Richard Connor: No highfalutin advice, graduates – just two words

Short, concise, and pithy answers are not my forte. Written or spoken. After I take a deep breath at the computer keyboard I exhale in about 900 words.

Drives the editor nuts.

It’s the old “I didn’t ask you how to make a watch. I just wanted the time.”

Graduation has been a thread running through my life for a couple of months. First it was interviewing college graduates, mostly from TCU, and then attending two graduation ceremonies, one high school and the other middle school.

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As one job interview with a college student wound down, he turned the tables and asked me a question: In my long career (50 years), what had I learned?

First short answer I have ever given.

“Don’t quit,” I said.

He left the room and I started wishing my answer had been deeper and more profound. But the more I pondered it, the surer I became that it was the best advice I could have offered.

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When you look at graduates at any level you see many things. I look at their faces and try to imagine what they will look like in true adulthood and I try to ascribe personalities to those faces, personalities that will emerge in the graduates’ business and family lives.

That mental game is extremely difficult to play when looking at a group of graduating eighth graders. The ones I looked at last week wore the clothing of adults – blue blazers and ties, delicate white dresses – but they were mere babies in the costumes of their parents. It was like dress-up day.

I have often wondered at what stage you tell a child that life is tough. Not bad. Just tough. I favor waiting a long time because they will find out the truth for themselves soon enough: Life is tough. You win. You lose. There are days that seem to never end.

But, there are more good days than bad and the good ones far outweigh the negative moments. Personal growth often results from dealing with adversity.

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Graduation at any level of a person’s education is still a milestone. Often, we take high school graduation for granted but in fact it is a significant moment in life and one to be celebrated and cherished.

I’ve had the honor of giving speeches at high school graduations. If I were to give one again, after sitting in the audience through several over the years, I know for certain I would be more succinct.

The speaker is dealing with a sea of kids whose attention span is three seconds or less. These days some are looking at their cellphones – maybe playing games, maybe texting.

The students want to walk across that stage, get their diplomas and head to the nearest party. It is highly doubtful they are listening intently.

So, what would I say?

Don’t quit.

Find a line of work you love and one that truly can be fun. Work harder than everyone else. There is no substitute for hard work.

Be prepared for opportunity when it jumps up in front of you – strike quickly.

Money is not everything. Far from it.

If it’s high school you are leaving and you’re headed to college, you have four summers to live life at its fullest. Do not waste that time.

Treat others as you wish to be treated.

Be kind.

Be prepared for failure and sadness and even tragedy. Never lose faith.

Look for humor everywhere you go and spread the smiles and the laughter.

And don’t quit.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at