When the only thing that stands between you and the “real world” is the commencement speaker at your college graduation, it is easy to disregard his message. But then the parties fade, the “real world” starts, and most hit the brick wall quickly- as a recent college graduate with the most up-to-date formal education but no actual experience, you can’t get your dream job. And once you get in the door somewhere, you discover the drama of high school that sadly carried over to college did not stay with the sticky solo cups, leggings, uggs, and northfaces that you eagerly left behind. And, if you last a little longer, you start to hear the ‘wisdom’ from the experienced adults- you don’t have to like your job… you just have to do it.

And you discover you have a choice. You can be proactive. You can figure out who you are and what you want to do. You can run hard and run fast and ignite the potential of anyone whose path you get to cross. You can choose to engage in your work and you can choose to work through all the challenges in order to live a life of purpose, on purpose. And you might make this choice. But the secret that most do not realize… you must make this choice every day. And sometimes, multiple times a day.

By now, I am sure you have seen Naval Admiral William H. McRaven’s Commencement Address to University of Texas’ Class of 2014. This viral video is just under 20 minutes and is totally worth watching (maybe even twice). All ten of his life lessons are powerful, but they are not easy.

His message is about igniting human potential- igniting your own potential as well as those around you. His message reminds you that this choice must be an ever-present one. One that permeates your immediate wants and flourishes through your long-term purpose.

Admiral McRaven closes with a summary of his lessons:


Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never, ever give up, if you do these things, the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better then the one we have today and what started here will, indeed, change the world for the better.”

To those in the class of 2014, to those who graduated long ago or who never had the opportunity to graduate, and to those whose graduation has yet to arrive- these hard lessons are ones that will keep you positive, focused, growing, and positively impacting the world.



Danielle Aaronson

Danielle Aaronson

Danielle’s mission is to inspire leaders to make intentional choices that move them to positive action. She speaks at conferences, management summits, and leadership programs as well as facilitates efforts with executives and senior leaders at organizations seeking to influence their culture. Her mantra, “be the change you wish to see in the world” has allowed her to strive every day to be the best she can be and help others recognize the potential they have to make a positive difference. @deaaronson

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