An imaginary graduation speech

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Since it’s graduation season again and I suddenly imagined myself giving a graduation speech, I decided to have a writing exercise.
It’s just a draft so please be forgiving.
Good morning, my dear graduates.

I really don’t know what I’m going to tell you. It’s so damn hard to be original these days. Truly original ideas are rare. So I went out into the wilderness, meditated and soon a prophet with a white beard appeared to me and handed me this speech.

He said it’s a nice hodgepodge of ideas that may be useful. As you know, we all have defining moments in our lives. There are signals and triggers that inspire us to be great. Who would have thought that an encounter with a world-class pianist can inspire a young person to become a great musician? Who would have thought that a single word from an admired person can inspire another to become a billionaire businessman?

Signals and triggers can come from odd sources indeed. So I’m hoping this speech could trigger something great somehow.

Anyway, here’s my first piece of advice as handed down to me by the wise prophet:

Please do what you love.

Many others have said this. It’s nothing new. And yet a few weeks ago when I was watching news on TV, a reporter was interviewing new high school graduates about what they wish to take up in college. All of the young graduates said they wanted something that would guarantee them a job, something that would guarantee them income.

And you college graduates are about to embark on the world of work. Will you be saying the same thing?

I ask you to be different. We are at a time when there are really no guarantees. Jobs are being created and abolished at the same time. Unlike before, job security is not much in vogue. It’s much like politics too. If the people don’t like you anymore, they vote for somebody else.

So you must be prepared for change. The saddest thing that could happen is if you choose your careers because you want a secure job that will give you money. Just like Steve Jobs of Apple, you can choose a career that you love and be successful.

It’s the most sensible thing to do. Why? Because when you do the thing that you love, there is a great possibility that you will excel in it. And when you excel and become remarkable in what you do, people will look for you. And when that happens, you’ll have a job that is relatively stable. You’ll have a job that will bring you money for the long haul.

So there. Don’t listen to people who tell you otherwise. Find something you love and do it, excel in it.

But you may ask, “What if I’m not particularly good at this thing that I love? What if nothing I do will really make me excel in this job?”

My next advice is this:

Please find something that you can excel in.

The questions I  asked earlier are valid questions. The sensible thing to do is really to  find something that you love and something that you can excel in at the same time.

There must be an overlap. Sir Ken Robinshon said in his book The Element that one must find that sweet spot of what you love to do and what you’re good at. It may take time. It may take some reflection. It may take a little experimentation. But nobody is going to do all that for you.

So after this graduation ceremony and after your celebration, you can look for  that sweet spot if you haven’t found it yet.

The next piece of unsolicited advice is:

Please find a way to make good money out of the thing that you love to do.

As I said, when you find that sweet spot, the next thing to do is to figure out how you can make money.

That’s where your creativity comes in. If you love to bake cookies that your friends like, can you can make a living out of it? If you love to paint, can you can earn enough to support yourself?

There must be something you can do to make that possible. You can look around for people who have done it. You can interview them and ask how they did it. You can research. The internet is a rich resource. Then see what works and what doesn’t.

If you love playing with computers, you can ask yourself how you can make money out of it? Some have gone on to make their own games. Some have become elite players who win contests.

You can work on your passions one by one until you find something marvelous that will suit you.

My next piece of advice is:

Please find something that is meaningful to you.

A lot of books have been written on this topic. The Purpose Driven Life is a good one, and so is Rick Warren’s The Leap.

When you find meaning in what you do, you put your whole being into it. You give more of yourself. Everything makes sense. That’s when you begin to be excellent.

In a study by psychologist Adam M. Grant, it was found out that employees who know the “why” of what they are doing outperformed those who only have a vague idea. So it may be a good idea to regularly remind yourself why you are doing the things that you do. Only you can give meaning to your own life. If you think the meaning of your life lies in cheating people, then you get the fruits of your decision.

If you think the meaning of your life is to educate the youth better, then that’s the meaning you assign to your life.

So ask yourself why you are studying, why you are working, why you’re here. Bakit nga ba nandito kayo?

My next advice is this:

Please dedicate your life to something big and noble.

Dedicate your efforts to doing what you love and direct them toward something big and noble.

For example, if you love baking, you can perhaps form a group in your own circle of friends and dedicate yourselves to helping each other. Perhaps you can exchange tips or provide resources. Who knows what may come out of it? Then you can go further and have even bigger and nobler goals.

Let me clarify that “big and noble” are relative terms. You determine what is big and noble. But please be a little ambitious.

So after you leave this place, find something that you can dedicate your lives to. It’s going to be a long journey so please be patient and please be ever discerning and aware.

Perhaps you can even begin the process right now. Dedicate your graduation to somebody. Now everybody say this,  with conviction please: “I, (mention your name), dedicate my graduation / to ___./”

Now how do you feel? Is there somehow a sense of pride and a sense of pressure to do well.  Manny Pacquiao has dedicated each and every fight to some cause, particularly the Filipino people. Maybe that helped him win his fights somehow.

So please become a great dedicator. Dedicate  everything you do to something big and noble. It could be the cause against animal cruelty, health and wellness, or even the plight of the cute tarsiers.

Find something big and noble that means something to you. When you find it, dedicate yourself to it and do your best. Don’t support causes that other people think is right for you. It must emanate from  you. It is the only way to make a real difference in the lives of many.

The government is dedicated to something big and noble. I don’t see why you can’t be the same. Whatever your career, there must be something big and noble that you can dedicate yourselves to.

Here’s my last piece of advice:

Please be a failure. (Pause.)

I hope I got your attention. Let me explain what I mean. Be a failure. Be a failure and learn from it. Most of you are probably afraid to fail. I can’t blame you. But failure is a part of life. Collect your failures early and learn from them. Be smart and curious enough to find out what made you a failure.

That will pave your way to success. Thomas Edison had a lot of failures with the light bulb. But guess what? He learned from them. He continually improved himself so he can come up with his huge successes.

This is my message to you: don’t work for labels. Don’t work to be called smart or successful. These are all fleeting things. You will not always be smart. You will not always be successful. There is one sure thing though: you can always work to be smart. You can always work to be successful. You are a work in progress.

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, said the mindset of growth separates the achievers from the perpetual losers. If you can manage to live a life of growth, a life of continual improvement, then you will be more likely to achieve your full potential.

Be humble enough to acknowledge that you are not perfect and that you need to continually work on improving yourselves so that you grow as a person.

Please do what you love.

Please find something that you can excel in.

Please find a way to make good money out of the thing that you love to do.

Please find something that is meaningful to you.

Please dedicate your life to something big and noble.

Please be a failure.

Now don’t accept what I’m saying to you at face value. What I’m telling you are just some things for you to think about. Our country needs people who will make a difference. I know that right now, I’m looking at young people who have the potential to do so.

Have a good morning everyone.

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2 Responses to “An imaginary graduation speech”

  1. Nice speech. i have to do one too its very stressful and guess what im getting graded on it.

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