Today I am speaking at the graduation ceremony for University Campus Barnsley and Barnsley College.
My theme will be what we can learn from our own past to influence our future. I was inspired by an event a few weeks ago, when people across the globe celebrated ‘Back to the Future Day’ – October 21 2015.
The Back to the Future films were huge hits from my teenager years in the 1980s. For those of you who haven’t seen them, they feature a young man, Marty McFly, who travels through time in a Deloreon car. He visits his family in both the past and the future and gets to see the impact of his decisions on their lives.
When he first travels to the future he sets his car to arrive on October 21, 2015 – hence the recent commemoration.
If I had the chance to time travel and pass on some life lesson to my younger self, perhaps I would tell the 14 year old me that I shouldn’t always listen to my parents – particularly when they left my brother and I on a deserted Scottish island overnight as a ‘learning experience’!
It wasn’t the experience I had an issue with – I loved the challenge and adventure of it all. But they left us with a white sheet to wave if there was an emergency – something I later realised was pretty useless in the pitch black of night!
Not being blown off course, particularly when you start to chart your course in life, is another key lesson I would share. Tragedy, the wrong decision or just plain bad luck can knock you off the path you planned to take.
But it’s how you cope with it that matters. It is in those despairing moments, when you truly believe there is no clear route ahead, that our true selves are forged.
And guiding you during these struggles should be the key question: what is the right thing to do?
Answering that question may mean going against what is expected of you, taking a difficult decision or challenging a higher authority. But it will root you in the knowledge that you were true to yourself and what you believe. That is a firm foundation from which to grow.
I will end my speech to the students today by reminding them of Barnsley’s motto: ‘Spectemur Agendo’ – Let us be judged by our actions.
Because you can judge someone by their background, or their beliefs.
You can manipulate words or put a spin on a story. But in the end, the best way to judge a person is by what they actually do.
Today’s young people face more challenges than I ever did, with a global economy, increased technology and a fast-paced, ever changing world of employment. However, this also brings with it a wealth of opportunities.
So my over-riding message to them today will be: go out there and make the most of it!
This article was first published on 6th November 2015.