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).
Until next time friends,
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