Category Archives: Uncategorized

Financial Fitness for Teens

The following excerpt was taken from the book, Financial Fitness for Teens, from the Life Essentials Series. Foreward below written by Chris Brady

It’s funny when I think about how many times during my school years I had the thought, “When am I ever going to use this?” Usually this was in response to an obscure math problem or complicated chemical equation that some teacher was intent on teaching me to balance. Indeed, by the end of my college years, I could work mathematical equations with virtuoso skill. Given a few minutes, I could reduce any equation down to the much sought after “zero equals zero.” I remember manipulations of matrices, methods of integrations, and even friction cones as applied to robotic end effectors. And in my case, with the unpredictable path my life took from engineering to entrepreneurship and writing, I was correct in my suspicion that much of what I had been taught would go unused.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not regret my formal education, and I’ve even made peace with the fact that I spent so many hours of my youth in the bowels of mathematical dungeons. I am not upset by all the learning I did that didn’t end up being applicable in my life because, let’s face it, there is no way to know exactly what will be useful later and what will not. And it was nobody’s choice but my own to leave engineering for my true life’s calling of being a business owner. But what I do wonder about, quite frankly, is all the stuff I wasn’t taught along the way. At the top of that list is the topic of personal finance.

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Why is it that we are taught the three Rs, “Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic,” but nothing about money? Why must we dissect a frog but never learn to balance a checkbook? And why are some of us even taught macroeconomics but never microeconomics, as in, our own economics?

The results of this oversight in education are predictable. The financial statistics for people in their twenties are dismal. Students graduate from high school and college, often laden with heavy student loan debt, and immediately get credit cards and car payments and frequently soon after, a mortgage. Just like that, they are buried under consumer debt. Unfortunately, this sets a pattern for life that is hard to break. And the load is difficult to bear. Interest on that debt compounds, and other forces like inflation work against them too. Add to this an overall ignorance about investing, and now our young people are not only having a hard time making ends meet, but what little is saved and stored someplace is done incorrectly. It all adds up to a life spent chasing after money to barely get by, when it didn’t really have to be that way at all. What so many young people are missing as they start out in life is a foundation of financial wisdom.

Understanding money doesn’t have to be hard. It isn’t some great mystery, and it’s certainly not boring. And for sure, nobody who ever learns the basics of good money management will ever have to ask themselves, “When will I ever use this?” Because the answer is obvious: Money is a topic, like it or not, that will be relevant in your life nearly every single day you are alive! It’s best to understand it well and early. And that’s the purpose of the book, Financial Fitness for Teens. Read on eagerly, and learn this stuff well. I promise you’ll be glad you did!

To purchase the Financial Fitness for Teens book, click here.

To purchase the Financial Fitness for Teens Audiobook, click here.

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

Orrin Woodward Net Worth vs. Net Impact

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Anyone who has spent any time around me at all will likely know that one of my favorite quotes (attributed to D.L. Moody) is:

Our greatest fear should not be that we will not succeed, but rather that we will succeed at something that doesn’t matter.”

It is easy to run for the wrong things in life.  We can fall prey to the world’s definition of success, going for glitter instead of gold.

So what really does matter in life? What is gold when it comes to achieving success?

I believe my friend and often co-author Orrin Woodward has expressed it well in a recent blog post (you can read it here).  His main point is that one can strive for Net Worth (in which money is stacked higher and higher) or Net Impact (in which people are served in the most important ways). I think we can all readily agree that striving after a success that serves people and changes lives is much more important than accumulating wealth.

Net Impact should trump Net Worth every time.

The particular cause Orrin uses to highlight this point is certainly worthy.  The evils of human trafficking, involving unspeakable injustices and crimes, should enrage us all.  I am thankful that people like Tim Ballard and organizations like his Operation Underground Railroad exist to fight those evils. That is why Terri and I are wholeheartedly supporting the Life on Life Initiative involving a partnering between All Grace Outreach and Operation Underground Railroad.  We are raising funds to help those who are in dire straights and cannot help themselves.

