Below are two incredible authors, that gave two seriously incredible commencement speeches. And honestly I wish these speeches were given to me in in person, right now. As someone in their late twenties contemplating what “success”, “happiness” and “career” all mean , I think these speeches share a very important message to always bear in mind: I am not the center of the universe, so make the choice to be kinder.
NUMBER 1: In the following video featuring an excerpt from David Foster Wallace‘s address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon University, he states that annoyances and frustrations we experience with all the mundane things of “adult life” (ie. being stuck in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store) are all part of:
my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priority.
… Of course there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations … if you want to operate on your default setting, than you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying or miserable. But if you really learn how to think, how to pay attention, you will know there are other options …
The only thing that is capital T true is that you get to decide how you are going to try to see it. This I submit is the freedom of real education … You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.
NUMBER 2: In author George Saunder‘s commencement speech to the class of 2013 at Syracuse University he asked himself what he regrets most in his life, and answered with the following:
“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”
Therefore, in order to not have regrets and instead have a pretty wonderful life, the key is to:
“It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.”
So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.
So there you have it. Two really smart people sharing wise words that if applied correctly might actually make us all a little happier without a massive job switch, vacation, or mid-life crisis, and instead just a simple shift in perspective.