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Advice to upcoming 2024 graduates

Advice to upcoming 2024 graduates

By: Robert St. John - April 29, 2024

  • Robert St. John reminds graduates of the things that truly matter: faith, family, friends, food and fun. He says, “Once you’ve mastered the first four – in order – the fun will have already happened.”

My advice to upcoming graduates: You are a few years away from beginning your professional life, but you are only weeks away from planning for it. The decision you make about your professional life should be the easiest decision you ever make — your career should be about one thing: passion.

It’s not about money or prestige or power or fame. It’s about passion. Once you find your passion everything will come together. Someone once said, “Do what you love to do for a career, and you’ll never work a day in your life” — that’s passion. Find your hobby and see if you can get paid for it. To be successful in your professional life, find your passion, because success always follows passion.

When it comes to your personal life, it’s all about priorities. It’s not just about fun. It’s as simple as that. Arrange your priorities in the correct manner and fun will present itself with little, or no, effort. But it’s got to be the right kind of fun, and it’s got to come in the right places.

That’s where it gets tricky. It’s probably going to take you a long time to figure out how to be a success in your personal life and how to find the true source of fun — it’s not at a college party or at someone’s apartment at 3a.m. Those fleeting moments may be temporarily enjoyable, but you’re never going to achieve a fuller life at a college party. Learn the difference between happiness and pleasure.

The things that truly matter are: Faith, family, friends, food and fun. Once you’ve mastered the first four — in order — the fun will have already happened. You don’t need to go looking for it.

Go out and make a difference. Befriend the underdog. Laugh a lot. Make others laugh a lot. Visit a nursing home. Make them laugh a lot. Hug your parents long and hard. Hug them so long that they’re the ones who let go first. Hug your favorite teacher. Thank him or her. If you don’t appreciate them today, I promise you that you will soon. Hug the teacher you liked least, too. They probably worked just as hard; you just don’t appreciate that yet.

Take care of your teeth. Walk a lot. Drink milk. Don’t hate. Stay in touch with your friends. Make new friends. Share a meal with your friends. Travel. Eat French fries. Be nice. Be bold. Behave. Spend time with your grandparents. Love your neighbor. Love your neighbor’s neighbor. Love your neighbor’s grandparents.

Don’t go broke trying to look rich. And don’t waste time worrying about the doors that have closed behind you. Doors will always open in front of you. Be open to new experiences, that is where opportunity lives. Always keep moving forward. The happiest and most successful people try to be a little bit better every day— a better son or daughter, a better friend, a better team member, a better citizen. You don’t have to be a lot better, just a little better. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is yesterdays you.

When you’re thinking positively about someone, let them know. Call them immediately and say, “I know this sounds weird, but life is short, and when I think of something I want to get it out. I have always been so impressed by the way you do_______” Or, “I think you are a great parent.” Or “I truly value your friendship.” One day you’re going to have the last conversation with someone you love. Make sure it comes from a place of love and is one you can live with for the rest of your life.

Make mistakes. Then don’t sweat the mistakes you’ve made. Learn from your mistakes. Go out and make more mistakes, you’ll get it right eventually. Forgive others for their mistakes. That whole “do unto others” thing is great advice. Floss every day. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t be so hard on others. Just make it a general rule not to be hard.

Find your “one thing.” Your one thing is something beyond your family life and professional life that makes your neighborhood, city, or state just a little better. It can be as simple as going out once a week and picking up trash on the side of the same road or volunteering at your local school to read to students. Think big or think small— start a local festival, promote local sports, feed those in need— just do one thing. If everyone in a neighborhood, city, or state did just one thing to make it a better place to live think of how great things could be. It doesn’t have to be a big thing; it just has to be one thing. It can be infectious, and it can start with you.

Volunteer where you feel led. Don’t just “give back” (to “give back” you must have received something first) just give, and then give some more. Give of your time, give of your resources, and give your love. When you think you’ve given enough, then give some more.

Don’t forget the laughing thing. Don’t forget the hugging thing either. Don’t forget any of it. Focus on faith, family, friends, food, and fun. Find your passion. Make that your career. Then go be passionate and have fun.


Congratulations and good luck.


This Week’s Recipe: Muz’s Fudge Cake


  • 4 Squares Bakers Chocolate
  • 2 sticks Butter
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Nuts, chopped
  • Pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Once incorporated let cool slightly. Cooled chocolate should still be in liquid form.

Mix together the four eggs and gradually and the two cups of sugar until completely incorporated. SLOWLY pour the slightly warm chocolate mixture into the egg/sugar mixture.

Slowly incorporate the flour into the chocolate/egg mixture. Add vanilla, nuts, salt, and mix.

Line a pan with waxed paper or parchment. Pour in the chocolate mix. Bake at 350 approximately 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from oven. Let cool five minutes. Carefully flip the fudge cake and finish cooling. Once cooled completely, remove wax paper and cut into squares.

About the Author(s)
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Robert St. John

Robert St. John is a chef, restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler and world-class eater. He has spent four decades in the restaurant business, thirty-three of those as the owner of the Crescent City Grill, Mahogany Bar, Branch, Tabella, Ed’s Burger Joint, The Midtowner, and El Rayo Tex-Mex in Hattiesburg, as well as Highball Lanes, The Pearl, The Capri, and Enzo Osteria in the Jackson area. Robert has written eleven books including An Italian Palate, written in Europe while traveling through 72 cities in 17 countries in six months with his wife and two children. Robert has written his syndicated newspaper column for twenty years. Read more about Robert at