Those of you that have been around for a little while might remember that I did one of these last year. How many more years until this becomes tradition? It seems to be an internet thing.

Hey, congratulations, new graduate. You put in your four years at university, and are now ready to join the rest of us in the working world. Well, assuming you don’t bugger off to Europe for a couple months before that happens. That’s pretty cliche at this point, but whatevs. There’s no time to talk about that now. We’ve got real things to discuss.

Here’s the deal. You’ve probably heard about how bad it is out there. How the world is a difficult place now, after the GREAT RECESSION of 2008-09. How jobs for young people are harder to find than the ever elusive g-spot. And even how you’re destined to slug coffee for years because you took some crappy degree that had no commercial benefit. You’ve heard all these things, because the media likes to perpetuate the stereotype, and they need things to fill up space. Have you seen how much crap they post?

Everyone has convinced you that life is tough. And you know what? They’re right. No matter where you go work, there are going to be a hundred different people vying to move up in the company, and they’re all more than willing to climb on your back as a stepping stone. Don’t pretend that your peers are honorable. They will gladly stab you in the back to get ahead.

Oh, you’re going to start a business? Please. Do you really think Zuckerberg and whoever the Snapchat guy is are the norm? You will most likely be crushed by superior competition. There are a lot of crummy business owners, and chances are you’ll be one of them. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have very little confidence that somebody who has barely held down a job for four consecutive months during the summer has any idea what it takes to run a successful business. Besides, businesses generally take capital, something that’s in short supply for recently graduated college kids.

You probably had some mildly famous speaker show up at your commencement ceremony, with some words of advice that centered around taking the road less traveled, or some other related b.s. All you need to do is look at the world with a unique perspective, have a little luck, and greatness will be yours. They did it, which is all the proof you need that it’s not only possible to live an exceptional life, but most likely probable.

Congratulations. You’ve fallen for the hype.

I hate to break your bubble, but there is a 99% chance you are ordinary in most every way. Graduating from college is an accomplishment, but it’s also an accomplishment the vast majority of your peers will also manage to do. It’s like saying that being overweight is an accomplishment. Congratulations for making it through, but now the hard work starts.

Life isn’t really that complicated. Generally, people get out of it what they put in. The harder you work, the more you will accomplish. Sometimes it won’t seem like it, but these things have a way of balancing themselves out.

But working hard isn’t the only part of the equation for success. If you spend 12 hours per day trying to break into something that is already over saturated, or there just isn’t any demand for, chances are you’re not going to get anywhere. Hard work is a great start, but doing it blindly is about as effective as blindly mashing your keyboard and expecting a manuscript.

When you combine working hard with working smart, you can’t help but to be successful. It will take time, and a lot of energy, but combining those two things will make you unstoppable.

We all know people who work hard, and beat their head against the wall because they’re just not getting anywhere. And we all know people who are smart, who cruise through life and do relatively well, even though they really only do the minimum. Those people usually have some sort of other advantage that they’re more than willing to take advantage of. And as we’ve talked about before, it’s cool to use advantages like that to get ahead. You’d be a fool not to. But don’t pretend those advantages are something that required sacrifice.

Working smart isn’t as simple as coming to Alberta because there are jobs aplenty here. You don’t think that literally EVERYONE else had that idea? Besides, higher wages are, in a lot of cases, more than made up for by higher living costs. Oh, you increased your wage by 50% but doubled your living costs? Congratulations, that’s not smart.

Working smart means you uncover every hidden advantage. Chances are, you’ll have lower living costs and less competition in small towns. Go work there. Industries such as retail are out of favor. Not every retail job is working as a cashier at Wal-Mart. Explore that industry. They are clamoring for people with brains.

Everyone talks about taking the road less traveled, but what they really mean is the cool road less traveled. I know a guy who makes six figures as a store manager at a grocery store. It might not be glamorous, but it’s a solid career. I know a lot of people slinging lattes who would kill for a career like that. Okay, I know nobody who actually slings lattes, but you get the idea.

Work hard, work smart, and look at things a little differently than your peers. Do that, and you’ll ultimately become successful. But it’s not easy. If it was, it wouldn’t be worth accomplishing.

Tell everyone, yo!