Thoughts for our Graduates

As you finish high school, you will hear plenty of people tell you to find your passion, stay true to yourself, or set goals and chase your dreams. I am here to tell you this is the wrong way of thinking. All of these notations are very self-centered approaches to life. They are inward-focused instead of outward-focused. We will never make our community, our state, our nation better with an inward focus. It takes an outward focus to help our world improve. As you move forward in life, I encourage you to look where you can make your greatest contribution. Develop a mission, a purpose, for your life, and use that to drive your actions.

For thousands of years, travelers have used the North Star to guide their journey. The North Star is constant. Even on a cloudy night, you just need patience and the North Star will reappear in the sky. It is a guide for your journey. It is not just about getting from Point A to Point B, it is about always having a guide in your journey. Sometimes that journey may take you over a well-maintained path that makes your travels easy; sometimes that journey could be over a rugged landscape where you may not be able to see where you are going. But, the North Star is still the guide, it is still a beacon that will allow you to follow the right path regardless of the terrain.

Having a mission is much like this. Let me give you an example, Mother Teresa had a mission for her life, not a goal. Her mission was to “serve the sick and dying.” Her goal was not to be a doctor or a nurse. Her mission was to serve. Goals allow you to shift responsibility to someone else when things do not go your way. There will always be people or circumstances that create roadblocks in you becoming a doctor or a nurse, but no one can stop you from serving the needs of the sick and dying.

The reality is most people spend their lives chasing their own goals instead of actually letting a mission guide their choices. There are too many things that can get in the way of goals, take our current circumstances as an example. Goals can run into uncontrollable factors that may stop our progress, and leave us thinking that we have failed.  If Mother Teresa wanted to be a doctor, financial obligations, or educational opportunities could have stopped her in her tracks. Instead, she always looked to find ways to serve the sick and the dying. That was her North Star.

This does not mean our path will always be easy. Most certainly it will not.  You will face numerous challenges and adversity you don’t think you can handle. No one wants challenges; no one wants adversity. But a fact of life is that you are going to have to deal with them. You can be controlled by your circumstances, or you can be guided by your mission. Your mission, your North Star, will always provide direction. But, you have to have a purpose to be your guide. 

As you leave Southport High School and head into the world, I encourage you to look outwardly to where you can make your biggest contribution. I encourage you to find your North Star. Determine what mission will drive the actions in your life and then stick to it. You may have goals, but they must be mission-driven. You will run into obstacles, but use your mission as your guide. Follow it with an unwavering commitment. Live it with a relentless pursuit of making a contribution to this world. Let go of the outcomes, and just do your best. Follow your North Star, and you will discover that you were the star in many people’s lives including your own.

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