Commencement Speeches – Choosing What You Want In Life

As I was reading the New York Times today, there was a section about commencement speeches. Obviously, it is that time of year where commencement speeches are spoken out with words of wisdom and challenges throughout college campuses. As I read them, there were one or two that stood out (at least in my opinion).

Richard Costolo – Chief Executive of Twitter: “None of us at Twitter thought during the earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Fukushima, Japan, that our service would be a great alternative communication platform if the mobile networks in Japan were spotty in the aftermath. And certainly none of us even hoped, let alone considered, that our platform would be one of those used to organize protests across the Middle East, in Tunisia and Egypt during the Arab Spring.

Here’s the amazing thing about what I’ve observed when I’ve witnessed all those things. Not only can you not plan on the impact you’re going to have, you often won’t recognize it even while you’re having it….

From here on out, you have to switch gears. You’re no longer meeting and exceeding expectations. There are no expectations. there’s no script. When you’re doing what you love to do, you become resilient, because that’s the habit you create for yourself. You create a habit of taking chances on yourself and making bold choices in services to doing what you love.

If, on the other hand, you do what’s expected of you, or what you’re supposed to do, and things go poor or chaos ensues – as it surely will –  you will look to external sources for what to do next, because that will be the habit you’ve created for yourself. You’ll be standing there, frozen, on the stage of your own life.”

Here is the speech in its entirety:

Yes, indeed.

You don’t often recognize the impact you have with the actions you take until well after it happens. There is no script in life. There is no script with having children. When I gave birth to my son, Matt, I said to my doctor, “Where’s the manual? Was my kid holding it in his hands when he came out of my womb?”


The bottom line to this speech is that if you love something that you do, you become resilient and find alternative ways to doing that very fundamental thing that you love to do even if you only have ten dollars in your pocket. Why? Because it’s the habit you created for yourself.

The habit to succeed. You took a chance on yourself in knowing that the career choice you’ve decided upon is something you hold near and dear to your heart – you are a rare entity – a real catch. During a job interview, your interviewer will see your passion for the job.


And, if you just scuffle along and do what your parents’ say you should do, or go along with your group of friends in striving for that ultimate Bachelors in Business, you’ll look for outsiders to help you when your life takes a turn down a path you didn’t expect. You’ll find yourself stuck. You are in a rut. Basically, you’ve settled on being mundane.

Just plain vanilla with no surprise Oreo cookie pieces or rocky road complements.

stephen colbert commencement speechHere is one more gem from Stephen Colbert, Political Satirist, who gave the commencement speech at the University of Virginia: “On the one hand, in Jefferson’s public life as a founding father, we often see him as the embodiment of the white male patriarchy. But in his private life, he was known for, shall we say, embracing diversity – very affirmative in his actions…..You are his intellectual heirs. In fact, some of you may be his actual heirs – we’re still testing the DNA.

If you must find your own path, and we have left you no easy path, then decide now to choose the hard path that leads to the life and the world you want. And don’t worry if we don’t approve of your choices. In our benign self-absorption, I believe we have given you a gift, a particular form of independence, because you do not owe the previous generation anything. Thanks to us, you owe it to the Chinese.”

Choose the hard path that leads to life and the world you want. Don’t worry if others’ don’t approve of your choices.

I’ve told my son a thousand times, and I’ll tell you the same thing: You spend the majority of your life working. You work hard to put food on the table, working to pay for a roof over your head and put clothes on your children (if you decide to have children). Since you’ll be spending the majority of your life working, you better damn well love what you’re doing.

Money isn’t the answer to happiness. Happiness is getting up every morning and doing something that you love. Happiness is having a purpose in life.  Happiness is making a difference in the lives of other human beings.

Happiness is the hard road to being happy.


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