Commencement Speech To the New Era Graduating Classes!

Find this on the SportsDocDC podcast

Although I wrote this one for the class of 2020. I think it applies to all of you from that year as well as all the modern era classes. I definitely BELIEVE every word here and teach my own kids this way. I believe in you guys and I’m excited to continue to grow up sharing and evolving our world together!

Growing up I watched my dad give graduation speeches..pretty much every other year. He is a very popular teacher and fantastic speaker.  I always thought doing a graduation speech would be pretty cool. So I decided I’m going to do one of my own. 

Here it is… Well, first, Here’s what it is not:

Ohh the poor Seniors . It’s just not fair!    Robbed of their senior year. Robbed of graduation and the parties and the prom.  Poor poor 2020!

Look y’all. I know this isn’t the norm. But you guys aren’t the norm. You’re 2020. Whether high school, trade school, military or college.  The start of a new decade. The FUTURE. I know none of you would have picked THIS-but in all fairness none of you would have wanted THE NORM either.

This isn’t the article telling you how a virus and world wide quarantine is a good thing. I’ll not be that…fake.  It’s NOT a good thing.

This commencement will however, point out why your last few months of your senior year bonds you together with millions of other young adults -forever. It will point out why change, no…extreme makeover, is your specialty.

This commencement covers why your graduating Class has the chops to take on the modern era of business, the modern era of worldwide production and if you are a senior, right now – the new modern version of college/trade/work.

It will also explain why I believe your generation, specifically your graduating class, will be the best at this the world has ever seen.

Bonded like no other

First of all, just as a class, you guys have a shared experience unlike anything we have ever seen before. 2021 and Future graduating classes will of course be special in their own way however no one will have gone through this quite the same way you have. If the virus or another like it was to hit next year- you’d still be the first. It’s all you. You’re class will be remembered through history.  

Even if it’s 20 years from now and you are sitting for an interview and the person across the desk asks you what year you graduated- when you say,  “2020,” it will mean something.  With exponentially more meaning if the person interviewing you also graduated from 2020, because despite blog articles, Podcasts and CNN documentaries discussed by adults a generation or two removed from you, nobody knows exactly what it feels like unless they went through it the exact same way at the exact same time of their lives.

As you all know, significantly more than previous generations -the world is smaller. The connections that you have to the graduating class of 2020 from different states and foreign countries is much more prevalent than it was just a few short years ago. Your social media friends are not simply the people you see in the hallway between classes.   Many of them you’ve never met in person and most likely will never.   That’s normal for you.  That’s not how my social media is and it’s certainly not how my parents accounts are.  

Sharing THIS Corona/Covid “thing”…only strengthens that bond.

The social values aspect

Again, I do not want to try to point out how a worldwide pandemic is a good thing.  However, I do think your graduating class just got a shotgun approach to social values.

For example, one of the most important aspects of my life, probably the biggest reason I took the career choices I did, was because it allowed me time to travel – which is/was my biggest social value. And that social value changed almost overnight,.  There’s not a lot of family travel happening now and my trips I did have booked are worthless and cancelled.

I’m in front of high school and college seniors a lot. I have four kids of my own and I have never forgot what it felt like to be myself at different ages. I remember what was important to me, even if those values have changed through the years. It bothers me when I hear parents (who are my age) say to their kids that high school, prom, graduation, dates, the dorm life, college sports etc aren’t important!  They are!  

I went through the stage where I wanted to have a Ferrari and a mansion on the ocean and what really drove me and motivated me more than anything else in life was money.

Money, it seemed,  would get me anything and everything I wanted. IT was important and MY #1 social value of those days.

Indeed many of you may also feel that way and let me tell you that’s not wrong. But I do feel for most people in life there will come a time where other life modalities, things other than money make up your primary value.

Money won’t get you everything you want and often CAN’T get you what you want. I have a wall hanging at home that says “ Often the greatest things in life aren’t actually things at all.”  

In my case it is travel and family travel time specifically – I just can’t ever seem to get enough of exploring the world with my crew.

So maybe as a senior, your highest level social values are being near your friends, or living in a certain area of the world or being able to hit up all the hot clubs, that metro vibe. Maybe, like a lot of us on the planet, you saw your values do a complete cart wheel over the last two months and now realize that something that you thought was of the utmost importance in your life no longer makes your top 10 list. 

Conversely, maybe there are things that you thought were relatively important that you now feel play a larger role in your life – maybe the largest!   

I’m not going to tell you what values matter the most, thats for you to figure out and adapt with.  What I want to tell you, is going through an experience like this and shuffling and reshuffling what is important and what holds value in your life is an amazing experience that many adults my age never get a chance to do.   Many never even realize it is a possibility.  

I hope you’ve taken some moments in your life over the last couple months to really think about this aspect and to help get a more clear direction of where you want to go in your life and what you want to hold as TRULY IMPORTANT.    

I want to be one of the first to tell you- You do not need to know where you are going to end up in life and what you are going to do for the rest of your life at this point. 

The Life Compass

During my lectures I often tell my seniors to imagine themselves standing in the middle of a giant “Life Compass” as in “NASCAR track sized giant Life compass.”  The directions headings are your lifetime goals, achievements, you career, family, …bascially your life and they are way out far from you on the horizon. In fact you may not even be able to see the end in sight.  

For most of you it will not be a straight direct path to the end anyway, so you can’t see it.  There is no clear direction from the middle, it’s just horizon in a full 360 panorama.  Your path is unclear, there is no yellow brick road to point your way and no guide telling you where to go or even what adventures you’ll encounter along the way. But don’t make it overwhelming. I have a the cheat code for you, I have a hack that will help.

