Two years ago I was invited (by me) to make the commencement address at Blog University (6-4-14).  It was so well received (by me) that I have been asked again to address the graduates of 2016.

“To all of you who have survived the rigors and parties of college life, let me help you reach for a handle on life.  There are six areas I would like to outline which took me many years to understand and appreciate.

“These six plus six more will be discussed in some greater detail in an expanded version available by request (see note at the end).

“First, the three-question interview.  Whether you’re actually asked these questions or not on a job interview, you will be better for knowing the answers.

“No. 1:  Where are you going?  What do you want to do and/or accomplish in life?  Not just want kind of job or career you want but what will be your priorities; family, church, accomplishments; the things that will give you satisfaction and fulfillment.

“No. 2:  What are your strengths?  This question is only important because it leads to the third question, so don’t get too carried away with this one.

“No. 3:  What are your weaknesses?  Be concise and truthful; ‘I’m not as good a writer as I’d like to be.’  ‘I’m not always as detail-oriented as I should be.’  ‘I’m not always sure of the direction (or goal) of a given project.’  ‘Impatient,’ etc.

“Second, when to make a decision.  When a decision is needed, we tend to think about analyzing the problem, getting all the background and/or considering all the alternatives.

“These are all necessary in the decision-making process, but the most important and first consideration is—when does the decision have to be made?

“When you jump at trying to make a decision fast, you short-change your ability to make the best decision.  If you understand how much time you have to make the decision, you create a more relaxed, less frantic environment and provide a path to a better decision that almost seems as if you arrived at that decision seamlessly without strain or anxiety.

“Third, look for options or stepping stones.  Try to avoid all or nothing, charge ahead or abandon totally some project or idea.  Try to find some steps that can lead in the same direction without jumping the whole distance forward or back.

“Fourth, asking for a raise.  Most people ask for a raise and attempt to justify the asking based on their assessment of their worth and comparison to other people and jobs they see.  Not a good approach.  Just asking for a raise because you need it or you think you deserve it is a bit threatening.

“The best way to do it is to seek out your employer’s counsel at some appropriate intervals and propose these kinds of questions:

  • How can I make myself more valuable to this firm?
  • How can I approve my ability to do a better job?
  • How can I improve my work here?
  • How can I assume more responsibility?
  • How can I help the firm’s objectives and goals?

“These questions say you are eager; you are anxious; you are willing, loyal and dedicated.

“Fifth, there’s plenty of time.  There are 168 hours in a week.  They are generally used:

  • 56 hours sleeping
  • 14 hours preparing, eating and cleaning up
  • 7 hours showering, dressing, cleaning
  • 5 to 10 hours traveling/commuting
  • 38 hours working

“And there’s laundry, errands, etc., but that leaves 20 to 30 hours each week you can decide what to do with.  Set your priorities and make time work for you.

“And, sixth, the prizes are given for staying power.

“You may have the promise; you may have the potential; you may only need the chance to exercise your creative juices and aggressive ability.  Your chances of really being rewarded properly for all this, however, will only come when you have demonstrated the staying power; the consistency to hang in over some period of time.  How long?  Certainly, it will vary.  It’s at least a year or more; it’s not months; it’s not days.

“You can get what you want out of life—if you know what it is you want and follow some of these guidelines.  There is, of course, much more, but these have been some of the more important things I have learned in reaching for my handle on life.  I hope if you can understand some of what I’m saying, it will help you and make it easier for you.  But it is your handle, and your life, and you must reach for it in your way.”

Note:  An expanded version of this blog called “A 12-Part, Post-Graduate Seminar on Climbing the Ladder of Success” is available (12 pages or so) if you email me your request at


1 Comment

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  1. Randy Bauler, CEM

    Art – Thanks for sharing your wisdom and insights. Your second commencement address is “right on” (from the 70s, when I received my first real commencement address at Syracuse University from Ted Kennedy).

    I shared your Blog and wise recommendations with my two daughters (now ages 30 and 26), with the following note:

    Tricia and Beth – Every once and awhile, Art Schwartz shares some gems with his Blog audience. The message below is one of those times. Please click and read Art’s “commencement” address – and you can decide if you want to consider, follow or discard/delete his advice and “handle on life” lessons.

    I find Art’s words of wisdom closely match my work experiences and what I’ve learned over the past 40+ years. Hope you enjoy. Love, Dad

    Art – Two suggestions:

    1. Second bullet point under your fourth piece of advice — should the word “approve” read “prove”?

    2. A bonus piece of advice for future graduates – I know you love your mobile devices and all the social media opportunities to communicate and share your opinions. But before you press the “Send” button — take a few seconds to re-read what you just wrote and ask if this is something you want the world — or your mother/spouse/loved ones to see. And once in a while put down your devices — or turn them off for a few hours — and reflect on the personal joys and wonders life has to offer. Human contact and face-to-face communications carry a lot of weight and often have a deep impact on others — and you don’t need to take or send a “selfie” to prove it.

    Art – I’m standing and applauding your commencement address. Great job! Randy

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