“How many times have you spoken to high school graduating classes?” Paddy asked.
“I never kept track,” I answered, “but it would be a lot.”
“Half a dozen, a dozen?” he probed.
“It would certainly be closer to a dozen, maybe more,” I told him.
“Did you always use the same theme?” Paddy continued.
“Yes.” I admitted, “Although I didn’t always use the exact same narrative, I had basic points that I always used.”
“What were those,” he next asked.
“The most important one,” I stated, “was to never let someone else define who you are. I would point out that never before, in the entire history of the world, has there been anyone exactly like them; there was no one else on earth right now exactly like them; and, there would never again be anyone exactly like them. They had their own lives to live and they should never bow to pressure with which they weren’t comfortable. I told them the most enduring characteristic people can develop is to be themselves at all times. Never try to be someone you aren’t”
“What about identical twins?” Paddy mischievously asked.
“I actually spoke to a graduating class in Morell, PEI, one time that had two sets of twins in it, and one of the teachers in the audience challenged me on that very point,” I told him.
“How did you answer it?” Paddy asked.
“I pointed out that they wouldn’t be exactly alike in the context of my point. At the very least they’d each have different experiences and different attitudes towards those experiences.”
I stopped to take a drink of coffee, and when Paddy just sat and stared at me I went on. “The next thing I stressed was the importance of having goals, and the necessity of having plans designed to reach those goals. I always stressed that they needed both long-term and short-term goals, and why.”
“Yes,” Paddy grunted, “you gave me that speech last month. Go on”
“My favourite technique was to ask them to picture what I called the triangle of success, with the three sides being skills, knowledge and attitude. I always stressed the importance of a positive attitude and how doing their very best at all times was important to success. Of course, I would point out that they should never stop adding to their store of knowledge and skills.”
“Man, you’re getting repetitive,” Paddy remarked, “you gave me that lecture last week.”
“It’s always worth a reminder,” I defended myself.
“Did you usually have a question period?” Paddy asked, getting back to the high school topic.
“Always,” I told him. “Sometimes the school would suggest I not have one, but because the question periods gave me a window onto what the particular class was most interested in I always insisted.”
“What was the most common question you were asked, or is that too difficult to sort out?” he asked.
“Actually,” I said, “it’s very easy to answer that. The most common question (and I don’t recall a single question period during which it wasn’t asked) was how to choose a career.”
“That,” Paddy postulated, “must have been impossible to answer.”
“Not at all,” I assured him, “because the answer was the same for every kid in every class. I’d tell them to find something that they would do for nothing, and then learn to do it so well that people would pay them to do it.”
“I like that,” Paddy said as he shrugged into his coat and left. “I’m going to go home and do something for nothing right now.”
“Be sure to do it so well that somebody will pay you later to do it.” I said to his back.
He quite rightly ignored me.