A brilliant commencement address which, like most things genius, requires not one listen but multiple. And, while I don’t expect you to watch it over and over, my request is that you revisit this in about a month. Tim’s bio and background are here.
A few of the highlights and at the bottom is a link to his personal blog and you can read the entire transcript if you’d like. Enjoy!
1. You Don’t Have To Have A Dream.
I never really had one of these big dreams. And so I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up. Just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery. Which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye.
2. Don’t Seek Happiness!
Happiness is like an orgasm: if you think about it too much, it goes away. Contented Australophithecus Afarensis got eaten before passing on their genes.
>>NOTE: if we’ve said it once we’ve said it a thousand times in this blog ; )! Happiness is a choice, it’s a responsibility it’s what the Buddha meant when he said, “there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” see post)
3. Remember, It’s All Luck
You are lucky to be here. You were incalculably lucky to be born… I suppose I worked hard to achieve whatever dubious achievements I’ve achieved … but I didn’t make the bit of me that works hard, any more than I made the bit of me that ate too many burgers instead of going to lectures while I was here at UWA.
Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate. Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on, intellectually.
>>Comment: Taking credit for even your hard work is fool’s gold. Everything and everyone have helped you to forge that work ethic — take NO credit, remain humble!
I’m sorry, you pasty, pale, smoking philosophy grads, arching your eyebrows into a Cartesian curve… You can’t be Kant, and you don’t want to be.
Play a sport, do yoga, pump iron, run… whatever… but take care of your body. You’re going to need it. Most of you mob are going to live to nearly a hundred, and even the poorest of you will achieve a level of wealth that most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of. And this long, luxurious life ahead of you is going to make you depressed!
But don’t despair! There is an inverse correlation between depression and exercise.
5. Be Hard On Your Opinions
A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.
We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs…Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.
Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions…
By the way, while I have science and arts grads in front of me: please don’t make the mistake of thinking the arts and sciences are at odds with one another….If you need proof: Twain, Adams, Vonnegut, McEwen, Sagan, Shakespeare, Dickens. For a start.
6. Be a teacher.
Please be a teacher! Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever, but if you’re in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher.
7. Define Yourself By What You Love
… We have tendency to define ourselves in opposition to stuff; as a comedian, I make a living out of it. But try to also express your passion for things you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank-you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.
8. Respect People With Less Power Than You.
I have, in the past, made important decisions about people I work with – agents and producers – based largely on how they treat wait staff in restaurants.
9. Don’t Rush.
You don’t need to already know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life… I said at the beginning of this ramble that life is meaningless…
You will soon be dead. Life will sometimes seem long and tough and, god, it’s tiring. And you will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad. And then you’ll be old. And then you’ll be dead.
There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is: fill it!
…life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you’re doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running(!), being enthusiastic. And then there’s love, and travel, and wine, and sex, and art, and kids, and giving, and mountain climbing … but you know all that stuff already.
It’s an incredibly exciting thing, this one, meaningless life of yours. Good luck. Thank you for indulging me.”
Hope that provides you a sense of guidance and strangely comfort ; ) (comfort in the meaningless of it all). In many ways it’s a recipe for happiness and a fulfilling life…
Set goals. Work hard. Go after it. Be humble. Exercise. Assess your own beliefs and opinions regularly. Be a teachers —share your genius. Define self by what you love not what you hate. Respect everyone. Slow down.
(you can find the entire transcript here).
Sam, YOU are the man… Thank you! What an inspiring young man!
You are/were the perfect example of how anyone can overcome ANY obstacle. You taught us where to put our attention, energy and focus. You understood the importance of setting goals, not letting circumstances dictate your attitude and the value of positive relationships.
The thing you (the reader) should know is this, Sam insisted that above all, he was HAPPY! Yet, here was a guy suffering from an incurable, debilitating disease.
“I’m HAPPY!” He would say again and again – and that he wants to change the world. The funny thing about changing the world (as I’m sure you recognize) is you first have to change yourself, then influence another– and, another and so on. The process is rather slow to start but catches steam pretty quickly. With 2 Million plus views – his message isn’t going unnoticed.
Sam’s Secrets to a HAPPY LIFE:
#1) Focus on things he CAN DO vs. the things he can’t do
He might not be able to ride a roller coaster but he could read comic books
He might not be running a marathon but he could watch his favorite sports teams
He couldn’t carry a snare drum but they found a way to work around the obstacle!
Q: What do you want to accomplish and think you can’t because of a “real” or made up obstacle?
#2) Surround yourself with people you want to be around
Sam recognized and appreciated his supportive family and friends.
He loved his great friends and called themsleves “band geeks”
He would insist that the music they created together was bigger than any disease and allowed him to transcend his condition
this happened BECAUSE of other people – great relationships!
