“Anti-Commencement” Address?

I love commencement addresses. Well, good commencement addresses (perhaps because the address at my college graduation, as I remember it, did not fall in that category – note to self: see if you can find video of the address to see how it plays now).

Came across Charles Wheelan and his “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You” (WSJ) article (there is also a book – 10 ½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said). The 10 things that no commencement speaker has ever said were, apparently, said by Wheelan to the 2012 graduates of his alma mater, Dartmouth College.

The idea not being that the words are literally never said, but that they contain a bit more truth and grit and a bit less platitude and false optimism.

He’s got down-to-earth advice:

  • relish the connections you’ve made with others
  • there will be some rough times
  • don’t over-prioritize your job (the way he talks about this is terrific), and
  • it’s okay to shoot for solid and not great (and, in fact, that may be a good way to end up at great).

May have to come back to this one, because almost every one of his points is analogous to other important ideas – community, resilience, choice, mindfulness, etc. (For example, I’ve been reading and listening to a fair amount of Seth Godin, who stresses connection.) On second thought, perhaps I should first get the book and see how Wheelan expands on the ideas beyond the article. For now, I leave you with his article and (below) a link to an NPR interview with him about his advice.


Resources and Links


Happiness List

The whole article is terrific – Here’s Why You Must Make a Happiness List Right Now by Minda Zetlin – but two things stuck out for me:

  • “It’s your job to make yourself happy” and
  • “Happiness takes practice.”

Relationships are important and you should be able count on those who you love and who love you to help take care of you. AND, if you’ve abdicated responsibility for your own happiness to others you are in trouble.

And, while the search for self-improvement is important, there is no magic formula, no silver bullet. So, we need to continually work at whatever it is… even if we’ve found something that works for us. Very rarely in life are the important things ones that we can just check off a list as done.

Resources and Links

Life Advice via Commencement Address

This post has its roots, among other places, in the last post (Calvin and Hobbes). In 1990, Bill Watterson, creator of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Kenyon College.

As part of that address – Some Thoughts on the Real World by One Who Glimpsed It and Fled, May 20, 1990 – he had this to say:

“I tell you all this because it’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few.”

The art of the commencement address:
Life Advice. Wisdom. Words to launch one into the “real world.” Serious. Funny. Cautionary. Up-lifting.

Watterson’s address and many others, with their varied wisdoms, can be found on NPR’s The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever site. Which, I first heard of listening to Shonda Rhimes‘ book, The Year of Yes. (She also was the commencement speaker at her alma mater – in this case Dartmouth in 2014.)

Caution: a compilation of commencement addresses, like the one at NPR, is one of those Internet rabbit holes that you may go down and not be seen again for a long, long time.