A Commencement Sampler

On Education:

“We have never assumed here that a senior with a diploma is an educated man.  Who, indeed, ever is? He is a potentially educated man, who knows how to continue his education to the very end of his life.” 
Howard Lowry
President, College of Wooster
Baccalaureate Address, June 4, 1967

On Entitlement:

Just because you have a supply (a skill, an inventory, a location) that doesn’t necessarily mean you are entitled to demand. The market decides what it wants. You can do your best to influence that choice, but it’s never (alas) based on what you happen to already have.

There’s a reason that garage sale prices tend to be pretty low. We can get pretty self-involved on supply, forgetting that nothing works without demand.

On Success:

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
Bill Gates
Founder of Microsoft

On Personal Growth

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Viktor E. Frankl
Author – Man’s Search for Meaning

A Graduation Gift

Most Commencement ceremonies have concluded, and whether your child is in high school, off to college, headed to a summer internship, or off to conquer the world, here is collection of my favorite commencement speaker’s advice and a few other observations about the road ahead that you may wish to share with the young people in your life.

You may recognize a few of these from previous years, and there are a few new gems of wisdom as well…for everyone, not just the new grads.  Pass them on!


Welcome to Your World:  Purely academic learning, for all its contributions to the world, has its imperfections, including a general failure to appreciate the free market capitalism that provides the resources that eliminate poverty and the taxes and philanthropy which makes colleges and teachers possible in the first place. As Dr. Lowry’s quote above indicates, graduates are just beginning their education, so if you’re graduating from college and headed to the workforce, check out the new book I Love Capitalism from one of the founders of Home Depot, Ken Langone. His dismay at what students have been told about the system they will find themselves in is nicely summarized by the WSJ’s Peggy Noonan. Read her short column about Mr. Langone and then find out why he says “I Love Capitalism”…and why new graduates should too!

What to Read (as suggested by those who do the hiring):  An entry from the Quartz website advises: “New graduates may think they’re ready for the world, but even after all that learning, there’s still room in their heads for some wisdom. We asked a dozen business leaders—from CEOs of big companies and startups, to deans of leading business schools—what books they would put in the hands of a newly minted graduate. Here’s what they recommended.  And here’s a special list from Vistage CEOs of their recommended reads.

What You Might Some Day Tell Youself:  In addition to what CEOs think you should read,  here’s the advice they would give their 22 year old selves if they could go back and offer themselves a stern warning.

Will You be Lucky or Smart?:  Michael Lewis’ (author of “Money ball” and “The Big Short”) 12 minute  2012 Commencement Address at Princeton reminds his audience not to overestimate their competence, or underestimate the role of luck, in their lives… and by way of illustration relates the chance encounter at a dinner party that launched his own remarkable career, and the moral obligation to share a little bit of one’s luck. Funny and insightful..must viewing for everyone.  And, if you want a little more on how to be smart versus lucky, check out  “How Luck Happens” ….it may be a shortcut to the very luck you hope to have.”

Five things to Unlearn after Graduation: Suzy Welch, former editor of the Harvard Business Review, has some bad news for recent graduates; not everything learned in the warm cocoon of the academy is helpful, and can often backfire in the real world. In this two minute video, Ms Welch identifies five lessons graduating seniors have to UNLEARN immediately after college to be successful. Helpful advice before the first day on the job! 

Grow Up Now, or else “30 is NOT the New 20”  says clinical psychologist Meg Jay in a compelling TED Talk (14 minutes). Based on her experience working with patients under 30, Ms Jay says that too many 20 something’s wake up in their thirties to find that what should have been the launch pad for successful adulthood was just an “extended adolescence’ with potentially long term consequences that may be difficult, or impossible, to overcomeShare this one with every new college graduate (or parent of one) that you know. It may save a life.

The Importance of Making Your Bed:  Then Navy Seal and Commander of Special Operations Command, and now Chancellor of the University of Texas System, Admiral William McRaven offered grads at the University of Texas at Austin some advice on changing the world, including not underestimating the number of people whose lives will be affected by theirs… and the importance of starting every day by making your bed properly (no kidding).  Click here for the video and transcript of the Admiral’s talk  which was featured on the WSJ editorial page as well. This one went viral!

 Are You Floating or Swimming?  That’s the question that the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson once mused about in a letter to a friend who was asking Thompson’s advice about what goal to purse in life.   Thompson, only 22 ,when he penned this letter in 1958, offered some advice worthy of a commencement speech itself in considering the ordering of one’s life; in particular that “a man who procrastinates in this choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”

A Personal Recommendation: Most of what has been offered on this page is about what to doIf I may add my own advice, it is my observation that most of our decisions will be driven, consciously or otherwise by what we believe; and we each do have some control over that. To that end, I wish someone years ago had made me read Viktor Frankl’s masterpiece, Man’s Search for Meaning in which he shares what he learned, as a prisoner in WWII concentration camps. about the one thing you always have complete control over.

A Proper Understanding of How to Change The World

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

“Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

Author Unknown

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