MUSIC served as an escape and made him feel good.
Q: What are you doing to appreciate and express love for your family and closest friends? How are you acknowledging and appreciate your mentors and community?
#3) Keep moving forward.
Sam shared a Walt Disney quote “we keep moving forward opening new doors and doing new things.” Sam believed keeping your eyes on the horizon helped to keep his spirits up. Perhaps it was an upcoming family trip or ball game.
Now, there may be some “confused” people who might judge this mindset and accuse it of not being present or in the “now” (not zenlike perhaps) if he’s constantly looking forward. However, they would be a bit off base since one of the great values in setting goals is it helps to bring your present into focus and alignment. For instance, if I have a marathon I’m looking forward to my present will be more focused on good choices. And, there is another terrific benefit. With any future event, the seed of “HOPE” is always planted and this helps us through those moments of great challenge. As Sam said, “A bright future ahead may get me through some difficult times.”
Always remember, where there is hope in the future, there is power in the present.
Sam’s words again, “I always try to have something to look forward to.”
Q: “what are you looking forward to?”
Finally, Sam insists that YOU shouldn’t waste energy feeling bad about yourself… accept it /acknowledge it and then move past it. “Being brave isn’t supposed to be easy.”
“I don’t waste energy feeling bad for myself.
I surround myself with people i want to be with.
and i keep moving forward!”
Finally, Sam ends it with this little gem and you get a sense just how he looks forward to events and leave’s us with, “Never miss a party if you can make it!”
It’s great to hear that you have your “dream” list of goals and material “toys”. It’s pretty exciting to think about the big house you will own and the 4 high performance or luxury cars, maybe even that ridiculous 135 ft yacht, etc. And, there is no reason you shouldn’t have that list. But, there is a different list…
Do me (and you) a FAVOR right now. Consider for a moment, what you would do if you found out you had only ONE day to live. Do you have any idea how you’d spend it? And, here’s the kicker, with WHO would you spend those last precious hours and minutes?
You see, as unfortunate a scenario as that might be, it takes the often muddied waters of our priorities and values and bring them to the fore with pristine clarity. The fact is, your dream mansion would be worthless, your luxury cars or yacht would all have no redeeming value as you said your final goodbyes.
My guess is this; upon finding out you had only A SINGLE DAY TO LIVE, you’d be immediately reaching out to the one’s you love the most. You’d be sharing your deepest feelings of gratitude for their love and friendship and support over the years.
In short you’d dive into LOVE and GRATITUDE. Love for all those who’ve supported you throughout the years and gratitude for the opportunities and relationships that enriched your life.
One day to live would mean
No BullSh*t…. No wasted time
No fake gestures… little to no concern about what other people think
One day to live would mean:
Focusing on the people you love. Sharing your most meaningful thoughts and ideas.
You’d probably identify some regrets and missed opportunities for time squandered—for losing focus on what was truly important in your life. You’d probably even do some last minute mending of fences and going out of your way to reconcile— to leave this world in peace.
If you have truly processed this mental exercise for all that it’s worth you will have a great idea of WHO and WHAT is most important to you and WHY.
Create that list now. Who are the people? What are they experiences and why are they meaningful. Have there been opportunities lost? What are they, can you re-write the outcome. It all begins with clarity.
I know, you’re a VERY BUSY person…. Really, I know, you are “super busy” and don’t have enough time to watch a video that is almost an hour long yet has the information and insight that is very likely to transform your life.
I get it… sort of.
Guess what my friend, BUSY is just another form of LAZY.
I just heard you say, “WHAT!?” “Did he just call me lazy?”
Listen, if you’re too busy then what you’re really saying is your just too LAZY to identify the most important things in your life. There is a great “Law” of efficiency that Brian Tracy talks about (he’s funny that way because so many things are “Laws” and he has what seems to be about 100 different laws). Having said that, the man is spot on.
The Law of Forced Efficiency states, “You never have enough time to do everything, but you ALWAYS have enough time to accomplish the most important things.”
This post was originally written in early 2008 and was updated after he had his liver transplant in 2009. In light of Mr. Jobs passing, this YouTube video of his commencement address has gone viral – (10Million hits later). We originally shared this video when it was in the low 6 figures. I felt it was important to bring this back to the TOP of the POST pile.
If you haven’t seen this video, it’s extremely worthwhile and the words below are designed to challenge your personal reflection.
Recall Aristotle’s famous quote: “Wisdom is an equal measure of Experience plus Reflection.
E + R = W
Stanford Commencement Address 2005.
