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Graduation Advice: Believing in Yourself is Overrated

Graduation Advice for Millennials

A friend recently asked me to give her daughter, who was graduating from college, some real-world advice. My advice is directly opposite of the mainstream notion that you can do anything as long as you believe in yourself. Here’s why:

Believing in yourself is overrated.

Believing in myself never earned me an A, or a degree, or a new skill, or anything else for that matter. Success at anything, only comes from action—not feelings. I know this notion is completely contrary to our safe-space-seeking, everyone-gets-a-trophy culture, but it’s true. There is far too much talk about feelings and far too little about what it takes to actually accomplish something. Success comes from putting one foot in front of the other–even when you don’t feel like it, or don’t believe you can–and you do it anyway.

So, my graduation advice to you is this:

Don’t wait until you believe you can do something before you attempt to do it.

The feeling of accomplishment comes AFTER the victory, not before.

I’ll let you in on a little secret that I haven’t shared with anyone. As most people who know me know, the one thing in my life that I’m most proud of (besides our girls, of course) is our trip around the world. It means more to me than any degree earned, job held, financial goals achieved or anything else.

But here’s the secret:

I didn’t believe we would ACTUALLY do it.

Dale and I first decided to go on a worldwide family adventure in October 2012, and the plan was to depart in the fall of 2013. So we had one year to put all the pieces together. Although we told the girls our plan and talked about it constantly, there was a tiny voice deep down inside me that never believed we would actually go through with it.

There were so many real reasons NOT to do it, like:

  • school
  • career
  • bills
  • braces
  • house
  • rental property
  • aging parents
  • pets
  • one daughter who insisted we were ruining her life

coupled with the imagined reasons like:

  • terrorists lurking around every corner
  • planes crashing
  • child abductions and sex trafficking

and you can see there were lots of reasons why I didn’t think we’d actually follow through with our dream.

Despite my disbelief, I spent the next 12 months doing the things that needed to be done in order to make it happen:

Travel To Do list
so many details…
  • educated myself on homeschooling
  • visas
  • vaccinations
  • put all bills on auto-draft
  • made reservations for certain parts of the trip (NYE in Sydney)
  • bought plane tickets from Birmingham to Iceland for October and from Malaysia to Sydney for December
  • set up security cameras in our home
  • created a blog
  • found temporary homes for the pets
  • Dale transitioned his work obligations
  • Etc., etc., etc.

One week before our departure, one of Delaney’s friends threw us a surprise going away party. What I remember most about this party was thinking, “Wow. We really have to go through with it now, because all of these people are expecting us to leave!”

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A week later, as we were wheels-up on our first of 26 flights, the most giddy, accomplished, proud, surreal feeling swept over me. Suffice it to say, I’m so grateful that I didn’t allow that tiny voice in my head to win and that I didn’t wait until I believed in myself to make it happen.

If I had waited until I believed in myself, I would have missed out on the greatest adventure of my life.

In order to achieve your dreams, just start taking steps toward your goal and don’t stop. Whether that means paying off debt, taking classes for a degree, searching for a new job, training for a 5K or a marathon, organizing your home, losing weight, learning a new language, or even traveling around the world. None of these require you to believe in yourself. They simply require action.

You have everything you need to lead the most extraordinary life. Now, it’s up to YOU to make it happen!



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