 YOUR PATH will be wavy and there could be direction changes and it certainly will have different angles as life experiences change your directions from time to time. That’s oK –  As you start to move Along this “life compass,” virtually no-one has a direct line. There is no “right path” – But it sure is nice to at least feel like you’re taking a step in the right direction.   

By knowing your inner values and what makes you happy. To think about a career path, lifestyle, family, entertainment….VALUES in a general idea rather than specifics…it helps. It gives you that first step in the right direction.   

When I lecture to seniors, I am bascially asked, “Tell everyone in the class about being a chiropractor.”  I rarely do. That’s a straight path that just has too many hurdles and problems. What I present is, “Here’s 150 jobs in the healthcare field. 138 of them you’ve probably never even thought about or even heard of.”     

That’s direction.   

The reason this direction rather than path is so important for the class of 2020 is because much of what you’ll encounter out there in the following decade isn’t even invented yet!  You are a part of the innovation and adaptation needed to make these new careers, paths and changes. Understanding your path is windy and that there is NO penalty for changing direction is a huge advantage over the people that cannot adapt to change.

…and you guys obviously handle change VERY well!

How to Handle Adversity

How do you handle adversity and challenge?    These are typical interview questions you’ll get while applying for any job. I don’t care if it’s for the largest Wall Street money management corporations or flipping burgers and washing windows. It’s typical.  

But how about these questions in today’s world? With Your new experiences? 

How about these questions with this little caveat…how Do you handle adversity/challenges/ getting to do whatever you want whenever you want/ making life work despite social distancing and oh yeah during a worldwide pandemic and planetary economic collapse??   

Do you know who has been asked these questions in an interview situation??   

Nobody. Ever.   

Like I’ve said already- You guys are the first graduating class with this particular experience. It’s not some new, crazy, life altering experience for you, it’s just the reality of your senior year. 

Uncomfortable at times? Yes.

Challenging? No doubt.

But I keep hearing my clients say, “I just can’t wait until it all goes back to normal.” 

I notice,

I don’t hear you guys saying this.  

You guys are just adapting. You know that this changes stuff.  Real changes and although it won’t be like this forever, the old normal is gone. it’s not a bunch of kids waiting around for normal to return, you just go. You’ve “got this.”   

You took the punch on the chin and got back up and went to work. And because of your skill set and your experience with modern technology and just having a handle and realistic grasp of a modern and cutting edge world -you didn’t just handle it. You own it.   This IS your generations burden. Your challenge. 

And let me fill you in on something possibly more important. For a HUGE number of the people on planet EARTH for the past two and three generations, you are the first to take on a generational challenge like this. You are the first to have experience with anything this big.

That’s powerful. The people out there hiring you want experience and you’ve got something that a ton of us never got.    

I want to reemphasize, I don’t think this is by itself a good thing- I would never wish something like this on anyone. What I’m saying though, Is experiences are powerful. You learn from them. You adapt because of them. You innovate and invent and modify and learn from them. Your class gets to do it first and that is something.

You, the class of 2020, have been tasked with being self reliable for completion, competition, relationships, responsibility and self productivity more than any graduating class prior to World War II.   

That counts.

Accelerated Learning

I first heard the term accelerated learning when I was telling, ok let’s get real here, when I was yelling at my oldest son to, “get off YouTube already.”

“Get off YouTube?”  he said.  “Dad, I’m not screwing around Over here-  I’m doing accelerated learning.”

In this case, he was learning from Ninja, who was teaching him how to smoke everyone on FORTNITE. 

He was learning how to dominate that game at a significantly faster level than what I was doing by playing it over and over trial and error style. There is no “trial and error time” for you guys. You don’t have time to waste on that.

You guys have grown up in an era of Unprecedented Information. I’m not dead, I’m right here, I can use YouTube, Google and social media to learn things as well. But not even close the way you guys can. In fact for most of the people older than you, trying to complete 2 to 3 tasks at the same time is damn near impossible.

Your generation can listen to music, read a book, watch a YouTube video explaining how to do something in depth at a much faster rate than I learned in school, while texting your friends (multiple friends) and playing a game.  You most likely are teaching your grandma how to FaceTime all while navigating 15 open windows on your computer at the same time.   

I like to think I’m pretty smart. But I can’t handle and process what you guys can. I love the term accelerated learning.   

When your parents ask you to “fix their phone.” that means something. That’s VALUABLE!

A ton of the world has been forced into getting very good at this stuff over the last couple months. We have to do homeschooling and teach our kids on multiple different software platforms. I mean even my dad and mom have gotten very good at running their iPhones out of necessity.   Overnight, the entire world, the majority of businesses as well as universities went online. Because they absolutely had to.

The planet got thrust into accelerated learning. Just check even basic stats for things like YouTube and Zoom and it shows this.

Your generation has already been doing this for years. It’s nothing new. it’s what you were born into!   Your generation ruled accelerated learning but now… you guys don’t rule this, you dominate this.

Many of you even taught your teachers how to evolve the last few months.

The rest of you just rolled your eyes for the first few weeks while the teachers and parents tried to catch up. We’re like infants to your technical powers!

Your class, the class of 2020, has an incredible NEED that has to be filled on a planetary level that you have been tailored and groomed for since your birth.

You are the future leaders, decision-makers, workers, tradesmen, business owners, associates, teachers. The forward thinking, future based, inventing,  decision making generation.

It’s time for you to take your passion, your wishes, your experiences and your knowledge together blended with the super ability to process change, adapt and overcome – to the world.    

Sorry guys.  My friend Troy said it best, “Nobody ever told me life was going to be fair. I’m looking forward to the challenge.” 

So I get it…I know your graduation isn’t gowns and throwing square hats- but that’s not really what it’s all about.   

I think you guys already know what it’s all about and the rest of us are just waiting to find out.   

-Cheers to the Future, You’ve got this!  

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