Oh, the places you’ll go! Advice to my younger, graduating self.

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away! …
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.
From Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss

As we emerge from graduation season, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite books, Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. While graduation inherently means the end of something, it’s also the start of new adventures, experiences, and decisions. 

Like the book goes on to illustrate, I’ve learned that life is an adventure, jam-packed with unexpected twists and turns. The excitement and challenges of these experiences make life special. 

At NCF, we believe the story of your generosity happens over a lifetime — in small moments and big leaps of faith — that propel you into adventures with God that you never dreamed possible. While the list of things I’ve learned is never-ending, here are the top six things I know now that I wish I could tell my younger self to make the adventure a little smoother. Share with the graduate in your life. And if you’re a graduate, congratulations, Kid — you’ll move mountains!

  1. Fear God, do what He tells you: Solomon summarizes the fleeting nature of all he’s gained and learned with this, “There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you” (Ecclesiastes 12:12-13, The Message). Similarly, when Jesus explained the most important thing to do in life, it was to love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV).  As followers of Christ, like Solomon, we too, have been given all we need for life and have access to the riches of His grace. But without a vertical relationship with God founded in Christ, whatever material possessions, job status, or financial success we achieve is meaningless.
  2. Attitude and Effort: A coach on my college football team (whom I held much respect for) drilled these words every single practice  into our heads: “Attitude and effort.” He repeated them incessantly. You’ll eventually live enough life to learn there isn’t much we can control. But we can control our attitude and our effort. Paul’s words in Colossians 3 are instructive for us. He writes that no matter what we do, we ought to do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through Him while we do it (3:17). Then he goes on to tell us “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” These words give us purpose for our work. If we work for the glory of God, I believe our attitude and efforts will reflect Him, and be filled with joy, compassion, and fervor. 
  3. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together: No one can trace its origins, but this phrase is powerful. Our society can be incredibly individualistic. As Christians, when we “go”, stepping into new experiences, it’s vital that we do so within community. Whether starting a business, learning a new profession or promotion, or moving to an unfamiliar place, finding a community of faith with other faith-focused individuals helps ground us. Walking through these new seasons accompanied by other believers, including professional organizations, a church or online groups keep us connected and strengthened. When Christ is the common denominator, we can cultivate an environment of honest and transparent vulnerability that’s rooted in love. And anything rooted in love will possess the strength necessary for longevity.
  4. A plan is just a beginning point for change: I heard this phrase regularly during my time in the Military, and I’ve watched it play out a lot in my own life, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Proverbs 16:1 says, “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word (MSG).” Even the boxer Mike Tyson, when asked by a reporter whether he was worried about Evander Holyfield and his fight plan, answered, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And obviously so! It’s perfectly okay to make plans. They are quite necessary. However, it’s wise to give ourselves permission to hold them loosely. They can likely change, and ultimately we aren’t in control of the outcome anyway. We can do nothing apart from God and He knows what is in our hearts. He works out everything for His own ends.
  5. Live with an abundance mentality: No matter our career, family, relationship, or financial status or background, it’s easy to feel as if we don’t have enough. There is always more work to do and bigger dreams to pursue. Our God is a God of abundance, not scarcity. Life is not a finite, but an expanding pie. He wants to use each one of us to further His Kingdom, and we are blessed to be used in that effort. Seeking ways to support and collaborate  with others (rather than compete with others) called to that same effort leads to greater impact on the world. We can advance the Kingdom of God more effectively through cooperation rather than competition. Experience our 10 Days of Biblical Generosity devotional to grow in your own journey of living with a mindset of abundance over scarcity. 

“KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS! 
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray 
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, 
You’re off to Great Places! 
Today is your day! 
Your mountain is waiting. 
So…get on your way!” 

If you haven’t read Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, I’d love to send you a copy. I don’t believe Dr. Seuss was a Christian, but much of what he writes in this book is biblical. The journey he describes is compelling, and it’s not all good and it’s not all bad — just like real life. But as John 16:33 (ESV) says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”