“Ask not what your country can … you know … do for you … but what you can … like … do for your country actually.”
David McCullough | 1933 - | American writer and historian
We’ve got millions of college and high school graduates joining us in the work world (or hoping to) over the next several weeks.
3 things you might do to help them get their hearts and minds in the right place … sooner rather than later …
1. Have a conversation with a graduate about some of the things you wish you'd known and done when you were just starting out.
Help them become aware of something earlier so they might make one or two better moves that you did (sooner).
Encourage them to care and work hard. Help them understand that their work's purpose is ultimately to make good things happen for other people... that the best chance they have at doing well will be by becoming valuable to someone else … by focusing on how much they can give with their time rather than how little of their time they can give.
Consider a discussion around the importance of keeping their ego in checkand working kindly. Or, share with them the 4 points to bouncing back from mistakes (a huge work/life challenge we all face often … if we’re 212ing things … pushing it).
2. Send them a link to a great commencement speech.
Below are my current favorites. I re-read these for inspiration once or twice a year myself. Reading is always faster than watching.
This Is Water by David Foster Wallace
15 MINUTES TO READ
This one's intense. So brutally good and true, I can't stand it. (Really.)
He reminds us of the true day-to-day responsibility of our lives. Read it yourself to be sure you're comfortable with it before forwarding it. Wallace lost his fight with depression, so you need to think about the potential effect that might have on your reader.
It’s all so good but for me, the best reminder is toward the end … “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” ( very Smovish and very Love Your People)
Don't Eat Fortune's Cookie by Michael Lewis
UNDER 10 MINUTES TO READ
This is a baccalaureate speech at Princeton where Lewis (who wrote several bestselling books - The Blind Side, Moneyball, The Big Short, etc.) “graduated from Princeton without ever having published a word of anything, anywhere.”
It's a wonderful reminder of how chance plays a big part in our lives. “And with luck comes obligation,” he says. I love the entitlement reminder toward the end, too.
The Love of Learning by David McCullough
UNDER 10 MINUTES
My favorite recommendation from McCullough is toward the end ... “And please, please, do what you can to cure the verbal virus that seems increasingly rampant among your generation. I'm talking about the relentless, wearisome use of the words, “like,” and “you know,” and “awesome,” and “actually.” Listen to yourselves speak.” That’s how precedes the quotation above.
Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz
Probably not a great one to start with for those with limited attention spans but it's wonderful insight on the importance of solitude and thought. It's a lecture that was given to a plebe class at West Point (not a commencement speech).
3. Encourage them to Cross The Line and become a Smover and 212er for their employer (and for their lives).
Give them a copy of one of my little books (all of them can be read in less than 20 minutes).
If I give only one, I give Cross The Line because it’s everything I’d share with them if I were sitting with them at a lunch.
But at times, I also give them my whole collection (I get a special deal, of course).
Maybe a framed Declaration of Contribution or Rise & Reach reminder for their desk would be motivating ... or a personal pocket card collection.
And two more inspiring workthings I love…
This video of Francis Coppola talking about how he worked though adapting ‘The Godfather’ from a novel into one of the best movies of all time. Talk about going deep!
And, these 8 minutes from The New York Times about the creation of the top pop song of 2017. It has so much 212 in it … the creation of the song but also the creation of the video about the song. Great work!