Opportunity to Refocus
Monday May 17, 2010

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“But nothing important, or meaningful,

or beautiful, or interesting,

or great ever came out of imitations.

The thing that is really hard,

and really amazing,

is giving up on being perfect

and beginning the work

of becoming yourself.”

-Anna Quindlen – Mount Holyoke College Commencement address – 1999

We have reached that time of the year.  A time when friends and family gather to celebrate the hard work of their beloved student having earned the right to cross the stage to receive their diploma and toss their cap in celebration.  A time when a new and adventurous path has the opportunity of being traveled.

While many of us have finished our years in school, I find myself always drawn to the brief snippets the news shares of commencement addresses whether it be by the President, a journalist, an educator, a professional athlete, an actor or anyone who has earned the invitation to speak to this year’s graduates.  (For a look at who is speaking where this year, take a look at Forbes list.) There usually is something from each speech that can be grabbed and applied to our own lives.

While the welcoming of a new year tends to be the time people feel they need to set goals for the new life they want to achieve, the spring symbolically is, in my opinion, an even better time to ask ourselves, “Am I living the life I desire?  Am I making the most of my abilities?”  Yesterday, on CBS Sunday Morning, Ben Stein shared his thoughts on the benefits of graduating from the “right” school.  His immediate dismissal, stating that the school one graduates from is not a determining factor at all delighted me.  He defended his position by stating that the determining factors in any one of us acquiring success are: (1) having good work habits, (2) making a minute by minute effort to get along with the people we work with, and (3) harmonizing our goals with our talents.

After citing a handful of successful names, none of which had graduated from an Ivy League school, but had no doubt attained great success,  he continued to share the necessary requirements one must do once they find the path that does harmonize our goals with our talents: (1) use the talents we were born with, (2) never be afraid of taking risks or failing, (3) make sure to not act like a pre-Madonna, and (4) remain in the game until the finish line has been crossed. Fantastic advice that I know I can most definitely still use even though I am not of the graduating class anymore.

Anna Quindlen also had some thoughts regarding the degree one receives along with thousands of other students, and how to use it in our own unique way.  Have a look. (If you’d like to read her entire commencement address, simply click on the link below. Please do the same for her quote above as well.)

“You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.”

Villanova Commencement Address – 2000

Regardless of one’s age, position in life, decisions we have made up until this point, we can all heed the advice that will be a bit ubiquitous this month and next, and with determination allow it to propel us into the life we envision for ourselves.


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