Forget That Commencement Speech, Here’s Some Real Real-Life Advice
It's graduation season. That means many of you will be wearing gowns and caps while sweating, and arguing with yourself about having to go to the bathroom while someone you kings recognize drones about how quick they'll make their remarks. But, they never are all that quick.. Those grad speakers will ask you to believe in yourselves, remember that you are the future, and say this is not the end but the beginning, blah...blah...to the blah.
Nothing the former political candidate or local luminary have to say will be actually helpful in life. Even if you manage to remember what they said, their commencement speeches will be full of half-truths and platitudes. You want some real life advice? Here's a a commencement speech for this year's grads, and everyone else. Advise from a couple of movies, a podcast and two books. Real life lessons that have stayed with me.
1. Pump Up The Volume
The first bit is from the movie Pump Up the Volume. 'Harry' makes a graduation speech that sums up being a young adult. Reminding us to not dwell, but keep our focus on the future.
Listen, we're all worried, we're all in pain. That just comes with having eyes and with having ears. But just remember one thing, it can't get any worse, it can only get better. I mean High School is the bottom. Being a teenager sucks! But that's the point, surviving it is the whole point! Quitting is not going to make you strong, living will.
2. Boyz N the Hood
The second is from 1991's Boyz N the Hood. The three rules of life that Furious Styles is teaching his son a foundation to build a good, strong, life on. They are three rules to live by.
1) Always look a person in the eye. Do that, they respect you better.
2) Never be afraid to ask you for anything. Stealing isn't necessary.
3) Never respect anybody who doesn't respect you back.
The last thing I want to share with you a speech by writer Merlin Mann that he made at MaxFunCon, a creative seminar put on by podcaster and radio host Jesse Thorne. Mann talks about doing creative work and getting yourself into a place to do it. I pull this out and listen every once in a while to remind myself to get over myself and do the work.
Mann talks about basic stuff that I didn't know I didn't know. Like abandoning the fruitless search for perfection and learning to love ambiguity. It's my kind of motivational talk: motivational talk without the motivational talk.
I highly recommend listening to Mann speak, watch out though, he does use some grown-up words, it's kinda NSFW. Download This Show (MP3)
I'd like to add a couple of books to my recommendation. They are books full of great information and ideas, especially if you want to do creative work.
Stephen King - On Writing
King's book is part biography and part how-to write manual. He talks about growing up in poverty, battling addiction, and building a writing career. He also talks extensively about how he writes, and is full of useful advice. This is a book I reference often for inspiration and guidance. The most important lesson I've learned form it: if you want to be a writer, you have to write a lot and read a lot. That's true no matter what you do in life. You can't just want it. You have to do it, and know your field.
Chris Hardwick - The Nerdist Way
You probably know Harwick from all the TV shows that have needed a host over the last five years. He also had a brief flash of success in the 90's; then his life fell apart as he sank into depression and anxiety. This book is how he rebuild, and re-branded, himself into a master of modern success.
Hardwick speaks my language. I do not respond to the new-age hand-holding motivation talk, or the 'get off you butt you piece of dirt' motivational style. Hardwick is a nerdy creative who's brain works like mine. He breaks down topics like time management, health, inspiring creative work, and making your mind work for you instead of against you.
So grads, go forth into a world that is scary, changing, and better than it has ever been in history. Be ready to not recognize the world in 10 years, or the world 10 years after that. Change is now consent. We each have to be our own eye in the hurricane of reality. The secret to life is that there is no secret to life. Try your best, be kind, and clean up after yourselves.