Dear Class of 2016 — 5 Life Lessons Learned Two Years After Graduating from UC Berkeley

Commencement season is upon us. An opportunity to celebrate the journey of each graduate’s achievements as well as the time, energy, investment and sacrifice they made in accomplishing a milestone goal. It is also a moment to give sincere thanks and appreciation to the village of supporters who provided love, encouragement and resources throughout the process.

When I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in May 2014, I experienced an array of emotions. Many included states of immense gratitude, joy, honor, excitement, eagerness and a ray of optimism. However, as the celebrations concluded and alone reflection time presented itself, I realized I was also harboring some fear of uncertainty. This unsettledness stemmed from the unknown. I was now confronted with the reality that I was leaving the structure of an institutionalized school system where I had spent the past 16 years of my life and a new chapter titled “the real world” was on the next page.

This fear began to shift my consciousness by not allowing the idea of the unknown to hinder me from living today. If I played victim to the unknown and did not take actionable steps forward in accomplishing my goals, I knew stagnation would occur. I began to focus my time and energy on what was in my control, letting go of what was not, and surrendering to the process of my journey while trusting the timing of my life.

As I reflect, the following are five life lessons I learned after graduating from UC Berkeley that provided me with a foundation for my personal and professional development as well as clarity and peace of mind as I have navigated the most imperative exam called life:

Time is Precious

The only thing that is ever guaranteed in our life is the present moment. Each day we have the unique opportunity to consistently unlock our greatest potential, moving one step closer to accomplishing our short and long-term aspirations. The question becomes, how will I spend my 24 hours, 1,440 minutes and 86,400 seconds today? Every morning is a new canvas to love, to serve, to let go, to empower, to inspire, to tell your story, and to be the very best version of yourself. Live and soar in the now, making each precious moment your masterpiece!

Pay Yourself First

Creating smart financial habits early can pay off dividends later on in life. While it is important to consistently save a percentage of all inflowing income and to live within one’s means, I also started asking myself why am I making a certain purchase decision. During these two years there were times I would engage in stress and emotional spending, never getting to the core root of the issue I was dealing with internally. After the purchasing thrill wore off, I was still faced with the internal burden that was temporarily masked by the action of my purchase. My mindset has shifted from acquiring less materialistic possessions to a greater investment in my development and experiences that will, in fact, create lifelong memories. As Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington profoundly stated at Dillard University’s 2015 commencement, “you’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.”

Learner of Life

New content and invaluable lessons surround us each moment we navigate through life. The key becomes realizing the beauty of the opportunity and seizing the experience. With the continued breakthroughs of technology and shifting digital marketplace, any curious thought we have is always just a click away. With this reality, we always have the ability to develop ourselves holistically allowing our genuine curiosity to be our wings. In the process, we not only empower ourselves, but also have the platforms to broadcast this information and inspire others in our local and global communities.

The Power of Relationships

Building sustainable and authentic relationships take a certain level of time, investment and accountability both individually and collectively. But if nurtured correctly, many life-changing opportunities can present themselves if a genuine partnership is created. In a culture that constantly focuses on the individual, the art of relationships transpires down to what value you can bring to another person without wanting anything in return. Leaving our egos behind, a sincere interest in building a partnership will enable it to grow and prosper in unimaginable ways. We all want to feel valued and appreciated and with that notion you can use the power of your influence to bring value to the lives of others. You will come across many individuals on your journey, presenting you with the incredible chance to surround yourself with people who think and act differently, enabling you to view the world through another lens.

Remain True to Self

I have learned throughout these two years that remaining true to oneself is a very empowering and transformative experience. We can all wear a mask at times to make everything look ok on the outside, fooling our family, friends and colleagues, but deep within we know when we yearn for something different and are not following our heart and intuition. In a short period of time I have learned that stepping out of your comfort zone and living out the life you envision not only enhances your personal and professional development, but also provides opportunities to discover a purpose that stretches beyond oneself. So I remind myself each day, to take strategic risks, silence the inner chatter of self-doubt and outside opinions of naysayers and to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. The setbacks, comebacks, and experienced detours on the journey are what make the exam of life beautiful and meaningful. You never need all the answers to get started in moving forward to living your best life today; just the right questions and a will to never give up on yourself no matter how difficult a situation appears. Embrace all of who you are unleashing your blessings, and sharing your one of a kind story.

As you continue to embark on this journey of life, never second guess your divine brilliance and beauty. Live in your true essence allowing your voice, passions and smile to be a beacon of inspiration, empowerment, hope and change. Realize deeply that your presence and story is uniquely yours, and can never be duplicated. The journey of life is long and transformative, not merely a destination. Through it all never forget that You Matter and your life is powerful beyond measure. Until our next share, celebrate and live each precious moment to the fullest. Salute to who you are and becoming. Peace and blessings. Keep Soaring…