Dale Dauten: Speaker, Author, Innovation Consultant [an error occurred while processing this directive]

A Commencement Address You'll Never Hear

Over the past few weeks you've probably seen quotes from various commencement addresses around the nation. You did NOT see a quote from me. That's because again this year I did not get a single invitation, not one.

True, I'm completely unqualified: I'm not famous and won't draw a crowd: I'm not wealthy and will never come across with the funds for a new building; and, most of all, no college administrator would want to hear what I would say. So I decided I wouldn't wait for an invitation but will go ahead and write the speech I'll never be asked to deliver. Here's a sample...

Greetings to you graduates of Ordinary State. I deeply hope you've had a wonderful time here because, odds are, you will look back at these at the best years of your life. In other words, it's all downhill from here, folks.

And that's why I hope you didn't choose your college major based on some idiotic article like "Careers: What's Hot and What's Not" No, I hope you studied topics that were a joy to you, and didn't take the rest of the silly coursework too seriously.

But today I have a message for those of you who did take your silly coursework too seriously, to those of you who finished near the top of your class. I was once one of you. Now, nearly a quarter-century later, I can tell you that one day you'll look back on these years and think: "What a moron I was!" In a decade or two, you top students will recollect dimly a few sentences from the classes you took, but you'll reminisce with fresh pain about the trip to Europe you didn't take, the instrument you were too busy to master, the love you never expressed, all the days and the nights you were too busy learning the meaning of the term "opportunity cost" to realize what opportunities you were paying with.

Even so, these are probably the best years of your life. What does that say about what you learned and didn't learn here at Ordinary State?

While here you learned to be logical, to take orders, to be patient, to stay in line and to fill out the forms. You have been well prepared for a dissatisfying life. The giant bureaucracy called higher education has stamped you with its seal of approval, proving you are fit to be employed by the bureaucracy of your choice.

The higher in your class you graduated, the better bureaucrat you'll make. It doesn't seem fair that the most devoted students learned the least about teamwork, creativity, risk-taking, intuition, self-reliance. In fact, it doesn't seem right that you learned so little about true success.

And speaking of success... So now what? Now you have some choices to make. I'm going to pass along a passage from Carlos Casteneda, the best advice I've ever encountered on the subject of choosing how you spend your life...

"Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself and yourself alone one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good. If it doesn't it is of no use."

Friends, you have spent several years learning to be logical and rational, to use your brain. And now it is time to choose a career and I implore you to leave your bullying brain out of it. You aren't choosing a career, you're choosing a life. On the day you choose you work, choose with your heart. Don't think it through, feel it through.

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, King Features Syndicate

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