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Adults tell kids a lot of half-truths. It’s partly to avoid awkwardness, partly to avoid difficult conversations, partly to keep them safe.

For the most part, it’s not malicious. “The gerbil went to live on a farm.” “Dairy Queen closes on Sundays so we can’t stop for ice cream.” “If you swim less than an hour after you eat you’ll get a cramp.”

But there’s one half-truth that gets a lot of play on this weekend of May by nearly every graduation speaker. We tell our graduates to “dream big” and they’ll go far.

Well, yes. It all starts with a big dream. But that’s only half of the story.

We omit the “work bigger.”

I’m as guilty as the rest. We want to encourage our kids in areas that have limited opportunities to dream beyond the limitations of their regions. There’s life outside of the county line, right? We want them to go further than we ever did in our own lives. That’s just being good parents and concerned adults who want what’s best.

But without the work, those dreams rot.

You have to get up early and get yourself to work and school without prompting from a parent, even with flat tires, empty gas tanks and hangovers.

You have to manage your finances so that you have future opportunities open to you and debt doesn’t hang over your head long after you’ve graduated.

You have to do the work, turn it in, learn from the feedback, adjust your sails and try again.

You have to stay late, do the group work, take the notes and study for the test. Oh, and not all of life’s tests are found in a classroom. That difficult roommate, or that slacker group partner will test you even more than a bubble quiz.

You aren’t always going to win. Not in college. Not even after college. So you’d better learn to lose graciously and take the lesson in the loss.

This is just a part of what it means to work bigger than the dream.

Now, it’s a harsh reality, but no one can guarantee that working bigger than your dream will result in achieving the dream. You can do the work and life can still stomp you in the heart.

But maybe, just maybe, all that work will bring a different reward. Getting up early gets you that sweet parking spot. Graduating without debt means you don’t owe your paycheck to a lender the first 20 years of your career. That difficult roommate just may become your best man at your wedding to that group study partner who kept flaking on her assignment.

So, go, dream big.

But don’t forget to work bigger than the dream.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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