Who would have thought President Obama had such a witty and irreverent speechwriter?
Far from your typical political rhetorician, former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett is also far from the rote, uplifting commencement speaker most colleges opt for. This year’s graduating class at Pitzer College got a taste of real talk, mixed with testy humor, inspiring personal anecdotes, and even a few curse words just to keep it real.
Did Lovett leave anything out that you think college graduates need to hear? What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone right now who is graduating from higher education?
As I enter the autumn of my life and you the springtime of yours, I want to leave you with seven skills in self-awareness that I have learned and that I hope will serve you well no matter what profession you choose, or where your life and destiny take you.
Skill # 1 Become the best listener you can be. Learn to listen with the instruments of the body, the feelings of the heart, the logic of the mind, and the stillness of your soul. As you listen deeply, reflect on the following questions: What am I observing? What am I feeling? What is the need of the moment? What is the best way to fulfill this need?
Skill#2 Bond emotionally with friends, family, professional colleagues, and those you interact with daily. Understand that each of us is part of a web of relationships that is nurtured through love, kindness, compassion, empathy, and joy. Emotional bonds create effective teamwork where nothing is impossible because you have a shared vision for service, contribution, and success and because you complement each other’s talents and strengths.
Skill # 3 Expand your awareness by knowing that all human beings have a hierarchy of needs that start with survival and safety and progressively expand through stages that include love and belonging, true self esteem, success as in the progressive realization of worthy goals, creative expression, higher consciousness, and self-actualization. As you expand your awareness learn to harness your spiritual gifts that come in the form of the powers of intention, intuition, creativity, imagination & conscious choice making.
Skill #4 Remember the importance of action. Learn to be action oriented and know that there is no power higher than love in action. Remember that love without action is meaningless and action without love is irrelevant.
Skill# 5 Assume responsibility for your own well being in all its various facets. Your well being encompasses every aspect of your life – your career, your social interactions, your personal relationships, your community, and your financial success. Take time to rest and play, to be with your family and friends, to exercise and nourish your body with healthy food.
Skill# 6 Empower your self with true self-esteem. Learn to be independent of the good and bad opinion of others. Recognize the power of presence. Do not allow yourself to be distracted. Know your life purpose and the contribution you want to make to society.
Skill # 7 Know your true self. Your true self is not your self-image that is dependent on the labels you and others have given yourself. Your true self is the innermost core of your being that is beyond all labels, definitions & limitations. All the wisdom traditions tell us that the human spirit is a field of infinite possibilities, a field of infinite creativity, love, compassion, joy, and profound equanimity. Know you can only give to the world that which you possess in that innermost core of your being. Remember that you will create peace only when you are peaceful and create a loving world only when you have learned to love.
I entreat you to not lose your idealism with the passage of years. That idealism is connected to your knowingness of the good that can be created and the power to manifest it. In you lies the potential for a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier, and happier world. Remember that the goal of all other goals is to be happy. I am reminded today of an assignment that John Lennon was given by his elementary school teacher when he was seven years old. He and his classmates were asked to write a short description of whom they wanted to be when they grew up. John Lennon wrote down that he wanted to be always happy. When his teacher complained that John did not understand the assignment, John’s mother told him to tell the teacher that he did not understand life.
But what do we really know about happiness? Recently there has been a lot of research on the dynamics of happiness. Most people think that if they are successful in achieving their goals or have good relationships or if they are healthy, they will be happy. In fact it is the other way around. If you are happy person you are likely to have healthy habits, and nurturing relationships, and great success in life. Social scientists describe what they describe the Happiness formula: H=S+C+V
H stands for happiness
S stands for set point in the brain
C stands for conditions of living
V stands for voluntary choices
“S” stands for the set point in the brain and refers to our mechanisms of perception. We all have a semi-fixed place on the happiness spectrum based on our outlook on life. Happier people see the opportunities, where unhappy people see problems. The set point for happiness can be upregulated, or shifted toward greater happiness, through self-reflection on limiting beliefs. The set point determines 50% of our happiness experience on a daily bases. The ‘C’ in the formula is the conditions of living and refers mainly to material success and personal wealth. It determines about 12% of your daily happiness experience. If you win the lottery you will be extremely happy for a few months, but after one year you will return to your set point.
Voluntary choices represents choices that we make on a daily bases. Choices for personal pleasure bring transient happiness, while selfless choices bring inner fulfillment through purpose and meaning, e.g. by making other people happy meaningful relationships bring more permanent happiness. So to be happy it’s fine to have material comforts around you, but that will only account for 12% of your happiness. To really be happy you need to expand awareness and overcome your self-limiting beliefs and then choose selfless actions, or ways to be of service to others. This leads to true and lasting happiness and wisdom.
Finally today, more than any other day, remember to be grateful. Gratitude opens the door to abundance consciousness. Express your gratitude today particularly to your parents, teachers and fellow students, all who have helped bring you to this threshold of life.
You are now ready to embark on the hero’s journey, the hero’s quest. Good luck and God speed.
It’s as simple as that. Do you want to be irritated or uplifted, cynical or curious? Do you want to experience the world as inherently aggressive or inherently cooperative? Every day we encounter situations that stretch and test us, but every moment we have the power to choose how we react.
In this poignant excerpt from a commencement speech David Foster Wallace delivered to Kenyon College’s class of 2005, Wallace argues that the banalities of working adult existence provide constant opportunities for imaginative thinking. Set against a powerful video produced by LA-based film company The Glossary, Wallace’s argument hits home and is far too familiar to brush aside.
Does this inspire you or do you think David Foster Wallace has it all wrong? And what about those in our society who don’t fit the middle to upper middle class, white-collar existence? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!
Graduation season is upon us. Time to consider the texture and trajectory of our days. Time to talk story. Here is one chapter.
I dwell in curiosity. When the bird flies behind the leaf, I’m up the tree. Oh, meow… Is this wise? I’m not sure, but it does leadhttp://www.rosaliafilms.com/ It Rocks! Inspiration on Volume Eleven. It tells the tale of a visionary teacher John Hunter, stoking the imaginations of school children by handing them the biggest challenge any of us can think of: achieving world peace. The tool is a game he creates, but the outcome is a group of kids who learn to be excited — rather than scared — by the unknown or seemingly impossible. Exploring potential, working collectively, taking chances, rolling with the punches, considering the greater good – these are lessons of a lifetime. The results are transformative both for the kids in the film and for the audience. See this movie.
Lesson Four: Chase the mad thrill of what you don’t yet know.
So what is the fundamental benefit of all this curiosity? Simply everything. It means that you care and will allow people to care for you. It means you will never be bored and never be boring. It means you’ll be able to draw lessons from any experience, be it pleasant or awful. Inquisitiveness matters. So does oddity. Pay attention and note what you find. It’s Commencement time all the time. Dig dirt. Get grubby. Seek strange. Shed tears. Share self. Discover other. Be love. to a form of wisdom. Call it noontime night sight.
When I was a kid, this meant I spent the majority of my days reading mystery novels, exploring construction sites, and quite literally swinging from branches. My friend Gwyn and I also invented a past time we called “trash pile collecting.” I’ll never forget returning triumphant to lay our day’s treasure at the feet of her father, an avid classical music lover. We thought he’d be thrilled with the stacks of Chopin, Brahms, and Strauss, which we’d found down the road, only to discover that he was the one who had dumped them there in the first place.
Lesson one: It’s the effort not the end that holds the joy.
Last Fall, I returned to my alma mater to give a career talk, which is funny because my professional path has always been driven more by serendipity and sensibility than any kind of plan or purpose. I called the talk “Slipstreaming 101,” and encouraged the students to figure out what they love and dive in without worrying too much about where it will take them. I quoted Elliot: “We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of our all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.”
Lesson Two: Keep your eyes, your mind, and your heart open, always.
Last night, I attended the birthday party of an incredible woman at the home of another incredible woman. As the twenty or so of us went around the table making toasts, the common thread was our respect for how this intensely busy CEO, mom, and wife, honors her friendships and her family above all else. Another theme was the interconnectedness of these friendships – how we’d all met at some point because one friend said: “you MUST meet my other amazing friend.” Girlfriend Yentas unite! But making the circle of connections even wider, both the birthday girl and our hostess (another successful CEO) are using their positions and their networks to make life notably better for others around the world, not because corporate social responsibility is trendy, but because love is core to their characters.
Lesson Three: Be true to thy self so that you can be true to others.
Earlier this week, I went to a screening for the film World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements. http://www.rosaliafilms.com/ It Rocks! Inspiration on Volume Eleven. It tells the tale of a visionary teacher John Hunter, stoking the imaginations of school children by handing them the biggest challenge any of us can think of: achieving world peace. The tool is a game he creates, but the outcome is a group of kids who learn to be excited — rather than scared — by the unknown or seemingly impossible. Exploring potential, working collectively, taking chances, rolling with the punches, considering the greater good – these are lessons of a lifetime. The results are transformative both for the kids in the film and for the audience. See this movie.
Lesson Four: Chase the mad thrill of what you don’t yet know.
So what is the fundamental benefit of all this curiosity? Simply everything. It means that you care and will allow people to care for you. It means you will never be bored and never be boring. It means you’ll be able to draw lessons from any experience, be it pleasant or awful. Inquisitiveness matters. So does oddity. Pay attention and note what you find. It’s Commencement time all the time. Dig dirt. Get grubby. Seek strange. Shed tears. Share self. Discover other. Be love.
May and June mark an exciting time for students as they graduate from high school and college and embark on a new chapter in their lives. Graduation represents a new beginning…a fresh start…an exciting entry into a big world of possibilities.
With the ceremony of graduation comes commencement speeches, when often, a well-known public figure imparts wisdom to the new graduating class. Although every speaker is different and has different perspectives, many address topics that they often feel are especially poignant and relevant to the time of graduation. Speakers may discuss the political, economic or social landscapes of the nation or world, or give a motivational pep-talk for new graduates to go out and make a real difference, or provide life lessons the speaker has learned in his or her lifetime.
To be honest, I can’t say I remember a lot of what was said at either of my undergraduate or graduate graduation ceremonies. But if I were to personally deliver a commencement speech or convocation address, there would be certain things that I would want to tell graduates. And if I were graduating today, I know I would have appreciated hearing these things myself:
Believe in Yourself. If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you as well. Believe in all that you are, all that you can be and all that you stand for.
Never Stop Dreaming. Dreamers have the ability to change the world. They envision the impossible and make it happen. Follow your dreams and you will achieve the unachievable.
Do What you Love. Life is too short to not enjoy what you do. Don’t do what you think you should do, or what everyone else wants you to do, or for that matter, what you think everyone wants you to do. Find your own passion, and do what you love.
Stay True to Who You Are. Don’t forget where you came from or what you believe in. Remembering this will help you to make the best decisions in life and will help you to live a life without regret.
Don’t Settle for Mediocrity. In Jim Collin’s first sentence of his book "Good to Great", he states, "Good is the enemy of great." Good is often sufficient. Greatness, however, never settles. Greatness expects more…always. Expect the best from yourself and from others, and always look for the opportunities to make things better. Don’t accept things as they are, for positive change comes from improving what is.
Don’t Burn Bridges. There will be times in your life when you may not care what other people think, but you never know when those people may pop up in your life again. Always do the right thing and maintain your relationships, for they may prove to be invaluable when you least expect it.
Live Honestly and with Integrity. At the end of the day, you only have to answer to yourself. Keep the promises that you make and stay true to your word. Live in a way that makes you proud and in a way that enables you to look in the mirror every morning and like what you see.
Live with Humility. We all are imperfect and it is important to acknowledge our flaws just as much as our positive traits. Be thankful for your talents, for your successes and for the good fortune that comes your way. Don’t ever expect things just because you think you deserve them. You have to earn them.
Love, Respect and Forgive Yourself. Self-love is most important when it comes to finding and experiencing love with others. Always treat yourself with kindness and forgive yourself for the times that you make mistakes.
Love Others Openly. When you love, love openly and unconditionally. This will allow you to experience a deeper love that can celebrate the best of times, as well as get you through the worst of times.
Some of these may seem cheesy to some, but I believe that all of these are important to living a full, meaningful life on which you can look back and smile.
If you were to impart your own knowledge and wisdom to new graduates, what would you tell them? What lessons would you want them to learn?