Mr. Steven Jobs; Monster-Entrepreneur, Apple & Pixar CEO, Super-Hero Extraordinaire
“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” ~Kierkegaard
Every time I see this speech I’m awed by the number of gems Steve shares. I find it interesting to overlay these anecdotes against the backdrop of my personal experiences. His tales of opportunity, following his heart, continuous learning, failure, humility, and of course, mortality are both profound and inspiring.
However, I ask you, “How unique are they?” Just how rare are these “coincidences?”
The question I encourage you to ask is, “where are the parallels?” Surely you recognize you don’t have to be CEO of a couple fortune 500 companies to notice that, ultimately, the song remains the same; that these synchronistic events happen daily for everyone. The real question is not, “how rare is this?” But rather, “How aware am I to the events and all the possibilities?”
Think about it. One day Jobs is walking eight miles to eat at a Hare Krishna Temple – the next, he’s revolutionizing the computing industry. A slight exaggeration perhaps. However, the point is not to be lost, those were two very real “stations” in his life separated only by awareness, purity of intent and of course time.
“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” ~T.S. Eliot
It was a beautiful spring day, the sun was out, the birds were singing, squirrels were playing in the yard, and I Brian Webb a recent college graduate was deciding my future. I was at home in Maysville, Kentucky discussing what I should do with my life and what endeavors I should partake. The decisions were made that I should move to Cincinnati and live with my father and work in the IT field with his company as a mentor/internship. With my education, it was believed that I can move up to management. With that decided, I drove back to Lexington content on my decision.
“Life tends to happen when you are making plans.” I arrived at my apartment in Lexington, Kentucky and decided to lay down on the couch to take a nap. However, I couldn’t sleep, I had a strange headache coming on stronger and stronger. Bam! Bam! BAM!!! Felt like a nail was being driven in the back of my skull. The pain was excruciating! So, painful in fact that I got sick and passed out.
My brother came rushing to my side and called 911. The ambulance delivers me to the ER in a coma. End of story.
You might consider this the ultimate “begin with the end in mind” exercise and, really, it falls perfectly in line with one’s attempt to create their ideal future – their success.
Rest assured, there isn’t a greater ‘end’ to consider than YOUR END- (your death/departure from this planet).
So, if it’s helpful to ‘begin with the end in mind’ for goals and projects you can bet it’s pretty darn valuable for your life.
For those who haven’t heard the story there is a terrific anecdote about Dr. Alfred Nobel. What you may not know is that while today everyone hears his name “Nobel” and thinks “Peace Prize” originally, this was far from the case.
In fact, turns out that in 1888 a French paper erroneously proclaimed “The merchant of death is now dead.” The story went on to explain that the man who invented and patented dynamite (his original claim to fame) and a faster, cheaper, quicker way to kill people died in a fatal explosion. As you might expect, a very alive and able Dr. Nobel read this account of his death and its merciless headline and was mortified by the prospect that his lifetime work and his legacy would be relegated and labeled synonymous with death and destruction. This was not the legacy the good doctor had in mind.
Turns out, after reading his own obituary he instantly knew he had to redefine just what his life was to mean; what he was to represent and how he wanted to be remembered.
Drum roll please…
So, here’s a couple KEY questions for YOU to answer…
Things have been a little busy lately – and wanting to get to this “review’ / post since I saw this movie well over a month ago! Man on Wire is incredibly entertaining movie and not just for the never-to-be-repeated, remarkable feat itself (tight-rope, in this case wire-walking from one World Trade Center tower to the other) but, also, for its direction, production, and original footage.
I happened to see this movie (wifee’s recommendation) just before the Academy Awards (no surprise it won for best documentary). The story features Phillipe Petit and his mission to realize his life’s dream of walking a tight rope between the two world trade towers. The brilliance from a production standpoint is the reenactment is interspersed with some fantastic original footage. But, what makes the movie truly so powerful and riveting is the UNDERLYING THEME.
“Success is the peace of mind which is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you made the effort to become the best at what you are capable of becoming.”
~ John Wooden
Whether you like basketball or even know what a basketball is, chances are you would have been moved and inspired by this man! Up until his death at the age of 99 in 2010, John Wooden was regarded a quick wit and sage to many players, coaches and friends who sought out his friendship and counsel. To give you a little flavor, here’s another quote from the same article referenced above.
“When asked about the keys to successful aging, Coach was quick to respond: stay busy, stay active, enjoy every day like it is your masterpiece, have some variety and try to learn something new every day,” Castel said. “One of Coach’s famous quotes, ‘When I am through learning, then I am through,’ illustrates his lifelong commitment to learning.”
“Make every day your masterpiece!?”
