Sitting With Einstein

You never know how your classmates are going to turn out

Be on the lookout for this guy. He might also be a girl.

In a few days, it will officially be 23 years since I graduated high school. That’s a long time. Much longer than I could’ve appreciated way back in 1994.

I remember graduation vaguely, and for all the wrong reasons, like the bird that committed suicide by flying into the front of my car.

Or the massive after-party I was so excited to attend, only to spend the evening sitting by a makeshift fire listening to a drunk guy play “Sweet Home Alabama” over and over again on his guitar.

Or my mistaken assumption that somehow, by simply graduating, I’d become a full-fledged adult.

The Company You Keep

All that aside, I wanted to say something to the kids (I can call you kids; I’m over 40) that will graduate this weekend. In the midst of your celebrations, your parties, your forward-thinking, take a moment and learn the names of some of the people you don’t know. Trust me on this.

That’s because in 20 years, you’re going to discover that some of the people you never got to know in high school will be the people who are doing some of the most amazing things. Thanks to Facebook, I know that some of my classmates currently hold the following positions:

  • astronomer
  • rock musician
  • actor
  • media liaison
  • truck driver
  • pilot
  • marketing expert
  • fishing guide
  • real estate agent
  • cellular biologist
  • ER doctor
  • gastroenterologist
  • orthodontist
  • writing professor

The odds are good the same people you’ll be sitting with at your graduation are going to do some amazing things in a few years as well. Even the guy who keeps telling everyone he’s gone commando beneath his robe. Or the girl taking more selfies than a Kardashian.

You might very well be sitting with the next Einstein, Musk, Hemingway, Roosevelt, Jackson, Poitier, or Monroe.

Or it might just be the other way around. Everyone else might be sitting with that person — you.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

Sitting in my graduation chair in 1994, I had no idea who I was going to be. It never crossed my mind that I would be able to lay claim to a life as a pastor, writer, actor, singer, father, radio producer, project manager, researcher, ditch digger, reporter, marketer, social media consultant, or coach.

I was just happy to be getting out of public school in one piece.

The rest of my life was something I’d figure out as I went. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a grand vision. I guess I thought I would go to college, get a degree, find a job, work it for 30 years, retire, get grumpy and die. Somewhere I’d probably squeeze in marriage and kids, but for the most part, I thought of my life as just one long push towards a tidy ending.

Here’s the thing:

You are the only person who can cap your potential.

You. You may run into people who don’t believe in you. You may encounter folks who seek to frustrate you. You might even come across people who are straight-up, just-like-in-the-comics arch enemies to you and your dreams.

Doesn’t matter.

The secret to becoming someone special, someone of influence, someone who can change the world, is as simple as this — don’t give up on yourself.

That’s it. That’s what makes a hero a hero, whether he or she wears a cape or a badge or a stethoscope. Persevere. Believe in yourself. Give yourself a chance.

When you plop your about-to-be-graduated butt down in that uncomfortable plastic chair and face a sea of parents who are so proud they might actually burst, take a look around you. Catch a few names. Memorize a few faces.

One day, a couple of decades from now, some of those people are going to log into Facebook (or whatever your generation will use when you’re old like me), and marvel at the things their classmates have accomplished. They’ll think back to the night they graduated and wonder how they never knew they were sitting with the next Einstein.

My hope is they will be thinking of you.

Congratulations on graduating. Now buckle up for the fun stuff.

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