Why My Commencement Speech Bombed

I wish I could have a “do-over”.

In light of tonight’s graduation ceremony in our sleepy, little lake community, I was reminded of perhaps the worst talk I have ever given. (believe me…I just read it, again, and should immediately send an apology to each of my classmates and the 2000 people that were in that sweaty gymnasium)

While I certainly had lofty goals, hopes and dreams to share, I was afraid it would come off as irresponsible and “out there”. Thus, I elected to play it safe.

I used big words and predictable advice. There was no heart, just platitudes such as:

“Life’s goals must be realistic and achievable. Otherwise, you will become frustrated.” (huh? yaawwwn)

“Set goals that advance your personal agenda. It’s your life.” (so, screw everyone else?)

Instead of inspiring my friends, I chose to impress and pander to the adults in the room. Ugh.

Fast forward to today (and, due to the inspiration of YOU and others): I don’t play it safe, I’m fairly irresponsible, often unpredictable…and, dream like crazy.

Keep inspiring me! (139 words)

A Star Wasn’t Born

My Hollywood acting debut hit the big screen nearly ten years ago today as Walt Disney’s Mr. 3000 opened up in theaters nationwide.

 Sitting with my wife and boys in that small theater, my heart was pounding. I wondered, “Will people around me recognize that I’m in the film?” “Will this lead to other acting opportunities?” “Will I be able to drink this mega-soda without a poorly timed potty break?”

Nope. Nope. Aaaand, nope.

The director clearly defined my role from day one, “Your job is to allow Bernie Mac to shine. He’s the star. Less of you, more of him. Less of you, more of him.”

Job well done, I guess.  (If you pause the DVR and squint, you’ll see me from time to time. Rats.)

True leadership occurs, not while being IN the spotlight, but by HOLDING the spotlight.

Who are you “leading” today? Shine on, my friends, shine on! (137 words)

EXTRA: I enjoyed my time with Bernie and liked the movie. You can get a glimpse of the story via the trailer. If you don’t see the trailer below, click HERE

 

 

That Thing You Do

You amaze me. What you do for a living, for work, is something I’m quite certain I couldn’t.

Our trash collector, Donny, wakes up each day and does his thing. If I was a garbage man, I’d live in San Diego. He battles the snow, rain, and bad drivers while smiling. Seriously.

 Redd cuts our trees. He’s half monkey, I swear. Hard, sweaty, dangerous work. He loves what he does and is grateful for the opportunity.

Those reading this today are financial planners, insurance agents, stay at home moms, teachers, musicians, construction dudes, factory workers, truckers, pet groomers, realtors, fry cooks, environmental educators, health professionals, telemarketers, farmers, territory managers, administrative types, counselors, day-care providers, plumbers and more.

On this day, I raise my glass to you and say, “I need you to do what you do. Thanks for making life work.” (140 words)

Who’s Running with You?

17 years ago today, I nearly ran myself to death. Literally.

During a half-marathon, I collapsed at the 12 mile mark only to awaken in a hospital bed, connected to lots of wires, nurses scurrying about and my wife crying beside me. 

“Wait, am I dying? From running?” I would way rather die from playing hockey.

I had trained well, but made a costly decision near the start of the race.

Rather than running with my pack of friends, I broke away to lead the charge. I was running fast, and it felt good. Well, at least for 12 miles. Stupid pride.

What I really needed, was someone to tell me to slow down, stop for water, enjoy the scenery and finish together.

Leadership doesn’t always happen from the front. It might actually be best experienced when side-by-side. I’m still learning that. (140 words)

Mr. “Fix It” Broke It

Early in our marriage, whenever my wife confided in me about a troubling situation, a challenging relationship, or an anxiety-riddled dilemma, my initial reaction was to fix her problem. I mean, that’s love, right? What damsel doesn’t want a knight in shining armor to rescue her from distress? Why else would she share her problems with me, anyway?

Leaders fix problems. Or, so I thought.

A counselor told me, “Brent, just jump in the mud with Becky. She wants to be heard, not saved.” Huh? Obviously THIS guy isn’t married. But, as he instructed me to allow my wife to freely share hurts and struggles, I saw her out of the corner of my eye nodding (emphatically, I might add) in agreement.

I don’t fix problems for others anymore, because I learned a valuable lesson.

Leaders fix problems listen. And, get muddy. (137 words)