Blogpost, self-reliance

That Diploma in Your Hand (What It Does and Does Not Say)

Senior High School PhotoIt is graduation season!  Whether high school or college or even pre-school, millions of students will be walking forward to receive their diplomas.  This tradition has carried on for centuries and will probably continue into the foreseeable future.  The act of public recognition of achievement is extremely important.  It releases a cascade of chemicals into our systems that act as a reward/marker for the accomplishment.  Our feelings are what drive us to do almost everything in our lives.  So the event is important but what about the paper?  What does it say or not say about us as individuals?

The things, that a diploma is, are numerous.  It is a certificate of completion of requirements.  Depending on the level of study, it may indicate certain levels of outstanding performance.  It is a signal of a certain level of commitment.  At the university level, it is almost a form of tribalism that uses the reputation of the institution to in theory say something about the individual.  All of these and many more are things that a diploma may say.  But even more important for graduates at the moment is what a diploma does not say.

It does not say:

  • That you’re done learning.
  • That you’re smart.
  • That the world now owes you something.
  • That you won’t need to reprove that you deserved to earn the diploma.
  • That you are less than, equal to or better than anyone else with a diploma or without one.
  • That you’re stuck pursuing that one thing for the rest of your life.
  • That the value of the diploma won’t change over time.

Obviously this is just a short list but at this point you probably get the picture.  A diploma is a piece of paper.  In the end it is not the paper that matters, it is you!  You are the one who will go out into the world to make things happen.  Pinning that paper to your chest to use as a shield against all future challenges is a poor strategy.  INSTEAD use the diploma as a milestone.  A marker that delineates the difference between one portion of your life and another.  The story that we tell ourselves about ourselves is extremely important.  So recognize that the paper is flimsy, easily tarnished and not very valuable on its own because another copy is available at a price.  However you have the ability to be anything that you decide to be regardless of the paper.  You are what truly matters and your continued pursuit of life will be the record that you will be judged upon.  There is no other copy of you, even if you’re a twin.  Take your individuality and mix it with what you have learned and pursue those things that create energy within you.  Build a life that you will be excited to get up and live every day!

Best of luck to all of the graduates!

Pete

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