By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
May and June are the traditional months for graduations of high school and college.
Graduations are generally also known as “commencement” events.
The word “commencement”, as we all know, actually means “beginning”.
A graduation then, is more of a beginning than an ending.
Graduation may be considered a completed foundation for a career or further educational pursuits.
Graduation speeches tend to be light on what has been accomplished and heavy on what has yet to be accomplished.
In other words, graduations are a time for everyone – students, parents, academic advisors and employers, among others, to look forward – not back.
If there is anything we have learned from the year (or so) just passed, it is that, in spite of our best laid intentions, strategies or five-year plans, we, even the best funded experts and think-tanks, have the barest outline of what is likely to be on the horizon one year, two years, or certainly five years away.
The vast majority of economic and cultural shifts take shape over years, if not decades before most of us see their fullest effects.
Graduation is a launching pad into the inherently unknowable.
The education leading up to graduation is, we hope, a preparation for whatever comes next.
And again, as 2020 has shown us, that “whatever comes next” could be just about anything.
2021, on the other hand, is thick with hopes, intentions and longings for a “return to normal”.
As I mentioned above, we can refer to the past, we can even learn from it, but we can’t go there.
Forward is the only way we can go, and preparation (which may look a thousand different ways) is the best footing we can have to survive, function or even flourish in increasingly variable and uncertain times.
This tends to be the gist of most graduation speeches.
For the first time in over a year, many schools are hosting their first in-person graduation gatherings.
These gatherings, like the year that preceded them, are like nothing we have seen before.
And, like the year that came before, many schools are improvising and setting their own rules for social distancing, masks and vaccinations, among other aspects of what had been a relatively routine (and memorable) event.
Gleaning from some of the most distinct, challenging, informative and maybe even inspiring speeches and speakers, I’ll post some observations and recommendations below.
I’ll start off with the inimitable Warren Buffet.
In an economy swarming with smarmy hucksters, ludicrous get-rich schemes and glistening promises of untold (and unearned) riches, Warren Buffet is the unglamorous prophet of getting rich slowly.
His key investment advice is to invest fully in the one asset that holds the most promise and matters the most to you – yourself.
Two aspects from Warren Buffet stand out – his integrity (his recurring point is that if you don’t have integrity, what else do you have?) and his near-obsession with reading.
He makes a point of reading 200 pages a day.
Yes, I know, that is about half of a full-sized book in a single day.
Most of us could not even imagine reading anywhere near that much.
But if you think about it, how many minutes in a typical day do you zone out in front of a screen (large or small) when you could be both acquiring new information, sharpening your mind, expanding your base of knowledge and experience, and even, as Warren Buffett would put it, spending time with the greatest minds and personalities of history?
Instead of 200 pages a day, maybe you could set a goal for ten percent of Warren Buffett’s daily regimen.
It turns out that reading, like most of life, is a habit. Once it becomes routine, you’d be amazed how quickly reading 20 – even 50 or more – pages daily becomes your new routine.
As with any habit, the key is to keep reading materials close-by.
Grab a book first thing in the morning instead of that beckoning screen.
Instead of the pulsing pixels and promises, missed opportunities or endless obligations from others, often strangers, rest your eyes on the unmoving print on a page, with no beeps, chirps or flickering lights.
And no batteries, chargers or cables are needed for that ever-so-portable book.
Just the thought of immersing yourself in your own thoughts, at your own pace, is like a relaxing and invigorating, long, warm bath of the mind.
Keep a book handy, by your bedside or first thing in the morning. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Besides reading, Buffett recommends working for the company or individual you admire the most, spend time with people who are better and smarter than you are.
Osmosis is a powerful force, and we very quickly take on the character attributes of those around us. Do you want to?
You can see more from Buffett here: https://www.businessinsider.com/warren-buffett-advice-for-graduates-2016-6.
And if you have not already heard it, (or even if you have) don’t miss Steve Jobs graduation speech at Stanford (spoiler alert; Steve Jobs did NOT graduate from Stanford – or ANY college). https://news.stanford.edu/2005/06/14/jobs-061505/.
Like Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs showed us the way all too rarely taken, the way of sometimes slow, sometimes meteoric change and wealth, but the way taken as only each one of them, and each one of us, could take it.
But no matter what the future brings, our best to all the new graduates, their parents and other supporters and their future trajectories wherever they may lead.