I’ll end with another famous quote (by Edmund Burke):

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Good men and women are not doing nothing, they are taking action! I am proud of the many people in Life who are working toward their Net Impact by raising funds and awareness for this important issue. Thank you all! May your Net Impact be huge!

Sincerely,

Chris Brady

The Top 10 Mistakes People Make Building Life

Life’s purpose is to set people free across the full spectrum of the population:

• For the large percentage of people who struggle with debt and credit problems, Life offers debt freedom through its Financial Fitness products and services.

• For those who desire high achievement and lifestyle, Life offers a shot at financial freedom through its sales compensation plan.

• And for those who are underprivileged, disenfranchised, or victims of disaster, Life offers functional freedom through its Life on Life Initiative and charitable outreaches.

While all three segments of Life’s purpose are equally important, most people who are introduced to the company are attracted to the lucrative compensation plan offered through the Life business opportunity.

Life offers Members the opportunity to profit from the sale of Life’s materials through a competitive compensation plan. Life’s goal is to flow the money typically spent on marketing and advertising to the leaders who help build the customer base for Life materials. Further, the founders of Life are dedicated to serving in the field alongside Life Members—a unique situation that enables the compensation structure to maintain as its chief consideration the flowing of proceeds to the field instead of to corporate shareholders, investors, or other interested parties, as is true with most companies. What this means is the Life compensation plan can offer one of the highest margins in the industry, all while keeping prices competitively low.

dreaming quoteLife CEO, Chris Brady, has a unique position in the company in that he was once a Member who has achieved the highest level in Life’s compensation plan. Brady’s position and experience both as a former Life Member and current CEO has enabled him to transform the company from the inside out, knowing exactly what the Life Members need to grow and prosper.

Here is a list of what Brady believes to be the top 10 mistakes people make building their Life business. We hope that this list will help you avoid tripping points on your journey towards living the life you’ve always wanted!

The Top 10 Mistakes People Make Building Life – by Chris Brady

1) They don’t dream big enough, real enough, or long enough.

  • Don’t dream about some unrealistic fantasy; dream something real. Dream in a way that moves you towards action.
    • You have to visualize your dream. Picture what it’s like. Build it up in your mind.
    • You’ll never regret dreaming big, but you’ll always regret it if you don’t.
  • Make the you of tomorrow happy about the decisions that the you of today made.
  • You will have to get almost to the point of feeling silly about your dream in order to get wealthy. You have to hang yourself out there where the average people won’t go.

2) They don’t commit hard enough.

  • Don’t be “kind of on the fence” in your Life business. Be so committed that you’ll jump over the fence.

3) They don’t kill enough of their “95% thinking.”

  • You have to force yourself to have a positive attitude, even when you don’t feel positive.
  • Be careful not to fall back into old bad habits.
  • Be prepared to question everything you have learned up to this point. You have to almost think that large chunks of what you’ve learned growing up (about success, performance, excellence, the mindset of a champion, etc) is wrong.

4) They don’t hit the Life Training Marketing System hard enough.

  • “Hitting the system” hard enough would actually help with all three items listed in number 3.
  • Be consistent when listening to audios.
  • Don’t just hit the system hard with yourself, but hit it hard when dealing with your sales and support team.
  • Allow the system to work for you, instead of trying to do everything yourself.
  • The Marketing System breathes truth into people’s lives in order to change hearts and change lives.

5) They don’t share the idea with enough people.

  • If you show enough people consistently for long enough, the results in the business will blow your mind. But most people simply won’t do the work.

6) They don’t set clear, pressure inducing goals.

  • How do you know if it’s a good goal? Because it puts pressure on you to do more in the “here” and “now.”
  • You have to set goals that cause you to be a little uncomfortable.

7) They don’t drive enough “depth.”

  • Depth solves nearly every problem with building the Life business.

8) People don’t build their self- belief enough.

  • Put yourself in the picture for long enough so that your subconscious mind starts to believe it.

9) They don’t focus enough.

  • Too many people have too many distractions.
  • Don’t be so divided across so much territory that you lose all focus to become phenomenal at something.
  • Make short term sacrifices for long term results.

10) They don’t hang in there long enough.

  • You have to be like hair on a biscuit; you have to stick!
  • Have a long term outlook no matter what happens along the journey.

new Life logo

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

The Journey of a Good Idea: How to Be More Creative

In Chris Brady’s classic leadership talk, The Journey of a Good Idea: How to Be More Creative, he explains how good ideas (and the creativity to devise them) can become life altering solutions for the world.

Creativity has two parts:

1) Coming up with the idea

2) Getting the idea to come to life

“Creativity impacts everything that you do. Learning to be more creative can really improve your life!” – Chris Brady

First- How to Be More Creative

  1. Be a prodigious noticer.
  2. Expose yourself to widely differing disciplines so that you can make new combinations.
  3. Slow down (so you can be more observant)
    • Creative “types” sometimes need to haul off and do nothing because that gives them the chance to think up something.
    • Sometimes you need to go slow in order to go fast.
  4. Think!
  5. Go dark.
    • Shut off the phone, get away from your laptop, turn off the TV, don’t turn on the car radio, etc.
  6. Become a subject matter expert.
  7. Reduce things down to their essential core. Keep the main thing the main thing.
  8. Don’t waste your life on dumb stuff. Be regular and orderly in your life so that you can be violent and original in your work.
  9. Hang around the right people.
  10. Regularly break routine and expose yourself to something new as often as you can.
  11. Steal ideas from everywhere. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes. Emulate, steal, and copy until you get your own vibe going from all of the input.
  12. Be adventurous.
    • At a roadblock, ask yourself this question, “what would make the best story?”
  13. Involve your heart.
    • Creativity comes as much from your heart as it does from your head.
  14. Travel.
    • There isn’t a more productive activity you can do to rearrange your paradigm than through traveling.
  15. Create for the sheer joy of it and ignore your critics.

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Second- Getting the Idea to Come to Life

  1. Realization: You see the problem to be fixed, clearly, and perhaps for the first time.
    • Make sure you have invested the thought time to clearly identify and classify the problem, truly understanding it as thoroughly as possible. Be sure to work toward the root cause and avoid being misled by the symptoms.
  2. Mechanization: The method by which you “think it up.”
    • Take steps to actively generate possible solutions. This may involve gathering with others, making sketches, having a brainstorming session, benchmarking the competition, or just playing around with things.
  3. Assimilation: The combining of previous ideas into a new one.
    • Realize that most new ideas are just combinations of previous ones, and ask questions such as, “What could we combine that has never been combined before?” and “What do we already have available or have already done that could be synthesized into something new here?”
  4. Inspiration: The catalystic spark or insight that puts it together for the first time, and the desire to change the status quo that pushes the process along.
    • Provide motivation to yourself and your team by visualizing and vision-casting success and a new, desired reality that will be brought about by the solving of this problem or the creation of a breakthrough idea.
  5. Germination: Most ideas are not hatched fully formed, instead, they need to grow and blossom under more thought and consideration (and even discussion).
    1. Provide healthy nurturing and incubation for your ideas, allowing them to be considered openly without having to survive the negative attacks of “It’ll never work” and “Not my idea.” Keep egos and reality tests away from your new ideas when they are young and give them time to morph into something real.
  6. Elation: The passion that arises when pursuing a real improvement or breakthrough.
    1. Enjoy the process and refuse to become frustrated, which often shuts down creative channels. Instead, foster the enthusiasm of a treasure hunter nearing the red X on a map.
  7. Confirmation: When you first begin to realize you’ve got it, and evidence suggests that it really will work.
    1. Carefully test your new ideas to verify their validity, and have an open process for analyzing how effective they might actually be in the real world.
  8. Dissemination: The act of forcing your good idea down other people’s throats!
    1. Have a process for sharing your idea outward into your organization (or the world)  that allows it to first be received by those who stand the most to gain by it, thereby gaining momentum and strength before it attracts critics and detractors.

You don’t always need to create the good idea, you just need to know how to spot one and carry it across the finish line. By following some of these simple steps, you will be able to create your way to the life you’ve always wanted!

(Italicized text was transcribed directly from Brady’s audio – Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

Developing Kids Who Love to Read

As I was packing up boxes and boxes of books for their move across town last year, a thought struck me several times, I don’t think I have ever met anyone with so many books!

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Delilah on top of the book boxes

Literally thousands of books filled the bookshelves of their basement library, with boxes stacked from floor to ceiling. A week into the project, just when I thought the book packing was complete, I was told there was another library…upstairs. I couldn’t imagine! Hundreds more books overflowed on the shelves of the kids’ library; amazing!

My position as a 3rd party writer for this article is truly unique in that I have seen Chris Brady and Terri Brady live exactly what they teach. Not only are they fervent readers themselves, but all four of their children LOVE to read!

It seems appropriate then that one of the most popular Life parenting audios the Brady’s have recorded to date is about reading.

So, for those of you who have children (or plan to have children one day), Chris and Terri Brady offer some tips below that may be helpful to you on your own parenting journey of developing kids who love to read.

“It goes beyond just getting kids to read. The real goal is to help them fall in love with reading. Not just become kids who read, but become kids who LOVE to read.” – Chris Brady

Here are some of the things we did to help our children learn to love reading.

First, what we didn’t do:

  • We didn’t make TV or video games a first option for entertainment. We made books the #1 thing!
    • We had to make the decision to change our habits to ‘not have visual media’ vs. the habit to ‘have visual media.’
      • Once in a while visual media as a treat is okay, but not as a habit.
  • We didn’t let our children watch TV or play video games which then opened the door for them to entertain themselves with reading as their first option when they were looking for something to do.
    • Reading isn’t just part of their lives, but a BIG part of their lives – to the point that they want to grow and change with it.

Some of the things we did do:

  • We read to them even as babies. It created a habit where they just became used to the concept.
  • Regardless of whether they were even paying attention, we just READ (out loud)!
  • When they grew out of the nap time stage, we developed a ‘quiet time’ in their day.
    • cb-and-cmWe would read two books together and then leave the pile of books on the floor for them and walk out of the room.
    • The kids were then able to make the choice themselves- did they want to nap or read books? 
  • Once they grew out of quiet time stage, we created a habit of ‘reading time’ instead.  
  • We would take our kids to used book stores, and we still do even as they’ve gotten older. 
  • We ask questions about the books that they are reading. 
  • We set reading goals with our kids.

How YOU can personally impact your kid’s love for reading:

  • Be the example.
    • Instead of picking up your phone when you are waiting in the car, at a doctor’s appointment, or at halftime of the soccer game- pick up a book. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
  • Read a book out loud as a family.
    • In the car, by the fire, etc.
  • Don’t worry so much about how organized your bookshelves are. The books that get read are the books that are on the table.
  • Set a timer.
    • For example: 15 minutes of “mom’s choice” books and then the rest of the hour “your choice” books.
  • Take trips to the library.
    • There’s so much fruit in the library that you can harvest.
    • Set a timer here too, if necessary.
  • For road trips, instead of watching DVD’s in the car, buy your kid’s book lights so they can read at night.

“When I got rid of all my excuses I had for NOT reading and made them reasons TO read, I learned that it helped me influence my children to love reading.” – Terri Brady

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A few more thoughts…

  1. Be sure to elevate reading as a great concept in and of itself and make reading the reward (and not the drudgery) that leads to a different reward.
  2. Our reading should be guided by our desire to grow as leaders fashioning us into becoming better people, and that should be the goal for our children as well.
  3. Helping your kid’s learn to fall in love with reading is one of the most important tools they will need to be successful.

Finally, by implementing a few of these behaviors, your kid’s will eventually discover on their own that reading is a joyous and rewarding activity. Once you lead the horse to water and you get him drinking, he will keep drinking, and that’s what we have seen with our own children.

Reading is important in the life of adults for sure, and if that’s true, then we should strive to cultivate reading in the lives of our children as well. We will then reap the blessing of watching the fruit grow as a result. Developing kids who love to read is a great stewardship, a great responsibility, and a great blessing and joy all by itself.

(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)

 

Life Leadership’s “You, Inc.” Financial Hierarchy or Pyramid

Proper Financial Fitness begins with mastering the Defense, Offense, and Playing Field of money.  For the many satisfied customers (click here and scroll down for textual, audio, and video testimonials) of Life’s Financial Fitness suite of products and services, this is exactly what they have discovered and put to good use.

But there IS more.

Just what do you do with the money once you stop being scammed as a victim of debt and start to instead enjoy the thrill ride of having extra money at the end of the month?  Where do you put it? How do you go about determining which investments might be right for you?

In this quick video shot several months ago in the hot Florida sun, I try to give a quick fly-by of how we present the answers to these questions in our new addition to the series: the Beyond Financial Fitness program.  It covers the concept of the “You, Inc. Hierarchy” or Pyramid of priority for your money.

I hope you enjoy the video, and more importantly, that you find the information useful!

God bless!

Chris Brady

The information presented on this blog and in any of its videos is for general educational purposes only, and provides information the authors believe to be accurate on the subject matter covered.  It is presented here with the understanding that neither the authors nor the publisher are providing advice for any particular portfolio or for any individual’s particular situation, or rendering investment advice or other professional services such as legal or accounting advice.  If expert advice in areas that include investment, legal, and accounting are needed, please seek a competent professional’s services.

This publication may make reference to performance data collected over various periods of time.  Remember that past results do not guarantee future performance.  Performance data, as well as laws and regulations, change over time, which could affect the applicability of the information presented on this blog and its videos.  Any data presented herein is used merely to illustrate the underlying principles.

This blog and its videos are not to serve as the basis for any financial decision or as a recommendation of any specific investment.

No warranty is made with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained herein, and both the authors and the publisher specifically disclaim any responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog and its videos.

Who Are They To Judge

Matt does a great job here summarizing my favorite points in the book. I LOVE the After Action Review! Read on!

Matt Mielke

I just finished reading a short book from the LIFE Leadership development system titled “Get Er Done – The Green Beret Guide To Productivity” by Michael Martel, a former Green Beret (as I would expect).get er done book

It is a short, easy-to-read book with a lot of good wisdom. One section in particular is titled “Who Are They To Judge.” I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was not a typical chapter on critics and how to deal with them, as I had originally assumed.

Have you ever attempted to do something and have been questioned by someone, probably negatively, why you would do that? Prior to your friend’s query, you probably spent time in thought and prayer, studied the potential reward and consequences, acquired special insight and information and, with all positive intentions, decided to move forward and then, WHAM!  You get hit with seemingly unwarranted criticism, rejection and negativity.

In sports…

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You’ve Always Been Different . . .

. . . done things your way; sought your own path; and chased your own dreams. In fact, deep down, you’ve always known you were made for something great.

Now you’ve got different information, too.

Get ready for different results.

LIFE Leadership

LIFE LOGO Test 2

 

 

Life Business Approaches First Birthday

If it were a human, it would still be wearing diapers and maybe not even walking yet. If it were a dog, it might still be chewing the furniture.  But LIFE is a business and wasn’t forced to go through the awkward infant phases of existence. Instead, it’s first year is shaping up to be a very adult, mature one.

