Graduation Parties

Graduation season is a special time of year for many families and graduates.  It’s a time to celebrate milestones, plan for “real life”, shed some happy tears, and remember the past.  As my family and I headed out to visit three different graduation parties last weekend, it dawned on my wife and me that we haven’t been to a graduation party in close to ten years.  But this year we had two friends graduating from Drake law school and a close family friend’s daughter was graduating from Waukee creating a full Sunday afternoon of parties and celebrations. 


We headed out to Hy-Vee to get some congratulation cards after breakfast.  I remember thinking that this wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to be spending my Sunday afternoon but knew I loved and supported these people.  I’m sure hundreds of people would be showing up to share hugs, stories, and high fives.  Did they really need to see me and my family?  Would they even remember that we were there?  I’m sure I’m not the first person who has had these thoughts during this hectic time of year.  I kept them to myself and realized that even if they didn’t remember who came to their parties ten years from now, it would be special today.  Cards were purchased and signed, cash was inserted where necessary, and away we went.


The three parties went by relatively quickly.  We were at each location about an hour before heading out.  The food was great at each different event and the Law school parties even included some adult beverages.  The kids were well behaved and gorged themselves on the various treats and food offerings.  We ended the afternoon happily stuffed and full of love for the families we visited. 


I couldn’t help but think about how fortunate my family and I are.  We visited three different parties with three completely different types of people and locations.  The high school graduation was in a park with less than ideal weather.  The first law party was in a nicer West Des Moines neighborhood in a house of a friend of the recent graduate.  The final party was in the party garage of the other law school graduate.  Each party had its own feel and vibe and in each party we knew only the graduate, their family, and a couple of the attendees.  We were far outnumbered by people and families we didn’t know. 


Yet in each party we felt completely welcome.  Our kids were hugged and welcomed with open arms.  Pets were introduced, people shared stories, and more often than not a complete stranger took our kids on our tour or outside to the patio so they could play.  Introductions were made and new connections were formed.  Backgrounds didn’t matter, political views were discussed without judgement, gifts were given and shared, and at the end of the day, people grew closer together. 


That is the amazing power of relationships and genuine connections.  As we drove home that afternoon, I turned to my wife and said, “You know, we are incredibly lucky people.”  She smiled and knowingly replied, “We are.  It’s pretty amazing that we have these friends and people in our lives.” 


Often times when I give a talk on networking I asked the audience how many people enjoy networking?  More often than not less than half of the room raises their hands.  To this day I believe it is because we have a bad definition of networking in our minds.  Networking doesn’t have to involve passing business cards or getting business done.  Sometimes it happens in parks, homes, and garages.  In its simplest form, networking really is just having a meaningful conversation and deepening a relationship.  We’re all good at it, if we just get out of own way and, as a very wise friend constantly reminds me, “Just showing up.” 


Congrats to all of the graduates out there.  Keep moving forward, build some genuine relationships, and change this world for the better!