I almost let the brilliance of that comment escape me. It sounds too cliché, right? “Make every day your masterpiece.” Wow! That is super powerful. If I could only possess that type of presence, that type of awareness — to make each encounter, each moment of each day a masterpiece. In order for each day to be a masterpiece, each moment would have to be a masterpiece. By definition that is what a masterpiece is, right? All pieces/component parts masterfully interwoven to produce magnificence? I ask you, just what affect would that have on my life’s outcome?
And, “Lifelong commitment to learning.” Sound familiar?
Based on the above statements, I think it’s obvious why I’ve taken some time to spotlight the “Wizard of Westwood.” Certainly, a site like this, dedicated to success philosophy, is going to harmonize with so many of coach’s philosophies.
Yes, the “coach” is synonymous with “Success.” In fact, you’ll recall that in “The 3 C’s of Succcess,” he is referenced for his storied commitment and direct study of success as well as his 14-year refinement of his “SUCCESS PYRAMID.”
Take notice! At a relatively young age the Coach started to ASK questions — he wanted to understand SUCCESS better. In fact, he cites a story where his math teacher forced the class to consider what success meant to them (sound familiar?). It was a profound moment in young Wooden’s life and he never forgot it. What is success? He wondered. As a young teacher he became disillusioned by seeing the pressures and expectations certain parents put on their kids if they didn’t receive an “A” or a “B.”
Those judgments he felt were hurtful, limiting, and in some cases unfair. He thought long and hard about success and what it ought to be — what the definition should be. Sound familiar? (See 3 C’s).
So, he ultimately settled on this definition, believing it provides everyone equal footing. In many ways his definition is attributed to this poem, which he often cites…
At God’s footstool, to confess, A poor soul knelt and bowed his head. ”I failed,” he cried. The master said, ”Thou didst thy best. That is success.”
Widely regarded as the best college basketball coach of all time and named the “Coach of the Century” by ESPN. John Wooden had a knack for cutting to the core issue, focusing on fundamentals and expertly dealing with different and difficult players – their unique personalities, star egos — and all the while forging character. In short, he was a remarkable coach. His methods earned his teams unparalleled success. In 70-71,71-72 his teams went a perfect 30-0, winning back-to back NCAA championships. Only a few coaches have ever had one undefeated season. In fact, during a 12-year stretch, he won an astonishing 10 national championships
Here are a few quick lessons I’ve learned from his many insights:
1. Ask questions and focus upon what you want to master.
He elected to ask questions and focus on success and therefore came to know success. If you become what you think about most of the time, what better concept to focus upon, contemplate and learn about than success? He spent 14 years — YES, 14 YEARS — developing a success pyramid. How many DAYS have you thought about your definition of success and its component parts?
2. Life is a TEAM Sport.
Wooden embraced diversity and worked to find all players’ strengths.
3. Don’t treat everyone the same.
To COACH effectively you don’t treat everyone the same. Everyone responds differently. Some require encouragement and some require increased pressure and challenge. Same goes for management.
4. Concentrate on what you can control.
Coach would never let his teams dwell on the opposition. They remained focused on what they could control — mainly…
5. Practice Fundamentals FIRST and LAST.
He was legendary for grinding even the best players on the basics. He knew they could do fancy dunks — but could they hit a clutch free throw or bank shot when it counted? Do you know what your fundamentals are?
6. Moderate and Simplify.
Wooden exemplified this on the court and off with his simple demeanor and tremendous humility.
7. Focus on effort not the result.
Knowing that practicing fundamentals takes time, he was concerned solely with effort and commitment, understanding that success is a byproduct of said constant effort.
8. Quality Leadership and management require teaching.
Effective teaching requires coaching. Effective coaching requires caring and caring requires listening! Even today, ex-players recall his impact because he cared and took the time to listen and teach.
9. Balance is everything.
He said this often — balance in life and balance on the court. He put balance only second to LOVE. Balance is everything. “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” This, in essence, is balance; controlled action in all areas of life.
10. Love Rules.
See above. He used to say “the purpose of discipline isn’t to punish but to correct.” With love in his heart and by always seeking to measure intent and effort first, his players would quickly align with the teams goal — a national championship. They never feared or second-guessed his intentions.
So, when you combine all his methods, it becomes fairly easy to see why he has been so successful on and off the basketball court.
Thank you Coach! All the best Sir! Thanks so much for your tremendous gifts — your thoughtful consideration and study of SUCCESS has no doubt made many a person’s path more swift and assured. We are all likely to go farther faster because you have contributed so generously. We have indeed been fortunate to benefit from your wisdom.
Continued peace, health and happiness.
Note: Be sure to watch this feature TED talk Wooden gave at the age of 91 about success. RIP Coach. You’ve left us all a little wiser and we can never repay you (the way you would have wanted it- see #10 below).