To the new graduates:

We’d like to offer you a warm embrace, whether you’re walking across that stage today at Manhattan High, or whether you already tossed your cap at a Kansas State University ceremony. You deserve all the congratulations you’re getting, because you’ve paid a price and sacrificed and you’ve begun to learn how to learn. That’s the most important thing, and we’ll get back to that in a minute.

For just a moment, if you’ll permit us at this happy time, we’d like to dump a bucket of cold water on your head.

For you college graduates: Now is when the actual work begins. Now is when you build a career, a family, a life. You have bills to pay, and you have real sacrifices to make.

The dirty secret about college, which of course you now know, is that it is all make-believe. It’s a pretend world. The real one, which you are now entering, has no spring break, and no snow days, and no “safe zones.” The things that seemed to matter in college — rush, football, midterms, date parties — were really all just fun and games. At best, they were practice for what you are now about to do.

Hopefully, in your college years, you developed a stronger sense of confidence in yourself. Hopefully, you learned about your own resourcefulness, and you began to figure out how much you don’t know. The greatest gift of college is learning how to ask questions, not how to pretend to know the answers.

In essence, it’s both a humbling experience and a confidence-building one. Funny how it works that way.

For you high school grads: The vast majority of you will go to college right away, and so we’ll focus on that. Not all of you, of course: Some will go straight to work; some will put their lives on the line in the military.

But for those of you heading to college: The quicker you humble yourself, the better. It’s OK to not know anything, and to admit it.

Yes, you reached the pinnacle of high school, and you won some awards, and that’s good. You should have some confidence in your own ability to achieve.

For your own good, though, it works best if you are confident enough to admit your own shortcomings. You don’t really know anything yet. Trust us on this: Focus on asking questions and opening yourself up to new answers and new ideas.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty good advice for anyone.

Again, congratulations. You do truly deserve it. Now, put that work to good use.

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