How to Live: Follow Your Heart, Risk Be Damned

Contributer Ben Stein on "Sunday Morning"
Contributer Ben Stein on "Sunday Morning"

As the college class of 2010 heads out into the world, take a moment to hear the advice of our contributor Ben Stein:

It is graduation time for you young people. That means time to make some decisions and take some action about your lives. I would like to offer you some deep thoughts at this season.

A few days ago, I asked my shrink, a super-smart guy, how he would generally divide up the people who were happy in life from those who were not.

He answered like a shot.

The unhappy ones, he said, are people who let their parents or their family talk them into doing something for a career that wasn't really them. They are people who wanted to be writers or performers, and decided instead to take the cautious route and go to accountancy school or law school or dental school.

Now, he said, they are well into their middle age and they make a decent living, but they just don't like what they do.

What they do, you might say, is not them. It is not who they are or who they wanted to be. It's too late for most of them to try to change, and they haven't built up a lifetime of experience and contacts in the field they want to be in.

So, he said, "they just come in to my office and complain."

"And what about the happy ones?" I asked him. "What did they do?"

My shrink answered that, again, like a shot.

"They made a decision to live," he said, and those were his exact words.

They decided to do what their hearts told them to do, to do what was in them to do. They took risks and they took chances, and they tried a lot of different things until they got to where they wanted to be.

This very often means working incredibly hard and living on the edge. But it gets you to where you can look back on your life and say it wasn't wasted.

I left the doctor's office with my brain on fire. His advice is spectacular.

Unless you are born rich - or even if you are - you have to earn your keep, that is for sure. But to decide to live - that makes a lot of difference in this difficult world.

That's it. Choose to live a life you want to live, not one that's safe or what someone else thinks you should do.

Decide to live.