In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s graduation season and I’ve been invited by Blog University to give the commencement address. Of course, there were protests. They were afraid I might be too liberal.
Actually, this address is offered to graduates or undergraduates and everyone at any age who wants to get ahead on life’s ladder.
So, here goes:
“Fellow students—I don’t have a joke, just some good advice on how you can stand out and always be at the head of the pack in the world outside this campus.
“No matter what field of endeavor you choose to pursue now, or change later, there are three areas of preparation that will help you stay further ahead of the crowd, most of whom will rely on their good looks or luck.
“In the olden days, when I was a boy, everyone talked about learning as the three R’s; reading, riting and rithmetic. With technology and a more complex world, this needs to be updated. There are still three areas you should concentrate on while in school or after graduation, but now the three are writing, speaking and thinking. This is just as true whether you’re an engineer, in the sciences, a teacher or in business.
“Let me define more clearly what I’m suggesting:
“Writing is telling a story or a narrative with words on paper. It might help if you know something about grammar; but, above all, you want to tell a story as if you’re talking to your friend(s). Keep in mind, good English is that English which is appropriate to time, place and situation much more than structure and formality.
(See my blog of 4-17-13: What I Learned About Writing.)
“Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame requires all his senior executives to memorialize everything they want to discuss in management meetings to be in written memos everyone reads before the meeting starts.
“Speaking—the ability to speak coherently will be easier if you become a writer. They are usually tied together. Your ability to verbalize your ideas and thoughts to your peer group or your boss will be a huge step on your ladder—interviews, meetings, presentations. Today, your work life is crammed with these requirements.
“Thinking—both writing and speaking require that you think through your subject or idea(s), organize your thoughts and set up an agenda. Part of thinking is “adapting” as well. Learn from others. No need to plagiarize, but certainly to adapt other ideas and thinking to fit your needs. Learning to think is also the very best way to learn `how to learn.’
“You must commit to these three areas while in school and all along your climb on life’s ladder. If you do, you will get ahead and stay ahead.
“Now, let me tell you the secret ingredient that will help and assist you to become proficient on the three-part trifecta of career mobility—it’s READING. Let me repeat: The key ingredient is reading. Reading will help more than anything to teach you how to write, how to speak and how to think.
“Reading trash and pulp fiction won’t help a lot, but reading the classic novels and non-fiction of every type and variety will be a huge advantage.
“A few newspaper and magazine columnists are very erudite and offer many instructive lessons for our trifecta, but not many.
“David Brooks, one of the more erudite columnists at the N.Y. Times, recommends Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, a collection of essays by George Orwell, Rationalism in Politics by Michael Oakeshott and All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.
“So, my fellow students, let me close by leaving you with this thought:
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle; when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”