Advice to Graduates – From the Bhagavad Gita

I don’t normally share my “official job life” on this site, but this year, I wrote my commencement remarks around a quote from the Bhagavad Gita, in part as a tribute to my yoga teacher training peers, who recently graduated a 200-hour program with me.  So, today I share it with you…

A wise man once wrote, “On this path, effort never goes to waste and there is no failure.” While this particular author was speaking of the path of enlightenment, this quote can be applied to our understandings of any effort we undertake in the pursuit of full realization of who we can be.

Graduates, think back on your time here.  You’ve had many experiences, taken many courses, been a part of many co-curricular and social activities.  Some of these may have gone exactly the way you hoped and planned.  And some, despite your best effort and whole-hearted commitment, didn’t end with the result you anticipated and desired.  And yet, all of those efforts have brought you to this very moment, to exactly who and where you are right now, to this very instant of pride and accomplishment that you are experiencing and those who love you are experiencing, as well.

It’s difficult to see the things in life that don’t turn out the way we hoped as valuable experiences, yet they are.  You probably took a class at some point that you really worked at – maybe at the time you felt like you were working as hard as you could; you just could not try any harder – and yet your grade wasn’t what you wanted.  Maybe you even failed that class and had to retake it later.  It’s pretty normal to think of that as a semester, a course, a lot of work – wasted.  But, it wasn’t, because you learned and grew in that experience.  Maybe you created some relationships with peers that became an important part of your college experience.  Perhaps you found out that doing a paper the night before – or the hour before – it was due was not going to work for you.  You might have realized that you learn more if you don’t text during class.  Maybe you concluded that the major you were pursuing really wasn’t what you wanted.  All of those outcomes, even if they didn’t seem very “happy” at the time, were valuable and important and ultimately were a part of your successful completion of your degree and the personal growth that brought you to this place at this time.

Every effort you made during your college experience contributed to this very moment, to your graduation, and to the person you are right now.  The same will be true as you move into the next phase of your life.

Each graduate in this room has a unique set of plans for the future.  All of you will approach those plans in a different way.  As you do so, there will be more times when you are disappointed in the outcomes of your efforts.  But, every one of those experiences is a success, as long as the effort is true and wholehearted.

It’s the effort that is the key.  When you put your full energy, your full intention, into your efforts, you have succeeded.  All we can ever really do is do the very best we can and be happy and satisfied with the knowledge that we have given it all that we have.  The final outcomes of most things are out of our control.  There are simply too many variables in each event.  But, what we can control is our own actions, our own efforts, our own intentions.

So, class of 2011, as you go forward into your future, whether you plan to head for graduate school, go right into a career, work a part-time job while you spend the summer at the beach, volunteer for the peace corps, help out with the family business, or backpack through Europe, put your full and wholehearted effort into it, and know that just that is a success.  To quote another wise man – “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” Graduates, your victory awaits; make it happen.

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