ‘Life is too short. I’ll never again give up the ones I love, the things I love, for a job. I’m going to do what makes me happy, not necessarily what I’m good at.’ I went back to school and became a master cabinet and furniture maker.”

The funniest response came from Mark (class of 1972). He wrote, “Check with your wife before doing something stupid.” Lol! OK, in fairness to Mark, here’s his complete list:

1) If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

2) Your attitude is the most important choice you make every morning.

3) Be thankful in all situations.

4) Check with your wife before doing something stupid.

5) Be on the lookout for opportunities to show kindness.

Thanks again, everyone, and best wishes to the class of 2013!