A letter to the class of 2024

David MoonBlog

Focus. Make a list of the ten most important things you want to achieve in the next decade, ranked by importance. Now, delete all of them except the top two. Most people can’t fully commit to even two primary life purposes, but no one can effectively commit to ten.

Making a bunch of money isn’t the best goal in the world, but it’s not the absolute worst, either. The most reliable way to increase your income is to do more work than you are currently being paid to do. 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.

Most financial problems are related to spending, not income. You can’t borrow your way out of debt, no matter what your favorite TikTok financial advisor says.

Right now you are developing habits that will serve you the rest of your life. Don’t leave that to chance. Decide what habits you want to have 10 years from now – and intentionally work to cultivate those habits now.

All else being equal, your first boss is more important than your first job. Choose one you admire and who inspires you. Not everyone works at a job they love, but there is no reason to work at one you hate.

Be intentional about what you put into your mind. What you read and who you associate with will, as much as anything, determine who you become. Never stop learning; this will set you apart from most people.

Never start to say a sentence without knowing how it will end. Remain open to new ideas, perspectives and opportunities.

Be a giver, but don’t think you can solve everyone’s problems. The happiest people I know are those who willingly give to others with no expectation of reciprocation. And some of the most miserable people I know are those who needlessly accept the burdens of those unwilling to help even themselves.

Put everything into one of two piles: things you can control and things you can’t. Quit worrying about the things you can’t control.

Don’t ever enter a relationship thinking that you can change some aspect of the other person. It’s hard enough to change yourself. Changing someone else is practically impossible.

Being happy is highly overrated as a major life goal. Life is hard, cruel and, at its worst, disappointing. At its best, life is hard, cruel and joyous. Like money, happiness is more likely to be lasting if it is a by-product of doing something meaningful. If you pursue a life of meaning, you will be better equipped to deal with life’s challenges.

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