Recently I had the chance to give advice to a group of outstanding high school students at an awards ceremony.

Recently I had the chance to give advice to a group of outstanding high school students at an awards ceremony.

They were so academically, athletically and socially successful that I probably should have been asking them for advice.
But age has its privileges and being four or so decades removed from high school myself, I have inherited the right to preach to young 'uns.

I had nine things I wanted to tell them. Actually, I had 109, but I'm a firm believer in brief speechmaking.

So I pared my list and gave them this fatherly advice:
Sometimes you can overcome your own obstacles by helping other people overcome theirs. Why? Because human beings are wired for altruism. It makes our heads happy. Don't fight your brain chemistry. Help out. Volunteering isn't voluntary. If no one volunteered around here, we would lack not only soup kitchens, animal shelters and Scout troops, but also football games, marathons and tomato festivals. You can't have a community worth living in without volunteers. If you screw up at work, there's a magic three-word phrase you can say that will go a long way toward making things better. And that magic phrase is: I screwed up. Unless you killed someone or lost the Michigan game, people will usually forgive you. Listening is a huge gift that people too seldom bestow on each other. If you're unsure of how to deal with someone, you might want to try listening for a start. Try something 10 times before you give up on it. I find this works particularly well when joining groups. People are naturally a little awkward around strangers. If you feel as if you're being ignored, it's probably because you are. Don't take it personally. Give your face time to get familiar to the rest of the group. It's good to have some friends who are 25 years older than you. They've already survived the little crises you're in the midst of enduring. Getting dumped or having your transmission fall out can hurt a lot at age 16. Who do you suppose would have more perspective on the situation: Your 16-year-old friends or a 41-year-old who has been through those ordeals a few times? There's something that you love to do. Whatever that something is you ought to consider doing it for a living. This is related to No. 7. Some of the happiest people I've met are people who have discovered a hobby that completely absorbs them. And usually it's a physical activity. (I mention that in case you think watching Jersey Shore qualifies as a hobby.) When all else fails, try humor. A sense of humor may be the world's most indispensable blessing because when you can't control life (and much of the time you can't), you can always laugh at it.