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Back in the spring I had the pleasure of serving as a mentor at St. Richard’s School for their Entrepreneur Academy.  I spent one week with the junior high students reviewing case studies of new products to hit the market.  We created a company and explored business plans, financing, marketing and liability of products that could revolutionize healthcare, agriculture, and the environment.  It was an exciting week and gave me an opportunity to work with an age group that I truly enjoy.  These bright students were given an opportunity to gain exposure to real product case studies, an opportunity most students don’t receive until college.  I was absolutely honored when the Head of the Middle School asked me to serve as the commencement speaker for the graduating eighth grade class.

I reflected on the time I spent with the students and also on my own experience as an eighth grader.  And I thought a lot about what message to impart on these teenagers as they close one chapter and open another one.  I tried but could not get the traditional messaging surrounding enjoying high school, working hard, meeting new friends and preparing for college to work.  So I sat at my computer and started to write what life lessons I know now that I wish I had learned at the age of 15 instead of 42.  I spoke to the graduates about the building blocks that I think form a solid foundation for every day life and the forces that try to disrupt those blocks.

Using a well-known tale of the Three Little Pigs, I encouraged the students to build their foundation on three blocks: gratitude, passion and silence.  I encouraged them to build a foundation so solid that when the Big Bad Wolf (who masquerades as intolerance, fear, cynicism, greed and apathy) appears he can huff and puff but cannot blow their house down.  There are certainly many more building blocks in life and attributes of the Big Bad Wolf, but I thought it was a starter to a healthy conversation.  I hope part of this message stays with them so they don’t have to wait another 27 years to discover it.  That is my graduation gift to them and to any other graduates out there.  The very bests gifts are ones you can pay forward.  If you like the theme,  you can read the entire speech, and feel free to forward this post to someone else.

What foundation is your life built on?  If you had the chance, what advice would you give your eighth grade self?  Leave a comment and let me know.

– Read Sally’s entire commencement speech
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