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Dear Class of 2020, Five Messages to Frame Your Future (E-Commencement Speech)

First and foremost allow me to be one of many to salute you for all of your amazing academic accomplishments. You are a trailblazer, a champion, and a  scholar ready to apply your acquired knowledge to enhance and advance this world we live in.  The world we assumed would welcome graduates with open arms has changed in ways we could have never imagined or adequately prepared for. Many of you are understandably frustrated due to cancelled ceremonies, celebrations, and annual traditions. Others, including myself, are suffering immensely from the loss of loved ones, financial instability and the uncertainty of the future of all industries. The sudden switch to remote learning to close this academic year has created a new reality that we must all continue to adjust to.

In the midst of this global change, it is very important to pause as we acknowledge your resilience, intellect, and grit. You have met all the academic requirements of your program and were forced to immediately learn the larger life lessons of “nothing is promised” and the “uncertainty of tomorrow.”  Your adjustment and preparation for the future is going to require practical skills that exist beyond face-to-face and virtual classroom instruction.

My personal pain-filled victorious journey includes homelessness, tragedy, self-hatred, hopelessness all nestled within anti-intellectual environments. If your story mirrors my story and has caused you trauma and drama, you are not alone.  My message to you is crafted with ideas and action steps I utilized to develop discipline and focus to reach all of my goals. I have shared these tips globally including for Superbowl Champions and Olympic athletes and today’s post-graduation reality requires strategy to chart a clear path moving forward.

Dr. Daniel JeanDr. Daniel Jean

My Five Messages to Frame Your Future are:

Message #5. Team Success or Team Failure? We must first acknowledge the loved ones we lost who supported us on this journey with a moment of silence as we reflect on their contributions to your success.

Moving forward, you must continue to create a “circle of influence” surrounding yourself with positive energy and doers. Continue to connect and reconnect with those influencers who provide resources and guidance. Help those in your circle who are less fortunate and share resources. Work to motivate those around you and vice versa. To quote one of my favorite motivational speakers, “If you show me your friends I’ll show your future,” and to paraphrase a fallen hip hop poet, if your circle of friends don’t inspire you, they are not a circle they are a cage.

Message #4: Continuously enhance and guard your mindset. Believe it or not we talk to ourselves more than we talk to anyone else. Remain optimistic and ensure that your inner voice is an encouraging coach and not a negative critic that hinders active progress towards your goals.  Continue to feed your intellect and spirit with information that uplifts and nourishes your soul and growth. Mental blocks exist. Depression and anxiety are real. If you need assistance clinical or otherwise, seek help.

Message: #3: Intentional Choices. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond and process your reality. Be intentional with all future choices and be aware of the potential results and consequences of each decision. Moving forward you will be faced with daily decisions. Will you create an intentional daily routine or will you flounder aimlessly through your day?  As it relates to your career, will you pursue the paycheck, or will you pursue your passion and ultimately never work a day in your life? Also, will you focus on your needs or frivolous unnecessary wants? Precise decision making will determine what tomorrow will bring. We all know what a bad choice is. Choose wisely.

Message #2: Avoiding Weapons of Mass Distraction. Recent circumstances have all but assured most if not all are “hooked” on their portable screens as a gateway to the outer world and in some ways an escape. You must use all screens primarily as a tool and not a toy. Take a weekly self-inventory on how many hours you are working on growth versus the amount of hours you are focusing on entertainment. Don’t spend hours upon hours fixated on negative stuff, binge watching junk that does not inspire progress, or circumstances you can’t change that are harmful to your spirit.

And the final message: I Am. I Will. Be clear on who you are and what you plan to become. Once you have gained the clarity of your identity and specified your goals you can map out action steps to achieve all of your personal and professional objectives. Write down “I Am…” and list all of things you believe you are…not the societal definition of what some might say you are…but what YOU believe you are……I am intelligent, I am a strong Haitian-American…..I am a super-charged graduate…..anything you put after “I Am…” no one can tell you that you are not.

After you write, your “I Am…” statements, write your “I will…”, followed by everything you plan to become…….I will become a nurse, I will protect my family…I will accomplish all of my goals. Claim the victory now and focus on all the action items you must complete to accomplish those goals.

In closing, you have proven your incredible abilities over the course of your studies and we salute you!  All of your studying, researching, reading, test-taking, presenting, writing, and overall engagement has paid off. You are unstoppable and will continue to succeed. Don’t get ready, be ready for all the world has to offer you and adapt accordingly. If you cannot find a job create one.  The uncertainty of several industries will demand we all recognize multiple revenue streams utilizing creativity and critical thinking to ultimately solve some if not all of our new challenges. Life is a journey not a destination which requires continuous growth and elevation. We are proud of you and excited to share in this victorious moment. Remember as you move forward, to accomplish what you never have, you must do something you have never done. Congratulations to you the class of 2020 and I am excited to witness how you shape and create a new reality for us all.

Dr. Daniel Jean is a college administrator, founder of PhinisheD/FinishEdD #WhoGotNext and Wordstravel LLC and a keynote speaker and trainer.

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