Congratulations you have crossed the finish line. As you know, your route here was filled with tears of joy and sorrow, dreams shattered and fulfilled, moments that dispatched you to the arms of a beloved, remarkable beginnings and ends sealed with generous promises.
Closing this chapter in your life offers a time of reflection on you. In fact, the day you were born the world became more luminous. Chances are along the way you forgot this truth. At times it was overshadowed by fear or dismissed as insecurity, but I am here to remind you that it is still present. It is something that is uniquely yours, and can’t be outsourced. In fact, there is no end to your luminosity.It is there amidst the lump in your throat and misty eyes. It is there in your sweaty palms and confused mind. It is there deep in your belly and lined in your heart. It is there.
And so I am thinking of the very word ILLUMINATE and asking you to use it as you move forward. Let it become a part of your being, your manifesto if you will. I am thinking of the very letters that make up this bold ten letter word.
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.
I will graduate from college soon and like many of my classmates I am worried about finding a job after I graduate. I interned for a few places as an undergrad, including an artist management company that I really clicked with. They even said that they’d never bothered with interns before but after hiring me they didn’t know how the office would run without me there. It’s been six months since then, and I still keep in contact with the guys from the office, hoping it will turn into a full-time gig after I graduate. They recently told me they aren’t sure they have the funds to hire me as a full-time employee, but that I could come work for them part-time and sign the bands I really love – they’ll teach me the ropes and I’ll get commission once those bands start making money. However, I’d need another full-time job to be able to pay my bills and survive.
I know I’m lucky I at least have one offer when many of my peers are struggling to get interviews – and it really is my dream job, but should I take it if I know I won’t be getting paid? Yesterday I attended a graduation ceremony for my major where we were told it’s not the best time to be entering this market and that we should “cast a wide net” in hopes we can at least get jobs in a related field. Would it be smarter to apply for more a more practical position, where I’ll go in at entry level but at least have a steady pay check or the less stable dream job? I’m torn between following my passion and making the more economical decision.
Sincerely, Practically Passionate
Dear Practically Passionate,
Oh, college graduation! While you may not feel it right now, especially with the stress you’re under, this is one of the greatest times in your life – it just takes a little perspective to see it. It is exactly what your letter describes, a time of choice and discovery and taking risks.
I understand the two factions you are torn between rather well. I grew up with a strict and logical father. Over two decades in the military has a way of training someone to think in very efficient means, and my father advised his children in the same way. Imagine his surprise when his youngest decided she wanted to forgo law school (and following in his footsteps) to try more artistic pursuits in Hollywood. I was optimistic and naïve, thinking it’d be no problem for me to roll into town knowing no one and just get a job as someone’s assistant or just show up in the writer’s room of “General Hospital” (you may laugh, but I’ll have you know soap operas have jump-started the careers several successful actors and writers alike) and get to work.
Of course it didn’t work out like that. I spent months trying to find a job – over qualified for retail or restaurants and not enough experience to land a position at a
full-time company. It didn’t take too long for the depression to set in, which wasn’t helped by the constant emails from my father saying there was still time to apply to graduate school or better yet, “You were always good at math. Can’t you get a job in insurance? There’s always jobs in insurance.” But I was selfish, in a way that only privileged 20-somethings can be, and kept applying. I managed to grab a temporary position at fruit bouquet design store, which bought me some more time before I’d have to return home and forsake my dreams for something more practical, as you put it. I got lucky and landed a job at a new company that allowed me to use the marketing skills I had picked up in school and had flexible hours so I could take writing classes to continue on towards my dream. It wasn’t the glamorous situation, or paycheck, I had imagined when first leaving school but it set me in the right direction so I was only too eager to take it. And it was the first step on the path that lead me to writing this to you.
“I know I’m lucky” – do you, Practically? Do you really? It’s about more than you having a tentative job offer; you’re lucky to have this problem at all. You are in a unique position where you have to decide what will make you happy when so many in this world wake up every day deciding what they have to do to survive. I don’t say that to belittle you, but to remind you exactly of the privileged position you are in and make sure you don’t forget it. Many would kill to be in your shoes, so don’t waste the opportunity you’ve been given.
I’m advising you to be selfish. This is one of the few times in life where that’s an acceptable trait to have because as you get further into adulthood the happy choices
will more and more frequently be replaced by the survival ones. I feel like in your gut you already know that you want the “less stable” dream job but just are afraid of the risk. That’s not weird – every time you turn on the news you see a bleaker and bleaker picture of college graduate job prospects. However, what I’ve learned is that dream jobs hardly ever come for free or in the shiny packages we imagine they should come in. They require work and sacrifice to actually pay off into the dream we’ve imagined. So you may have to get an extra job waiting tables or making coffee at Starbucks but that’s such a small price to pay for the chance you’ve been given, deary. People have had to do far worse for much less.
I think you owe it to yourself, and for all of those who aren’t as lucky as you, to take the risk, to follow your heart, to follow your dreams because you don’t know if you’ll have the chance to be this lucky again.
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Submit your questions, troubles, and predicaments to Cora via editor [at] intent [dot] com or in the comments section below. The Elephant in the Room advice column will be published every Friday – a blend of humor, compassion, and wisdom specially tailored for our Intent audience.