It’s graduation time. I hope nobody ever invites me to be a graduation speaker. How impossible is it to come up with original words of wisdom these days?
Especially in the wake of that fake graduation speech that swept the internet a few years ago. Falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, it had such memorable lines as “You have the best body of your life right now” and “Always wear sunscreen.”
Yesterday my friend Arlene sent this link to a clever graduation speech by Lynda Resnick that rang true and sounded fresh.
There were 7 points, one for each minute of her alloted time. One was “you will learn more from your failures than your successes. When you succeed, it’s because of any one of a number of factors. When you fail, it’s usually because of one clear reason. Learn from it and don’t repeat it.”
The other great point was “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and admit you don’t know the answers.” I wish I had heard and internalized this advice when I was 22. I spent most of my 20s sitting silently in business meetings, hoping nobody would figure out that I was clueless. Once, during a meeting on how to promote a manufacturer’s linoleum floors, someone suggested we have a dog show on the flooring. I kept thinking “But what if the dog has an accident?”
Had I had the courage to pipe up with that not-insane question, someone experienced in the dog show world might have said “Not to worry, show dogs are frequently taken to an ‘exercise pen’ which is a fenced area full of sawdust, and here is where they do their business. It’s very rare for show dogs to have an accident.”
But no, I did not speak up, and so was left to ponder this question for the next 15 years, at which point Chris and I started promoting a dog show. Finally, by observation, I learned the answer to my unstated brain-teaser.
In countless business meetings in my life, I’ve heard people ask the stupidest questions. And I can’t remember a single time when anyone laughed at them. It’s kind of amazing, really.
Mind you, I can’t tell you a single thing anyone said at my own graduation ceremonies, or those of my children.Do you remember any great piece of advice from your graduation? If not, what do you wish someone had told you back in your own graduation ceremonies?