Advice for Graduates and for YOU and ME!

Jann FreedLeading, Learning, Living Leave a Comment

This post is full of great advice for people of all ages.  It contains thought provoking wisdom we all can benefit from at least reading and thinking about now and for the future.

NOTE:  My next monthly podcast will be posted this Friday the 13th!  If you take the time to listen to the wisdom of this Sage, please let me know what you learn.  

As long as I can remember, I have been a speech addict.  I collect sermons, commencement speeches, and take notes at almost every keynote presentation.  This habit might come from having to take notes during sermons for years for my confirmation class in middle school.  I particularly value commencement speeches because of my career in higher education and of the wisdom the people share as it is usually based on reflecting on one’s life experience.

One of our sons graduated with his MBA in June and the commencement speaker was Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev.  His remarks were based on the question:

“What would the world miss if you did not exist?”

When asked that question, how can you not start thinking of how to answer that question?  The question opens up all kinds of thoughts, reactions, experiences, and examples.  If this were an interview question, how would you answer it?  As Jim Kouzes, one of my leadership Sages, likes to say:  “The life you lead is the legacy you leave.”

Currently I am taking a webinar course through the Conscious Elders Network (CEN).  This is an organization I will be blogging about because I am learning so much.  It is a great way to grow personally and professionally with like-minded people who care about the Earth.  As part of our preparation, we were to watch and listen to a commencement speech by Paul Hawken who is a true environmentalist and his title is clever:  “You Are Brilliant and the Earth is Hiring.”  It is worth your time to listen to what Hawken shares in his address.  He closes his address with these words of wisdom and warning:

“Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn’t stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”

I often google speeches just to read the wisdom of others and there are so many from whom to learn.  But another commencement speech I will share now is from the writer George Saunders.  He talks about the need for kindness and he says:  “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”  Read his speech and how he describes kindness.  Saunders closes this address with these words of wisdom:

“Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.”

If you were asked to be a commencement speaker or to share your wisdom based on life experience, what would you say?  

What would be your title and main theme?

Tell me what your main points would be.  Thanks.