The following is a Commencement Speech I wrote and delivered for the 2017 graduating class of Cleveland Metro Design Lab Early College.
It was an absolutely remarkable experience, that scared the hell out of me.
When Ms Yox first asked me to speak this evening I went from being honored to scared in roughly POINT 3 seconds. And since then the majority of my free time was spent thinking about what to say. What do you say to a room full of young graduates heading out into the world to discover and find their way?
Seriously, what do you say? I’ve pondered all the various tribulations, joys, mishaps, and wonders that I have experienced since I sat in a seat similar to yours.
What would I have wanted to hear?
What would I have actually paid attention to?
What I realized is that I have no idea what I could say that would be impactful, and the reason is YOU.
You are the future, literally the future is sitting here in this room and you are amazing. The challenges you will face, the rewards you will reap, and the perils you will encounter are so very different then what I have had to deal with. You are the first generation to grow up with most of the technology that dominates our lives and is changing the landscape of possibility in our world. To give you and idea, I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 30, and email address took another year after that. There was no GOOGLE, iPhone, YouTube, SnapChat, Cloud, etc. None of that existing when I was in my 20’s, much less when I was walking onstage receiving my High School Diploma. You are the first generation to grow up with these things as your base line, as your normal
The way we communicate, conduct business, meet lovers, pay bills, shop for clothes and any plethora of other daily activities has changed so entirely since was your age that I have a hard time imagining what perils, tribulations, and rewards are going to be available to you. So what can I give you to help inspire, guide, or lift you up? What I came up with is a few guiding principles, a few ideas that hopefully will roam around in your skull and help you from time to time.
CREATE YOUR VALUES
What do you hold important. What do you want to feel, experience? What core values can you judge your actions and choices by?
Values are different then goals. Goals are tangible things you are trying to acquire, wether thats a degree or a new car. Goals are something you can move towards, like climbing a mountain. But your values, your values are almost intangibles like peacefulness, or adventure. Your values should be the feelings you hold dear, and most important, and then your goals are created around them.
Service, helping of others is a Core Value. You realize that helping others is a value of yours so you decide to earn a law degree by your 25th birthday, THAT is a goal.
But if sometime along the way you find yourself just suing people for money and you are feeling terrible about your life and can’t figure out why take a look at your Core Values, are you still living them
KNOW YOUR WHY
Knowing your why goes hand in hand with knowing and creating your Core Values. When you know why you are doing something, then it’s easy to keep doing it when it gets difficult, irritating , or monotonous. Knowing your why will keep you moving forward, especially when your why aligns with your Core Values.
You are going to screw up, make mistakes, and fail. AND THAT’s okay. It’s okay because it’s how we learn. But rather then folding up, heading home. or worse, never even trying when you a road block occurs, or you fail, knowing your WHY will keep you going, it will keep you moving towards a life filled with your values.
Talk to yourself the same way you would talk to that one person you love more then anyone. LOVE yourself. How you talk about or to yourself wether out load our in your mind is exactly how you will show up for the world. So LOVE yourself.
You are the only YOU! My god that’s an amazing thing. You are the only person that has experience your experiences, thought your thoughts, seen through your eyes. You are the ONLY you and you deserve to show up at your best. So every time your say, wether out load or in your mind, “I am….” stop and think about what your are saying. Are you talking to yourself the way you would to your grandmother, your little niece, that one person you would do anything to make feel loved?
Create your values, make sure you know why you are doing what ever it is you are doing, and love yourself. Keeping your mind on these things as you go out and start creating your life will keep you on track. Then you fall down, when you fail, instead of giving up you’ll continue to learn and grow, adapting this every changing world around you.
I want to leave you with a couple of parting thoughts, one of which comes from an old novel called ‘As a Man Thinketh’ by James Allen
Your thoughts become your words
Your words becomes actions
Your actions become your habits
Your habits become your reality
If you wish to change your reality you have to change your habits. If you wish to change your habits you have to change your words, or how you speak about yourself and your environment. If you want change your words you have to change your thoughts.
You make your reality from the thoughts you choose. Choose positive thoughts, love yourself, know your why, create your values.
The second parting thought is a poem I cam across on the internet, a very different medium then a book written in the 1800’s.
It’s titled ’93 Percent Stardust’ by Nikita Gill
We have calcium in our bones, iron in our veins, carbon in our souls, and nitrogen in our brains. 93 percent stardust, with souls made of flames, we are all just stars that have people names.
Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey, burn bright graduates!