May is that time of year when our newsfeeds are filled with wonderful graduation photos and clips of various commencement speeches. I always love a good inspirational commencement address, and this year it was Will Ferrell's words to the USC graduates that left an impression. Along with his undeniable humor (and a stellar version of a Whitney Houston song!), he included a strong reminder "to enjoy the journey - and worry less about the outcome”. He also touched on a theme my husband and I find ourselves discussing often these days: the definition of success. Even with all of Will Ferrell’s outward accomplishments and accolades, he considers his biggest successes to be personal -
• His 16 year marriage to his wife, Viveca
• Their three sons
• The service work he holds dear
As parents, we’ve hit that point when our kids and their friends have graduated from college, and many conversations with the twenty-somethings and the parent-somethings revolve around the ideas of 'success'. It seems that the idea of success is frequently focused around a certain job/which falls into a few certain industries/commanding a certain salary/after obtaining certain types of degrees/from certain types of institutions ... yes, certainly a few very narrow parameters - that many ‘kids' don't fit into.
Over the past few years my husband and I have spoken about this frequently, as we have come to realize that the biggest - and undoubtedly most significant - success in our lives has been our relationship with each other and the raising of the two human beings who are our sons. There is not much talk today in this younger generation (or, quite honestly, by some of our contemporaries) about how to be successful in relationships - the significance of finding people to share your life, and how to create a partnership with another person. There is limited focus on the importance of connections, kinship, and community - with modern emphasis placed on the best grades, high test scores, and getting into ‘good’ schools - followed by a similar narrow mindset as our kids step out of college and into the workforce. We wonder what this will mean to a generation raised to value achievements over kindness, getting good grades over being good people, IQ over EQ - how do we teach care and responsibility in relationships?
Now that our kids are out of school and working adults, we hope they received the message: being a good person, finding a loving life partner, and being of service in the world is ALSO what success is all about. We will continue to instill these values. My husband and I would not have found half of the success in the other endeavors in our lives if we didn't share a strong foundational relationship. We have supported one another through business endeavors, charity and community work, and - of course - on the parenting journey. If I could send a message to anyone discussing the concept of success it is this: don’t forget what makes the world go ‘round. Whether you are a parent who is still guiding an adult child, or a child who is striving to be successful, remember when you look back on your life (even when you are only halfway there, like I am) you will measure your successes based on the people who surround you and love you and have been on the journey with you. It is not always an easy path, and you will want to have good people by your side to share your triumphs - and the inevitable bumps - along the way. Let's widen our definition of success for these kids who are stepping into the real world and allow it to include, among other things, the value of creating a life that includes relationships, family, and meaning - for these are the truest riches that life has to offer. Congratulations to the class of 2017.