Not long ago, I was asked to give a speech to graduating honor students at Lincoln University. The administrators who invited me wanted me to talk about adult responsibilities and the pathways to success.
I began my speech by saying that success and adult responsibilities can be harmful to your health. As I spoke, I was thinking of a conversation I'd had some weeks earlier with a hundred-achieving, college-bound seniors in a very upscale suburban high school. I had asked those students why they worked so hard. Almost unanimously, they agreed that their hard was to help them get into the best possible colleges.
I asked, "Why?"
They replied, "So we can be happy".
"Let's talk about that", I said. "What does it mean to be happy?"
One kid declared, "If I have a million dollars in the bank, I'll be happy". Another announced, "If I'm number one in my chosen profession, I'll be happy".
All agreed that money, success, and achievement would make them happy. Not one of these seventeen and eighteen year old kids talked about love, children, relationships, marriage, community, or friends. Which made me wonder:When your resume is perfect, how does your soul feel?
As humans we grasp at things that make us feel secure. We go from our mother's breasts to pacifiers, from small toys to big toys, from cars to houses and vacation homes. Needing security, we grasp at sex, wealth, food, power, drugs.
What are we really hungry for? Security and happiness, yes. But the kind of security we yearn for a feeling of security that cannot be attained by acquisition. If we can buy big houses and powerful cars, we may be able to achieve the illusion of security, but it is still an illusion. If we can do well at school or work, we may get a sense of accomplishment, but there will always be something more to accomplish-happiness will always be around the next corner.
Real security only comes when we are comfortable with who we are (and the feeling is enhanced when we are in a relationship where there is mutual lobe and understanding). Real happiness is a byproduct of a life well lived.
Then I turned to the students and said, "Find someone you love, and feel that love in every pore of your body. And then the next day, love one additional person; and every day after that, increase the number of people you love."
I told them the longer the list of people they love fully, the happier they will be. That, I said is true success. That is an essential adult responsibility.
Sam, I hope you will remember what your soul needs. Not wealth, prestige, and possessions, but the adult responsibility to love someone every day a little more than you did the day before.
Ps. This is an adapted article written from a grandfather to his grandson Sam, who was diagnosed with a severe form of autism. This letter he wrote to his grandson teaching him about true happiness which I couldn't agree more with.