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)

What Others Don’t See

 

You astound me with your ability to see things that I don’t. Perspectives I’ve never had, ideas that are foreign to me. You are able to unearth beauty in seemingly mundane places and recognize possibilities in people I routinely pass by.

You are uniquely gifted and wired for such a time as this. So, now what?

A favorite movie scene from “Begin Again” portrays how Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a disgraced record-label executive, discovers Gretta (Keira Knightley), an aspiring singer/songwriter, performing in a small tavern and is captured by her raw talent. He sees and hears something in her that nobody else does.

(before continuing, turn up your volume and watch this powerful scene: A Step You Can’t Take Back)

You have abilities like this. And, there are Grettas in your life right now who need someone to draw hidden life and potential out of them.

That someone is you. Take action. The reward trumps the risk…every single time. (138 words)

Where Hump Days Don’t Exist

I led a team to the slums of Caracas, Venezuela, to deliver much needed supplies, clothing and help repair a school.

The people we encountered were the poorest of the poor, living upon garbage dumps alongside rivers poisoned with raw sewage. Extremely crowded conditions, rampant crime and lack of employment added to the challenge of living day to day. But, they did.

Long days and nights in sweltering heat blurred the calendar.

Working alongside Oscar, a local leader, one morning, I asked, “What day is it?” His response was telling. “New day.” I retorted, “Yes, I know…but, is it Wednesday?”

“No. New day!” Again, “So, it’s Thursday?” (I just needed to know, ugh!) He flashed his toothless smile. “Brent, here, every day is just new day.” 

Since then, I’ve had no Hump Days. And, tomorrow isn’t Thursday, it’s “new day”. 

Live fully in it. Just like Oscar. (140 words)

The “Do-Over” is Your Best Move

It happened, again. I walked into our house after a pretty lousy day and was greeted by my cheery wife who just got home from an apparently really good day. I had a choice to make; allow her to continue in her joy, or bring her down to my level as misery certainly loves company. I chose the latter. No!!!

Hey, can I try that, again?” I asked. She responded with a “That’d be swell” nod and wink. After comically moonwalking out the door, I took a deep breath and reentered. “Hi, gorgeous, it’s good to be home, even better to see you!” She planted a big one on me and we laughed.

Do-overs should occur often with your kids, boss, classroom, parents, spouse, coworkers and friends. It’s what leaders do.

I’m getting better at do-overs, but it sure is humbling. (140 words)

The Secret

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” the Apostle Paul – Philippians 4:12

Ask me what I want for Christmas, and I’ll respond with the same answer I give my wife and my children: “Nothing. I have all I need.” While not very helpful, and likely a tad annoying with Black Friday just days away, it’s absolutely true.

Daily reminder in our kitchen.

My heart’s desire is to be grateful and content in all circumstances. While I fall short more often than I’d like to admit, when contentment is at my core, freedom and generosity rule the day.

When you and I learn and live out the “secret of being content”, grateful at all times, everything looks different:

  • Health concerns are real, but not defeating.
  • Job security/fulfillment doesn’t dictate joy.
  • Financial goals become rightly ordered.
  • The welfare of others trumps our own. Every. Single. Day.

May this Thanksgiving set the tone for a life of contentment, peace and joy. (139 words)

VIDEO CLIP “It’s Just a Foot”: Charlie’s perspective is one I’d like to have and be known for…give it a quick view.

If you don’t see the video player, click HERE to view.