Commencement speech from a twenty-something


It’s unlikely I will be speaking to a stadium full of eager students preparing to graduate anytime soon. But, as ceremonies near and party planning ensues, I can’t help but think about what advice I might share with the next generation if given the chance. What would I talk about?

What experiences could I possibly have had this early in life that would lend a hand to those about to enter the next step in their lives?

To the class of 2012:

In 2009, the late Steve Jobs told students at Stanford the only way to be truly satisfied in life is to do great work. President John F. Kennedy shared the importance of attitude during his speech during a graduation ceremony at American University in 1962 and in 2007; Oprah Winfrey used her own story to encourage students at Howard University to dream big.

I certainly don’t have the experiences of these prominent figures. Nor, do I have their influence. But, what I do have are my own lessons, and if choosing the most important learned since high school, it would be the ability to value change.

Most of you have probably experienced change in your lifetime in one way or another. You may have moved schools; you can now drive; you changed jobs – I did too. But, what I didn’t do was appreciate the change. After leaving the comfort zone you call high school, there will be times you feel awkward or uncomfortable. That’s OK. Embrace it.

If attending college, you will likely change your major, your living space, your wardrobe and hopefully your bed sheets. Change a diaper while you’re at it; you will thank me later for having that experience.

And, if you decide to move out of your parent’s house, your taste buds will change, too. Peanut butter and jelly on hamburger buns will become a staple food in your life in effort to save a few extra pennies.

Throughout the years, you will be surprised at the number of times you change your mind; becoming in touch with the person you never knew you were. Old friends may become distant memories and simple schedule may seem like an oxymoron.

But, while you’re riding the rollercoaster of life, remember who you are at the core and never let that change.

Because with change comes growth and as you learn more about yourself, it will become clearer how you can change the world.



Living is Learning

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I recently sat near two business women who were exchanging insights about how to be successful in their work, which happened to be consulting. The woman appearing more experienced in this field was sharing an experience of how she once had an opportunity to speak to a group of surgeons.

While preparing her year-end presentation, she said she wanted to start by asking the intellectual, hard working group what they had learned that year. She paused for a second, and went on to say she decided to leave that question out.

“Mostly because I don’t even know how I would answer the question,” she told the younger professional. “We are always learning. Every day.”

How true.

What’s interesting about the concept of learning is that it never ends. We’re not always keen to accepting or admiting the fact we are learning, but try to be — for those teaching you. Think about it…. when you are given the opportunity to teach someone something new, it’s a nice feeling. Sometimes it becomes your turn to let someone else be the teacher while you sit back and enjoy the learning experience.

As the year 2011 is quickly coming to a close, this conversation caused me to reflect and think of the learnings I’ve had in one year. A few of those include: there are some things in life we cannot control; family is most important; never take sunshine for granted; and strangers are people, too.

What about you? If the woman asked what you have learned this year and you were in the audience, what would your answer be?

Stay curious with an open mind and you will learn even more.