The past four years have gone by in a rush. You will recall that during that time I occasionally reminded you that you were the beneficiary of one of society’s great bargains. That is, you were presented with the opportunity to spend four years in a park filled with a lot of really smart people. It is clear at this moment, that you’ve taken advantage of that opportunity reasonably well. Not always at the top of your game but for the most part conscientiously pursuing learning as a vocation rather than as an avocation.
This is the moment to reflect on what you’ve learned, celebrate what you’ve achieved and thank all of those folks (and there are many) who have helped you get to this place in time. Smiles abound, tears flow and you’ll have an opportunity to tell those you care about that you will stay in touch forever. You will receive nearly unlimited amounts of advice from family, friends and mentors. Many will be unsolicited and others you will find on your own … beginning with this, this and this. You will have the opportunity to listen to several speeches during your commencement ceremonies. Hopefully, they will be as good as this one but, unfortunately, probably won’t be.
And then it will be time to enjoy those graduation parties! Carefully though … since you are now “responsible adults”.
The post-college world begins now. Your first job (probably not the one that leads to a career) will remind you on a daily basis that sleeping in and missing that 10a class is no longer an available option. You will find yourself wondering exactly how much of what you learned during that four-year immersion in a learning environment is applicable to your day-to-day experience. The good news is that a significant portion of it, if not all, will in fact inform the choices that you make in your personal and professional lives. You just may not recognize it when it happens.
You are commencing (this is after all commencement season) into a world that is best understood by not attempting to define it in any formulaic way. We are already well into the Fourth Industrial Revolution so your experience will be driven by change. The influence, and the combinatorial effect, of technology on pretty much everything will really be a defining experience for your generation.
But we have had this discussion more than once these last several years. We are not unique in that regard … there are many others who are actively engaged in that conversation on a regular basis. The really good news is that you are now part of the discussion.
So where do you go from here? Never forget the importance of being true to your ethical self. You will be confronted by all sorts of enticements on a regular basis … many of which will be related to your work. Do not lose sight of your core beliefs … they will help you remain on a true course.
Also, it seems to me that your ‘school is over’ relief will be short-lived. We never stop learning. And, importantly, those who actively continue to learn will ultimately be very successful.
You will also have the opportunity to experience firsthand what I meant when I told you that you had to be the most flexible, adaptable, imaginative and resilient individuals that you can be. Operationalizing the FAIR Framework is one thing that we all have difficulty getting our heads around. But I think you are well prepared to engage in that undertaking because you’ve just added an excellent education to your portfolio.
It’s more important than ever that you actively look for ways to improve. That’s the flexibility part. If you don’t keep an open mind and work hard to stay on top of the trends that are evolving so quickly you will find it difficult to see change coming and then recognize it when it appears. You will quickly fall behind and find it harder than ever to remain competitive.
It is critical that you adapt to change and the challenges it represents. You must always find ways to improve what you do, and how you do it, by adapting to the opportunities that present themselves.
Imaginative people are enormously valuable. Always remember that you must be creative in your response to change. If you can’t imagine something it will be very difficult for you to develop the ingenious solutions that will drive your success. Embrace your imagination … don’t diminish it.
If you work hard at the flexible, adaptable and imaginative part you will inevitably crash and burn. That crashing and burning thing is not necessarily bad. On the contrary, if you aren’t pushing the envelope and taking reasonable risks you’ll never progress much past where you are right now. Resilience, in many ways, may be the most important part of the FAIR Framework that we have discussed. When you’re down, get up and get on with it!
You are “commencing” into a world with almost unlimited potential. Scary as hell and the opportunities may not look like those that you expected but you are as well prepared as you can be at the moment.
It’s now on you to attack the future and make it yours!
After all, who owns the room?
Many thanks for the privilege of sharing college with you!
And always remember … your comfort zone is no place to stay for long!
Be well and keep in touch!