Tis the season of graduations. My grandson Charlie will be graduating from grade school and granddaughter Emily from high school. My oldest grandson Jack graduated with over 8,000 undergrads last week from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Meghan Duggan, a UW-M alum and Badger hockey legend, was one of the graduation speakers at Camp Randall Stadium. Meghan, captain of Team USA women’s hockey team in 2018 and current director of player development for the New Jersey Devils, shared lessons she learned during her ascent to winning Olympic gold.

She began by sharing what she described as brilliant advice from her UW women’s hockey coach Mark Johnson. At the beginning of every season, instead of going through a list of rules for players, Johnson simply said, “Make good decisions.”

“Coach Johnson did not give us explicit instructions,” said Meghan. “Instead, he invited us to consider — and be accountable for — what actually makes a decision ‘good.’ He was trusting us to navigate any uncertainty with our own values and instincts as a guide.”

Tapping experiences from her life, she offered three pieces of advice to graduates: Be your authentic self, focus on forming solid relationships, and understand that winners fail all the time. She encouraged the graduates to learn from their failures.

Before winning Olympic gold, she and Team USA took home two silver medals. Although she’s proud of those medals, at the time there was disappointment and tears. After the second loss, she thought her chance at gold was over. But then, offered the team captain position again, she and her teammates recommitted to learning from their mistakes.

“Failure is not final unless you choose not to learn from it,” Meghan said. “Since some measure of failure is inevitable in each of the journeys you’re about to take, I hope you react by learning what you’re willing to do to find your own version of success.”

Towards the end of her remarks, Meghan tossed out more nuggets of wisdom, some serious, some whimsical, including: dance at weddings; take a multivitamin; visit your grandparents; floss your teeth; order that extra plate of French fries for the table; be thoughtful, generous, and kind; and always remember that integrity is your only true currency.

“Go out and discover who you are and what you stand for,” she concluded.

Thanks to the countless graduation speakers who are sharing life lessons with graduating students. Now it’s time to put these lessons into practice.

Reflection: If you were speaking at a commencement address, what would you most want to share with the graduates?

From our Top 20 team, Willow, Tom, and Kevin, who have spent over 20 years sharing life lessons with youth.

Paul Bernabei
Top 20 Training