Below is my speech as written (delivered fairly close to what was written). The tips are a collection from my online research...like all good teachers, there is a bit stolen from others mixed in with my own take. -
10 tips by Mike Myatt
Good evening parents, distinguished guests, faculty, and students.
Ok, students, the good news is I am the last person standing between you and your diploma; the bad news is I am going to give a [long] speech. Here we go…
Graduation is often said to be the end of a chapter and the start of a new. When preparing for tonight, I sat down at the keyboard knowing that I had a tough task ahead considering the (3) amazing students speaking before me. I knew they would set the standard fairly high [and you did not disappoint]. Ms. DeVol, great advice – great speech – individuality is very important & I too learned a lot from the great Dr. Seuss – for instance this bow tie, Dr. Seuss wore bow ties. To Ms. Davis, again, great message about embracing our fears and going forward despite them. Go out there and take chances… great stuff. And Ozzie, wow, that was a textbook perfect speech; the right amount of quotes- amazing… when I first met Ozzie his passion for curing childhood hunger across the globe was impressive. Knowing that I had to follow these three amazing young adults coupled with the fact that you really do not want to hear another speech, left me feeling a bit defeated. But just when I was feeling overwhelmed and ready to quit, my son who was watching me stare at the empty screen asked “what are you doing dad”, I said trying to inspire a group of graduating high school students. He looked carefully at the blank screen, and said “that’s not going to do it”.
So a couple of hours later (with the help of Twitter #commencementspeeches) I changed that blank page into something I hope inspires our graduates. And yes, I realize that they are likely not listening but I will give the advice anyway. So here we go, 10 tips:
1. A Little Perspective Goes A Long Way Regardless of anyone’s outward appearance, everyone endures tragedies, hardships, and ridicule. The truth is, life is messy and people get hurt. The difference between those who overcome challenges and those who succumb to them is largely one of attitude and perspective. Embrace challenges and setbacks as not just refining moments, but as defining moments. Don’t fall prey to challenges; learn from them. Remember, the perception of failure through one lens can often be a springboard to success when viewed through a different filter. When in doubt, just sing the theme song from the Lego Movie, “Everything is awesome…”
2. Keep The Faith Don’t fear life. Don’t allow life’s numerous and inevitable obstacles to impede your progress. Don’t let someone else define possible or impossible for you. Here’s the truth; the plausibility of impossibility only becomes a probability with the disappearance of faith. The world can take many things from you, but your faith is not one of them. Only you can surrender your faith. Never lose hope. As Kristin said, it is ok to be afraid, just don’t let that fear paralyze you from action. Have faith in yourself.
3. Life Is All About The People – Relationships are the biggest asset you can have. Your world will be greatly impacted by those whom you choose to include and exclude from your life. Be kind to others. While some short-term success can be built at the expense of others, or on the backs of others, all sustainable achievements are built on the success they have created for others. Think selfless as opposed to selfish. Family and friends are worth more than job titles. Life is about people not things.
4. Stand Out From The Crowd - The world despises a cheap imitation and loves an original. Conformity to the norm will merely sentence you to mediocrity, uselessness, and irrelevance. Everyone has unique gifts and talents and the earlier you discover and develop yours the better off you’ll be. Build your personal brand, become an expert in something, or again from the Lego Movie – become A Master Builder… someone who sees a cool spaceship in what others see as just a big pile of dissembled lego parts. Guard your reputation carefully. Everyone has a personal brand the question is will it be built by you, by design, or will you let it just happen or let others design your brand for you. Everything you do should enhance and reinforce your story. This includes social-media, guard your social media footprint carefully. When in doubt, don’t tweet it out!
5. Any Job Is A Good Job No job is beneath you. Every day you don’t put money in the bank, you’re unnecessarily lowering your water line. It may not be much fun selling cheeseburgers with your freshly minted high school diploma in hand, but it’s a start and it’s a step in the right direction. The most important life skill you can develop is ability. You don’t have to be in charge to lead and you can lead in any capacity regardless of the position you hold. Be the best at whatever you do…be the best cheeseburger cook until you become the best manager, until you own the restaurant.
6. Be Serious About What You Do, But Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously - Humor can provide needed relief when times get tough. What many fail to understand is sometimes in order to find the humor you actually have to look for it. If you want others to take you seriously, the first thing you need to do is to get over yourself. The most important barrier to overcome is the barrier of being self-conscious. Don’t waste time worrying about what others will think of you.
7. Success vs. Significance It’s important to realize there is not just one definition of success. Success means different things to different people, and that’s okay. It’s not others definitions you should be concerned with, but your own. The funny thing is, your own definition of success will likely change more than a few times as you experience more of life, and that’s the key. As you continue your journey of personal and professional growth, it’s my hope your sights will shift from the modest pursuit of success to the passionate pursuit of significance. My advice is to find something bigger than you, and become a passionate, committed servant of whatever that cause or endeavor may be.
8. Learning Doesn’t Stop When You Graduate Sorry everyone, Learning is a life long endeavor. The minute you stop learning is the minute you concede opportunities to others. Always look to challenge and refine your thinking. View everything through the lens of learning. Life is about learning and unlearning, and developing and growing. Don’t waste any of your experiences - view them as learning opportunities.
9. The Difference Between Happiness and Joy – As I watch my own kids grow up, early on I naively prayed for their happiness. Sure, I still pray for their happiness, but I know happiness is really the wrong goal. Happiness and joy are not one in the same as happiness comes and goes - it’s fleeting at best, and at worst the pursuit of happiness above all else can lead to ruin. Joy however is something that can be found in any circumstance or setting. It’s the joyful people who stand out to me. They are the lemonade makers and the ones who see the best in people, not the worst. Regardless of the hand they’re dealt, they don’t complain or become bitter. They remain joyful and continue pushing forward in pursuit of their dream. Find joy over happiness.
10. Live Below Your Means Debt is not your friend and it’s a plague, and I’d suggest you avoid it as such. If you want to become indentured to creditors then by all means, live the high life. Accept the credit card offers that are sure to come now that your “adults”. Purchase things you can’t afford and be happy for the moment, but it won’t seem like such a great idea as you watch that new “bit of happiness” get repossessed. My advice, get a job or two (yes even if you are going to college) and spend only a small portion on your wants while saving the majority. Embrace this habit now, and you will reap the benefit forever.
Remember, a rewarding life is the gratifying consequence of living for your passions. It happens while you are doing the things you love just because you love them. Despite whether you are graduating at the top or the bottom of the class, whether you received awards Monday night or not, regardless of the journey you have taken so far, take comfort that you can decide today – RIGHT NOW - to be whatever you want!
So here you sit, all wearing the same gown and are about to receive a high school diploma – which aside from your name is exactly the same as the person sitting next to you. For those award winners (last) night - Well done! But do not rest on the feeling of self-satisfaction as your journey continues! For those who did not finish this part of the journey where you would have liked to, its ok, this is a long marathon – decide now is your time…begin your kick and work hard! This is a new starting point and this wonderful celebration a breather along your pursuit of finding a joyful life.
Congratulations – make your own good luck, and live the life you were destined to live!
Now it is my pleasure to certify that each and every student assembled here this evening has fulfilled the requirements for graduation that were instituted by the Millville Board of Education and the State of New Jersey.
Therefore, I am honored to recommend this Class of 2014 for the awarding of diplomas!