For the past several years, I have re-run this old post with some advice for new college graduates. I hope my seniors, and seniors at other institutions, will read and ponder these thoughts.
With graduation ceremonies taking place at many colleges and
universities this week, I thought it would be appropriate to re-run this
post from last year with advice for graduates:
A few words to those graduating from college this year...
As you leave this place, you will become builders. You will build a
career, a home, and hopefully a family. For many of you, life will take
on a certain rhythm eventually. Routines and rituals will mark your
days. You will experience a measure of comfort with the familiar –
familiar people, places, and activities. As you grow older, the
unfamiliar will jar you, unsettle you, at times. You will want to
retreat to that which is comfortable and familiar.
My advice to you today: Do not become wedded to the old and familiar
in your lives. Cherish the past, but always look ahead. Seek out
novel experiences. Keep breaking new ground, even as the hairs become
gray. When in his 80s, Michelangelo, the great Renaissance painter
and sculptor, once said, “Ancora imparo.” – I am still learning. I
hope that you will live to such a ripe old age, and that you will utter
those same words. Researchers have shown that novelty stimulates
the brain. So, I tell you know: Exercise your minds throughout your
lives. Memories do not nourish the brain. New challenges do. They
say that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Do not listen to such
rubbish. I’m confident that you have the ability to transform
yourselves, to make yourselves new, time and again throughout your
As you experience the new and unfamiliar, you will feel discomfort,
even fear, at times. Do not let that apprehension get the best of you.
Dr. Peter Carruthers of Los Alamos National Laboratory once said,
“There’s a special tension to people who are constantly in the position
of making new knowledge. You’re always out of equilibrium. When I
was young, I was deeply troubled by this. Finally, I realized that if I
understood too clearly what I was doing, where I was going, then I
probably wasn’t working on anything very interesting.”
As you learn and grow as individuals, do not keep your new knowledge
and skills to yourself. Share your knowledge and insight with others.
Do more than that; serve as an exemplar to others. Mentor young
colleagues, teach your children well – through actions as well as
words. Your impact on the next generation will become your enduring
Singer and songwriter Ben Folds once wrote to his daughter Gracie, “One
day you’re gonna wanna go. I hope we taught you everything you need
to know.” I love that song, but I know that we have not taught you
everything you need to know. I sincerely hope, though, that we have
cultivated your intellectual curiosity and nourished your love of
learning. May that spark of youthful curiosity remain with you all the
days of your lives.