There are lots of reasons to get that piece of paper. The more education you have, the less likely you are to be unemployed. According to recent information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among individuals with a professional degree (J.D. or M.D.) was 1.6 percent, and those employed had a median income of $88,000 annually. Meanwhile, on the other end of the scale, the unemployment rate for someone with less than a high school diploma was 7.6 percent, and they had a median annual income of $26,000, which doesn’t go too far if you have kids.

By the way, getting that degree majorly reduces your chances of living in poverty. Remember, the research, courtesy of the Brookings Institute, offers pretty clear recommendations: 

Graduate from high school and get a post-secondary education

Don’t get married before 21 and do not have children till after being married

Get a full-time job 

Complete those three steps and your chances of being in poverty are reduced by 75 to 80 percent.

But I’m digressing. It’s one thing to get a degree, but it’s just as important to know what to do when you get out in “real life.” With that said, allow me to dispense some advice to this year’s graduating class. Feel free to not only to share this with your graduate but add to it, as well. 

(Cue “Pomp and Circumstance” music)

1. Everything happens for a reason; sometimes we just can’t figure it out right away, but eventually, you do. And you will be amazed at how the tragedy was necessary for you to triumph later.

2. Fear is OK; being afraid is not. A good healthy dose of fear helps keep the stupid stuff that can ruin your future down to a bare minimum. Being afraid means you are less likely to take risks and explore new opportunities that can open lots of doors down the road.

3. The habits you developed here will either help or hinder you in the next phase of your life, so if you have problems with punctuality, finishing tasks on time and working well with others, I suggest you fix them ASAP.

4. The only thing you are owed is to be treated with dignity and respect. And that is all you owe anybody else.

5. We will all make mistakes along the way; it’s called experience. The trick is to learn from them so you don’t repeat them. Repeating mistakes and expecting a different outcome is called insanity.

6. Remember, learning is a lifelong process. Never stop trying to improve yourself. That will come in handy in 2050 when the androids show up to do your job, and it will be more important in 2060 when they begin their takeover of the world.

7. When getting your information from social media, remember, if you have to click more than three times to get to the actual story, what you’re reading is probably wrong. That is what you call “fake news.”

8. Find a job that makes you happy. You will live to whatever income you make, so it will never be enough, but if you love what you do for a living, then the paycheck is worth it. And remember to save a little for a rainy day and feel free to splurge on occasion.

9. Before you dismiss the advice of older people, remember they didn’t get to be old by being stupid. There are a lot of young people lying in the ground right now who thought they knew everything.

10.  Have a sense of humor. Be able to laugh, with others and at yourself. Life’s too short to be  “mad as hell” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not good for your health, and it makes you age more quickly.

Now go out, do well, do good and enjoy all life has to offer.

Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, political commentator and publisher of You can email comments to him at

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