Like so many of you, I have a senior in high school and the graduation ceremony they receive, if any, will not have that oh so carefully worded commencement speech. That speech that seeks not to offend anyone, is just the right amount of funny, more Jerry Seinfeld, less Dave Chappelle. I did not want my son to miss out so I decided to write him a commencement speech and give it to him and all of his friends virtually so they too can look at each other and say, OK Boomer.
First, I want to apologize. Sorry I am not Michele Obama, Rush Limbaugh, or Bill Gates. A disappointment I am sure. But perhaps, I could invite you to see today as something better. Because, while I am not a renown activist, a mouth piece of my voting block, or a titan of industry, I am the one thing you can relate to, I am you.
Now many of you are out there thinking of all the reasons I am not you. Perhaps it is my skin color, or my gender, or you have not seen me at your church, or, more likely, you are thinking OK Boomer. For all of you here today, there is at least one reason to say that old white guy up there is not me. To that, I challenge you to see not our differences but our similarities. I grew up with a working class father and a stay at home mother. Sometimes we were on welfare, sometimes things were better. I am a geek and also an athlete. My grades where, mehh, well that is generous. They were terrible. I can be funny, mean, generous, selfish, happy, reflective, pensive and caring. I am human, you are human. Life is so much better when you find reasons to bring yourself closer to others. And with that I say, I am you. So hear me when I say:
Not stupid, bold.
Stupid is taking a high risk activity with little thought or examination like Johnny Knoxville in Jackass.
Bold is mindfully thinking about and then taking an action with 100% commitment.
When I say be mindful, I mean recognizing your passions, your desires. So many out there are saying “but I don’t know what I want to do…” I suggest you *do* know but are afraid to admit. Afraid of what your friends or parents will say, afraid of committing, afraid of failing, afraid of missing out. All because your dream is different, hard, non-standard. Search within, is there something you are afraid to admit even to yourself? Well, now is the time to admit it. Embrace what you want to do now and you *may* achieve it in your life. And, if there truly is nothing that calls to you then embrace that. Embrace spending your near future searching and finding that which inspires you, that which is the boldness that will fill your life with meaning!
Now *commit* to your bold path.
Commit, as in aligning all of your life and energy to that bold path. This is the important part of being bold, 100% committing. Tell the world about your bold path and shamelessly ask for support on that path. You want a life as an artist, or an historian, or a doctor, or a venture capitalist, or running a non-profit, I say great! Don’t listen to those that will tell you shouldn’t because it is hard or because it does not pay, or because they did not see you that way, because the life that is risk free, done for money, or is done because that is what is expected of you, is a life that will not fill your soul.
Be bold in a way that means something to you.
There is a reason Robert Frost’s words have endured for so many years and been quoted at so many of these pithy commencement speeches:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Its because all of us parental types looked back wondering, nay wishing, what if we could travel both paths and be one traveler. To be able to take that direct path and that bold path at the same time.
Bold is not reasonable
No one achieved their dreams being reasonable. Now is the time in your life to be bold. A bold action that seems such huge risk today will be so much more of a risk tomorrow when you have a car payment, a family, a career. Today all you risk is time. Tomorrow you risk all of that progress you made in one direction and the time you risk will seem so much more valuable once there is so much less remaining.
Seize your opportunity today to be bold, to try something and fail, and try again, and again until you are either sick of trying or you succeed.
Pursuit of your path must be like a sail boat with its rudder deep in the water. In the worst of storms you can stay the course but when it comes time to tack, you prepare and then, when the time is right, you change direction. Don’t worry, you will know when.
So we are at the completion of high school. The end of step 12 in a 12-16 or possible 24 step process, carefully crafted to properly cast you seniors off on the lowest risk path possible. (As parents we like that, it means we have to worry less about the boomerang / basement effect.) But today I take the path less traveled and say to you all BE BOLD, parents be damned!