Six Life Lessons from Lady Antebellum’s Commencement Address

Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood Return to University of Georgia

The first song that the guys in Lady Antebellum came up with about 14 years ago was called “Carpe Diem Is on Vacation.”

It happened at a party when Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, the band’s founding fathers, were seniors at the University of Georgia. And when Kelley and Haywood spoke at their alma mater’s commencement ceremony on Friday (May 4), they told the story about how that creativity landed in their laps right around the time they were getting ready to graduate and start adulting.

Which led to some very honest, inspiring and encouraging advice about keeping an open mind and letting life take you to new places.

Here are some of the lessons we took away from their talk:

1. “Be open to things you haven’t even dreamed of yet. We followed our passion and ended up landing in a country band. Be open, because life and the good Lord can really surprise you.”

2. “The one thing I want to encourage everybody (to do) is to just stop comparing yourself to other people on Instagram. We are all going through the same insecurities. If I see another band doing something that looks really cool, and we’re not doing that, I get jealous. Jealousy and comparison (are) the thieves of happiness.”

3. “I’m not trying to sound preachy, but money has never, ever been the thing that’s brought me happiness. I was sitting in your shoes going, ’Oh man. I’m gonna be a millionaire, and I will have a jet ski.”

4. “The thing that has brought me the most happiness is chasing my dream. I loved studying finance. But I always had this artistic side that I knew was kind of in the shadows. There are so many options for you guys, and don’t think you only have one clear path. I hate when people say, ‘Don’t have a plan B.’ That’s BS. I totally had a plan B, and it took all the risk away from me.”

5. “Go jump off the deep end while you’re young. Trust me, the older you get, the higher and higher that diving board’s gonna seem.”

6. “Be nicer to your parents.”

At the end of the address, Kelley announced that he and Haywood felt like they should sing for their supper. Haywood grabbed a guitar, and they went out with their take on the Ray Charles classic, “Georgia on My Mind.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.