Delivering commencement speeches is apparently good money. Well known leaders, politicians, and actors are commanding big dollars for waxing eloquence at graduation ceremonies all over the country. Ben Stein reportedly makes $50,000 to drone in his famous Beuler monotone, Brian Williams will weave fictional accounts of his fake doctoral degrees for a mere $100,000, and Jerry Seinfeld will write speeches about nothing for upwards of $200,000! It’s a good 15 minute gig if you can get it.
So I thought I’d embrace the moment and share a few tips of my own for this year’s graduating class. For free. Here are 5 thoughts that just might make a significant difference in your future (whether you’re graduating this week or not).
1. Add Value, Find Happiness: Everywhere you look, people are trying to sell you happiness. Find your dream job! Do what you love! Don’t settle! All good pieces of advice if you put them in the right perspective. The strange dichotomy of life is that when you go seeking happiness you rarely find it. Happiness is a byproduct of a poured out life, not the goal in and of itself. Instead of “do what you love,” I challenge you to “do something that matters.” Seek to add value wherever you find yourself, at your dream job or at a job you hate, and you will eventually find a deep sense of satisfaction (and happiness).
2. Be Skilled at Being Faithful: Faithfulness is highly underrated. It’s not super exciting, though. We naturally elevate the people with the most talent, the most flash, the most charisma. But if you get really good at just showing up – every day, with everything you have, over long periods of time – you will make a major impact. As Chicago pastor Daniel Darling so beautifully puts it, “Talented quitters are a dime a dozen, but people with marginal talent who commit to hard work in the day-to-day grind always stand out as radical.” Learn to be faithful.
3. Progress Isn’t Always Forward: We instinctively assume change is about embracing the “new.” Old ways of doing things always become obsolete, and new, enlightened ways of thinking will inevitably replace our current understanding. Or maybe not. C.S. Lewis refers to this fallacy as Chronological Snobbery, the belief that all “thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior to that of the present, simply by virtue of its temporal priority.” It’s just not true. So as you set out to “change the world,” I encourage you to not only look ahead, but behind you as well. Progress isn’t always forward.
4. Stand On Shoulders: When I was younger, my sincere passion to “make change” had a tendency to leap ahead of my discretion. Bringing in the new meant bulldozing the old. And while it’s true, new times require different approaches (please see #3), how we envision change and our role in the process is very important. Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” As more and more responsibility is entrusted into your hands, make the necessary changes. But don’t see yourself as “better than,” envision yourself as “building on.” The best kind of passion is seasoned with humility and honor.
5. To Truly Love, You Must Rest in God’s Love: The only way to genuinely love the world is to be at rest with God’s love for you. It’s true. All our wild dreams and world-changing conquests will be loud gongs and clanging cymbals without the Gospel. We’ll do good to try and earn a reputation. We’ll serve others to feel more righteous about ourselves. We’ll pursue accolades as a way to secure our own identity. The only way you can truly “do good” is to rest in the the reality that you don’t have to do anything to be valuable to God. Because of Christ’s work for you, your debt has been paid, and your identity is settled. You are loved and you don’t deserve it. Rest in that love. Then you can go and love. Truly love.
Congratulations to this year’s graduating class! Now go change the world.