I have been invited to give my first commencement speech. I was delighted to be invited to speak to the graduating class at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the start of May.
We don’t have commencement speeches in England. My graduation from Oxford (having studied law, rowing and beer, not necessarily in that order of priority) was a baffling ceremony conducted entirely in Latin. I hope my speech in Tulsa will at the very least be more comprehensible, and hopefully more useful too.
So now I turn my attention to what words of wisdom I am going to impart to these students as they embark on the voyage of life. I am fully aware of the responsibility of my task. What can I say to these young adults across the span of a generation that will resonate with them and help equip them for the vagaries of life beyond education?
Actually, I know exactly what I am going to say. The night after my agent first mentioned the possibility of the speech, my subconscious must have been pondering the question, because I woke up inspired and jotted down the framework of the speech on my iPhone before I even got out of bed.
This will be my message: “YOU CAN’T FAIL”.
It was fear of failure that kept me in the office cubicle for 11 years. It was fear of failure that stopped me from being all that I could be. Once I let go of that fear, at last I was free to flourish.
I no longer believe in failure. Even if something doesn’t go as I planned, there is always a silver lining to be found, always some lesson to be learned. Provided I have reaped some reward from the experience, it cannot be deemed a failure. In fact, failures are often more educational than successes, because they invite analysis rather than merely celebration. In my book, the only failures are not to try, and not to learn.
I found these resources quite an inspiration:
Entertaining and empowering: Ellen de Generes at Tulane
I listened to this book on audio from Audible.com – words of wisdom from Alan Alda, who seems to have largely cornered the market in commencement speeches:
If you were going to give a commencement speech, what would you say? What would be your gift of wisdom to the graduating class of 2012? I’d love to know!