Tag Archives: commencement

To the Graduates

This May I was asked to deliver the commencement speech to the undergraduate business program at Brandeis University. I just received the link to the video. Thank you to those who sent me ideas for the commencement speech. Here is the video. My part starts around the 14:30 mark and runs about 13 minutes. I hope you enjoy it.


Wear Sunscreen

We’re getting to the end of graduation season, but I hope there is time for a couple of final posts on the topic. I had never heard or seen this before but my Israeli intern said it was very popular in Israel 11 years ago.

My favorite tidbit of worldly wisdom from the song:

  • Do 1 thing every day that scares you.

If it isn’t “wear sunscreen” or “do something scary” what call to action do you like to live by?

Your Biggest Challenge

Yesterday I delivered a commencement speech at Brandeis. Afterwards a parent asked me what my biggest business challenge was. I said it was getting the right people on my team.

She was shocked. In this economy how could it be hard to find good people?

Perhaps it is easier now than in other times. But I told her that hiring is the biggest challenge because when you get the right people on your team everything else is easy.

Call it a lever activity.

Most jobs or projects have lever activities. If you get them right everything else becomes much easier.

  • Teacher – build the syllabus/lesson plans
  • Chef – get fresh, quality ingredients
  • Marketer – collect good data

You will be asked to do more today than you could possibly do. Your calendar will be full for the rest of your career, and maybe for your whole retirement as well. Make sure you clear the space you need to get your lever activity right.

Just a Thing

Yesterday I wrote about my upcoming commencement speech and asked you to think about the stories from your past that influenced who you are today. Here’s one of mine.

I was 13 years old and it was a perfect spring day after a night of rain. I met up with some friends after school to play some tackle football in a particularly muddy field. It was awesome.

When it came time for my ride home something unexpected happened.

Instead of my mom, I saw driving down the street my father in his brand new car. It still had that new car smell. It was spotless. It was beautiful.

And I was a mess. Filthy.

My dad pulled up and saw me hesitate. He asked me what was wrong. I told him I didn’t want to get mud all over his brand new car.

He said, “Noah, get in. It’s just a thing.”

This moment carried with it many lessons.

  • I learned the value of things.
  • I learned the value of people.
  • I learned about priorities, caring and compassion.
  • I learned it’s okay to have a filthy car.

Keep thinking about your life lessons. Graduation is less than a week away. It’s a good time to remember.

Your History

I recently spoke at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, AR. (Here’s the video if you’re interested.) A tradition of their speaker series is to have one of the Clinton School of Public Service graduate students introduce the speaker.

This was no dry recitation of my bio. Rather, this student, Kim Caldwell, delivered a colorful exposition on stories, including one aspect of story I rarely discuss in my speeches – our deep histories.

I usually talk about our interpretations in the moment and how they affect our thoughts, emotions, actions, and performance. But we also have memories from way back in our past that affect everything we do.

Next weekend I will deliver a commencement speech for the first time. I’ve been giving lots of thought to the events of my past that have made me who I am today.

And I have a question for you.

What is your earliest memory of some positive learning moment that has influenced you all the way to today?

Care-free vs. Care-full

Recently I was asked to deliver a commencement speech for my alma-mater. This got me thinking about college – who I was then, how I’ve changed.

I’ve heard people describe college as the best time of their lives. Maybe it was for them. For me it was the most carefree time in my life. I had almost no responsibilities. I was driven almost entirely by the desire to have fun.

In fact, shortly after graduation, at the ripe age of 21 I first came up with a philosophy of life – that the purpose was to be entertained. I would grow up and have a pool table in my house for constant entertainment. I would bring kids into my life to provide yet another source of entertainment. (Hey, I was 21.) This philosophy was essentially an extension of my experience of being carefree.

Since that time I’ve noticed a startling contrast. I have come to judge my life by how care-full it is. My work doesn’t make my life great because it is free of responsibility. To the contrary, I enjoy my work so much because of how deeply I care about what I do and the people I help.

My kids, though entertaining at times, really bring value to my life because of how deeply I care about them.

I still do a lot of things for pure entertainment – watch movies, listen to and play music, eat. These activities are care-free for the most part. But the greatest value of my life comes from what I care about, from those activities that are care-full.

Sage Advice

I’ve been invited to deliver a commencement speech for my alma mater this spring. I asked my readers for suggestions on what I should say. Here’s a smattering of the wisdom they offered.

  • Encourage them to parallel their dreams with their careers and encourage them to dream big.
  • Polonius’ advice to his son in Shakespeare’s Hamlet is good: “Unto thine own self be true.”
  • Control your destiny, Think entrepreneurially.
  • The glass half full approach.
  • What my Management professor used to say, A college degree only proves that you are capable of being trained.
  • If you are lucky enough to find an occupation that you love, embrace it with both hands and be ready to work to keep it.
  • Remember who packed your parachute.
  • Always look for a seed of humility to anchor you.
  • We CHOOSE our happiness.
  • NEVER give up!
  • Have a well-balanced life, lived without regrets.
  • Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer.
  • In all your getting, make sure you dont miss out on the wonders of life!
  • Devotion to your family should be a major goal.
  • Be flexible.
  • Don’t burn any bridges.
  • When someone asks you how you are don’t reply with a simple “I’m fine.”  Instead, you should say, “I am fantastic, exciting, unique and fun to be around.”
  • Seize life, pursue opportunity, work hard, play often, offer comfort to those less fortunate than you.  Be a mentor! Life is good enjoy it by living it fully. Do all these things and you will inspire others.