Graduation Gems that Apply To All Ages - Blog Top Image

Graduation Gems that Apply To All Ages

With graduation season coming to a close, we thought we'd share some nuggets from a Business Insider article we stumbled upon. It's a pretty cool collection of advice to new graduates from the world's rich and famous, and it reminded us that there's not much in the way of motivation or inspiration for those of us in the middle of our careers, or our coworkers who are trying to stave off burnout or hold on until retirement. Who's going to give us an inspirational speech and tell us to keep on keepin' on? We think it's about time someone said something, which is why we wanted to pass along our favorite messages for new grads that can resonate with everyone, no matter what stage of life you're in!

3 Best Commencement Speeches of All Time

1. The way you perceive and react to the world is a choice - David Foster Wallace

The ability to separate facts from feelings and thoughts is the mark of an emotionally intelligent, successful individual. Being conscious of our thoughts, feelings, and opinions for what they are (our own thoughts, feelings, and opinions) will help you adjust and adapt to your environment and personal experience as an individual.

Foster Wallace says:

"Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience...That's critical. If you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."


2. You can't connect the dots looking forward - Steve Jobs

If you look back on your career, what are some key moments that made you who you are today? Was it a mistake you made that you learned from? Was it a meaningful relationship? What was something you did that you never would have imagined doing--until it was over, and how has that impacted who and where you are today? While we like beginning projects with the end in mind, that's not so applicable in life. Don't be afraid to take a detour, because you'll always wind up where you were meant to be.

Jobs says:

"If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."


3. Don't Let Your Fear of Failure Get the Best of You - JK Rowling

If there's something new and different on your horizon, it's probably worth exploring--even if (especially if) it's scary. You won't get anywhere worth going if you're not willing to take a risk or two--and if you let fear stop you, you'll commit the one true failure by letting life happen to you.

Rowling says:

"Failure [for me] meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me...It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default."


We hope that's a helpful mid-career boost, and that it motivates you to grab everything that life has in store for you on your next step!

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!


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