A letter to the class of 2023

David MoonBlog

There is a reason they call it commencement. Now is when your work really commences.

Don’t believe the people who tell you that college was the best time of your life. Maybe it was the most important, but it’s a sad person whose life peaks at 21.

Focus. The cat who chases two squirrels doesn’t catch either of them. Decide what you want and what you are willing to give for it. Set a deadline. Create an action plan and write it all down.

Making a bunch of money isn’t the best goal in the world, but it’s not the worst, either. The most lasting and fulfilling ways to make money all involve providing something of value to others. If you fulfill enough high value needs, you will make money.

Others, not you, get to define “high value needs.”

All else being equal, when choosing between job offers, make your decision on the basis of who will be your immediate supervisor. Your first boss is more important than your first job.

The most effective way to earn more money is to do more work than you are currently being paid to do. Be more valuable to your employer. Your value depends on your output, not your effort or amount of time you work.

You are fortunate if your passion and career coincide, but that’s not a requirement for happiness or success. Just make sure they don’t conflict.

Surround yourself with people who inspire and motivate you. Find a good friend who is ten years older than you and on a life track that you desire. Study the success of others.

Exercise, both your body and mind. Don’t stop learning. The mind is a muscle that strengthens when it’s challenged and atrophies if little used. Most of your competitors will go to work and only learn what is presented and required by their employers. What you read and who you associate with will, as much as anything, determine who you are.

Your habits are predictors of your future. Decide what habits you want to have when you are 30 years old and work to intentionally develop those habits now. Surround yourself with friends who have those habits.

It’s only natural to compare yourself to others but try not to do it too much. Things are seldom what they seem on the outside – and you don’t want to unnecessarily or erroneously give yourself a false sense of either importance or failure.

When your parents say stupid things or treat you like you’re still 16 years old, just let it go. Reminding them that you’re an adult will only irritate them and remind them that they are really old.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management. A version of this piece originally appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK.