In some ways, we're all graduates in the class of 2017. We may not be getting a degree or wearing a cap and gown, but as life-long learners, we have reflections, revelations, and insights from the 2017 educational journey of life.

Commencement speakers across the country are giving graduates advice about life, relationships, finding success, and the keys to true happiness. These speeches will encourage graduates to follow their dreams, polish their strengths, and embrace their passions as they march to the beat of their own drummer.

This whole topic got me thinking about an interesting question that is worth pondering. If you could go back to your graduation from grade school, high school, or college, and regardless if it was 3, 13, 30 or 50 years ago, what would you say?

With the power of your life lessons in hand, what would you tell your younger self on graduation day? What would you emphasize, what would you avoid, and what would you succinctly and simply advise?

As you think about how you might answer that question. Here are 7 thought-provoking graduation quotes I would sure work into my speech to my younger self:

  1. "You have to give to receive. You have to surrender something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself." David Brooks
  2. "What I regret most about my life are the failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded...sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly." George Saunders
  3. "Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice." Steve Jobs
  4. "The great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing that you can do for yourself." David McCullough Jr.
  5. "The world has plenty of dreamers. And while they are busy dreaming, the happy people, the successful people, the interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing." Shonda Rhimes
  6. "Be present. I would encourage you with all my heart just to be present. Be present and open to the moment that is unfolding before you, your life is made up of moments. So, don't miss them by being lost in the past or anticipating the future." Jessica Lang
  7. "I have left the cocoon of Harvard, I left the cocoon of Saturday Night Live, I left the cocoon of the Simpsons. And each time it was bruising and tumultuous. And yet, every failure was freeing, and today I am as nostalgic for the bad as I am for the good." Conan O'Brien.

Recently Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and (of course) Founder of Microsoft, had his own thoughts for graduates. His advice was to start by looking for opportunities that would have a big impact on the world, and he specifically suggested three fields, artificial intelligence, energy, and bioscience.

However, Gates also suggested some things are true no matter what field you choose, saying: "I wish I would have understood these thigs better when I left school." His reflections would find a way into my speech for sure:

  1. Intelligence is not quite as important as I thought it was, I had to learn to recognize and appreciate people's different talents. The sooner you do this, the richer your life will be.
  2. Surround yourself with people that challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self.
  3. You can't start to fight inequity soon enough, whether in our own communities or in another country.
  4. Measure happiness by whether people close to you are happy and love you and by the difference you make in others people's lives.
  5. Develop a world view that the serious problems we face can be solved and act on that belief!

Much of all of this boils down to a few simple yet powerful concepts - dream, do, practice kindness and compassion, believe you can make a difference, and never stop learning.

It's pretty good advice for graduates, sure, but also just for us as humans. What would you tell your younger self on graduation day? Post comments here or find me on Twitter @jhaudan.