Here is what I mean:

1. The LIFE business launched on November 1, 2011 on an interesting premise: produce world-class information products that change peoples’ lives, and make those products available to anyone as a significant home-based business venture.

2. With it comes a compensation plan that returns in excess of 70% (with all incentives included) to those in the field who market the products (an industry high), and rewards performance, allows anyone to “pass” anyone else in accomplishment, and is excruciatingly fair. It can no longer be said that “life is unfair,” because “LIFE is fair!”

3. Also instituted right at the launch of the LIFE business was the 3 for Free customer program, allowing not only LIFE members, but also LIFE’s customers themselves to receive their product subscriptions for free once they acquired three equal or higher subscribing customers of their own!

 4. One Time Cash Awards (OTCA’s) were then rolled out for the start of the 2012 calendar year, giving thousands of additional dollars to performers throughout a wide range of business sizes.

5. Next, in April of 2012, Paid Incentive Trips were announced. Again, the shockingly low business level requirements to earn these trips is another industry first. Destinations include Disney World in Orlando Florida, Arenal Costa Rica, the Oasis of the Seas Bahamas Cruise, Sandals Resort in Negril, Jamaica, Maui Hawaii, Ocho Rios Jamaica, a Celebrity Cruise, and a Princess Cruise to Alaska!

6. Then, the LIFE business rolled out its flagship product, the Mental Fitness Challenge (MFC). Designed with complete life transformation in mind, the MFC encompasses many different media including books, audio, video, self-assessment testing, 360 degree feedback, accountability partners, goal setting, progress tracking, and more. The Mental Fitness Challenge is already receiving rave reviews!

7. Next came lower prices! The barrier to entry for starting a business out of one’s home was driven even lower by the founders of the LIFE business. One can now begin his or her own home based information marketing business for just $49.99!

All of this excitement has caused record growth in the LIFE business and is shaping up to be a first year to remember! As November 1, 2012 approaches, there may be only one little candle on the LIFE business’s birthday cake, but it represents a flame that can light the fires of many dreams as people have the courage to dream. May yours burn brightly!

You’re Not Special

Someone sent me the transcript from a commencement speech.  The title and beginning featured a slightly shocking pattern interrupt. In other words, they caught me by surprise. I found myself so intrigued I read further, and eventually realized that, unlike 99% of everything else I ever receive, I could not stop reading this. I have included it below in its entirety for your enjoyment and pondering. I love how it concludes, and think there are many, many fine points made along the way. Oh, if we could only think and behave thus!

Here it is!

Here’s a new one in the annals of commencement speakers. A teacher at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts gave his address to the Class of 2012 and blasted the students, telling them over and over, “You’re not special.”

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(Dennis R.J. Geppert/AP)

David McCullough Jr., an English teacher at the school, delivered his rather unusual speech:

Dr. Wong, Dr. Keough, Mrs. Novogroski, Ms. Curran, members of the board of education, family and friends of the graduates, ladies and gentlemen of the Wellesley High School class of 2012, for the privilege of speaking to you this afternoon, I am honored and grateful. Thank you.

So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony. (And don’t say, “What about weddings?” Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective. Weddings are bride-centric pageantry. Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there. No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession. No being given away. No identity-changing pronouncement. And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos? Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator. And then there’s the frequency of failure: Statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)

But this ceremony… commencement… a commencement works every time. From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, ‘til death do you part.

No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism. Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue. Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field. That matters. That says something. And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all. Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same. And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

You are not special. You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.

Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.

The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore. Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns. Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs. But why limit ourselves to high school? After all, you’re leaving it. So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you. Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by. And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe. In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it. Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although that hair is quite a phenomenon.

“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another — which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?”

As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic — and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You’re it or you’re not.

If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning. You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream… just an fyi) I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters.

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer. You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on YouTube. The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life. Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow. The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil. Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem. The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands. (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life. Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)

None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.

Because everyone is.

Congratulations. Good luck. Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives.