It's a little cheesy to use a Life is Good bumper sticker to give graduation advice to high school seniors, but here it goes anyway.
"Optimism can take you anywhere."
Rest assured, life will knock you down no matter how hard you try. It happens to all of us. Welcome to the human race. Your character will not be defined by the amount of times you fail but how you handle failure.
Set your goals, study, prepare, plan, work through the challenges, pick yourself up after getting knocked down, and keep plugging away. Perseverance is the key. Keep your head up, be optimistic, and you will eventually get to where you want to go. That's true in the classroom, on the job or while hiking an Adirondack backcountry trail.
Along your journey, don't forget to enjoy life. It's too short to waste away behind a computer screen or a TV. That's not living. Get your hands dirty. Be active. When all your friends are huddled together, with their heads down, mesmerized by their smartphones, be the one to pick your head up, shut off the phone and do something.
Do something with your life. Make it meaningful. That could be raising a family, running for elected office (and actually making a difference), being an activist or volunteering to make life better for someone else. There are thousands of ways to make your life meaningful. Choose a few that suit your personality.
If it suits you, be the leader, but lead by example. There are enough people in powerful positions full of hot air (and other stuff) who try to manage others by bossing them around, giving lectures and preaching what they think is best. A good leader isn't afraid to work alongside the staff. Good leaders are role models. They aren't afraid to get in the trenches with their troops.
Of course, most people can't start their careers as the leader. They start at the bottom. It takes time, paying your dues, to get to the top. And it takes a lot of hard work.
Now that you've graduated from high school, gather your strength. You'll need it. Be prepared to work harder than you've ever worked before.
Through it all, the good times and the bad, keep your sense of humor. Laugh at yourself. Smile.
Ten, 25, 50 years down the road, you may reflect on your time in high school as the best time of your life, and you'll look forward to a class reunion or social media chats with fellow classmates. Others will remember high school as the worst time of their lives and can't get far enough away from it. Remember your past, and learn from it. Cherish it, or hate it. Either way, it's the past. It's time to move forward.
Dream a little. Scratch that. Dream a lot! Dreams can't come true if you don't have dreams to begin with. If you don't think you can be the next superstar, think again. The world will always need superstars. They come from everywhere -small towns and big cities - and many start out as high school graduates, just like you.
Optimism can take you anywhere.