And, they said …

By: Jim Bruce
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… at this year’s commencement exercises

This year’s spring graduation season has come to an end.  About 4,700 degree granting public and private, two and four year institutions awarded some 2.8 million degrees at their commencement exercises.  And, every one of these gatherings had speakers that spoke of not giving into the darkness and despair of the day, of celebrating a major accomplishment, of being resilient, not fearing failure, listening, being generous, being ready, taking risks, focusing clearly, finding your own path, and a long list of other topics.
 
And, since the advice offered to the graduates is often very appropriate for leaders, I decided to use today’s Tuesday Reading to share a few of the ones that caught my eye with you.  Here’s the ultra-Cliff notes version:
 
Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook
Lesson:  Be resilient.
Quote:  “…when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.  I learned that in the face … of any challenge you can choose joy and meaning.”
Watch the speech.
 
Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State
Lesson:  Listen to others and be willing to update your perspective.
Quote:  “We are not going to have the kind of cooperation we need if everyone insists on their own narrow version of reality.  … the great divide in the world today … is between people who have the courage to listen and those who are convinced that they already know it all.”
Watch the speech.
 
Matt Damon, Actor
Lesson:  Go solve the world’s problems.
Quote:  “… turn toward the problems you see. … Engage with them.  Walk right up to them, look them in the eye ... then look yourself in the eye and decide what you’re going to do about them.”
Watch the video.
 
Lee Bollinger, President, Columbia University
Lesson:  Expect and prepare.
Quote:  “You cannot stand back and then be shocked at the consequences.  You have to expect and prepare for exactly what’s happening now.”
Text.
 
James Franco, Actor
Lesson:  Be generous.
Quote:  “So when you have the chance … take a little time to give back.”
Watch the video.
 
Martin Dempsey, Retired General, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Lesson:  Be ready.
Quote:  “We can’t possibly know what will come next for you.  …  Because you can’t know …, you must do your best to be ready.
Watch the video.
 
Wayne Chang, Director, Product Strategy, Twitter
Lesson:  Don’t let others define your path.
Quote: “Don’t let other people box you into their system of rules. … Make your own rules, hack the system and change the world.”
Watch the speech.
 
Take a few moments and think about these words of wisdom from a few of this seasons’ graduation speeches.  Pick one that resonates with where you now are and ask how it can further inform your work and life.  And, then act on that advice.
 
Make it a great week.  .  .  .     jim

 
 
Jim Bruce is a Senior Fellow and Executive Coach at MOR Associates, and Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus, and CIO, Emeritus, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

 

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