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This article is inspired by a June 2022 article by Bruce Feiler. The link to the article appears at the end.
BRUCE FEILER is the author of seven New York Times bestsellers; the presenter of two prime-time series on PBS; and the inspiration for the drama series COUNCIL OF DADS on NBC. Bruce’s three TED Talks have been viewed more than four million times. His new book, LIFE IS IN THE TRANSITIONS: Mastering Change At Any Age, describes his journey across America, collecting hundreds of life stories, exploring how we can navigate life’s growing number of transitions to live with more meaning, purpose, and joy. It was a Top 10 New York Times bestseller. His new book, THE SEARCH: Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World, will be published in 2023.
Commencement speeches have been a permanent fixture in graduation ceremonies across the US. Some of these, such as the speech of Steve Jobs at the Stanford University in 2005. It became so popular that it has been viewed more than 40 million times on YouTube. Some of the commencement speeches have been published also.
Bruce went through a hundred commencement speeches and has come up with four tips which are commonly given by the speakers to the graduating students. Most of the commentary is mine.
- Dream Big
An excerpt from Larry Page at University of Michigan in 2009 – “I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. I know that sounds completely nuts. But, since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. There are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name. They all travel as if they are pack dogs and stick to each other like glue. The best people want to work the big challenges.”
It is the same conclusion which was derived by Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’, and he called it BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goals. The importance of dreaming big is undeniable. There may be a debate about the logic of dreaming big but one simple argument says it all. When we dream big, our passion, our effort, and focus gets better. We understand that the odds would be against us, and we are more determined to cross all hurdles. The high level of mind and body application helps us to reach a good place, which may be exactly the one we wanted, or a little higher or a little lower. The outcome will be above. If we dream small, everything attached to it becomes small, we are not confident, and we may end up losing even the small dream. All high achievers in our lifetime and before us, dreamt big. Pakistan independence is itself is a case of a big, impossible dream. After that, no leader thought big enough, they became petty and self-centered, and we are suffering.
- Work Hard
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” — Steve Jobs at Stanford University, 2005
The second message coming from all achievers is to work hard. In the book “Mastery’ by Robert Greene, and in the ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell, and elsewhere, a golden rule of working for 10,000 hours on a subject is mentioned to achieve Mastery. Case after case is presented, from Beatles to Bill Gates, to prove the point. In essence, it is an emphasis on working really hard to achieve goals. Life lessons teach us the same thing. There are no short-cuts to success if you do not measure success with riches only. One may get rich by using unethical, illegal means, or winning a lottery, but this cannot be termed as success. Success is the achievement of our objectives, our goals, and what we stand for. This will not be done without hard work
- Make Mistakes
”Fail big. That’s right. Fail big … It’s a new world out there, and it’s a mean world out there, and you only live once. So do what you feel passionate about. Take chances, professionally. Don’t be afraid to fail. There’s an old IQ test with nine dots, and you had to draw five lines with a pencil within these nine dots without lifting the pencil, and the only way to do it was to go outside the box. So don’t be afraid to go outside the box.” — Denzel Washington at University of Pennsylvania, 2011
Making mistakes is part of learning. Just see how many times a child fumbles before learning a word, or how many times he falls before learning to walk, and we should understand. However, the difference is that the children do not feel embarrassed when they make mistakes, and adults act even more kindly in these events. In adult life, we feel embarrassed even if no one says anything, and in many cases, we may be made an object for fun. Despite this issue, making mistakes should be taken in stride. It is important to learn from mistakes and not repeat the same mistakes.
- Be Kind
“Empathy and kindness are the true signs of emotional intelligence.” — Will Ferrell at the University of Southern California, 2017
As the world becomes unkinder due to disparity, inequality, racism, capitalism, fascism, politics, domination, exploitation, abuse, and dishonesty, the need for kindness was never more urgent. Empathy is being promoted as a main pillar of emotional intelligence, but kindness is going a step further and doing good. Empathy teaches us to understand other’s point of view even if we do not agree with it. It is equitable but it may not be kind. Kindness is helping others when they need it, even when they may not deserve it on merit.
The universal human values have not changed since the humans started interacting. There were social and personal values which were endorsed by the philosophers and intellectuals and made permanent by the religions. Striving to achieve high goals, working hard, failing and learning, and being kind are virtues that all of us should take up.
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