Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’ve been asked to give the keynote address at my son’s graduation
from a small liberal arts college. I’m not shy about public speaking,
though of course wouldn’t mind any tips. But I’m just a software
designer who got lucky by inventing a game app that went viral. It
made me money and got me a certain amount of notoriety. But I don’t
know what to say to a group of graduating seniors that won’t make me
sound like a pompous idiot. Can you please at least get me started.
This answer is for you, but it’s true for anyone who’s giving a talk in
any forum other than an accounting power-point. But even then, the
intro and style could benefit from the below.
Form first: Be sincere, brief, and honest. Virtually any audience can
tell when a speaker is bull-sh**ing about things they know nothing
about, so unless you are a very accomplished liar, you should talk
about what you know and how you learned it. Speak in simple clear
sentences. Make the talk punchy, as I suspect your gaming app was.
Let them see you, the you behind the words, so they have a sense
that the content is real Make a point of telling the truth as you know
and feel it. In lieu of that, tell them what you think will make their
Content 1: As it turns out, I’ve been thinking about exactly these
issues. Not because I’m speaking at any graduations, but because I
just passed a milestone birthday and as I get older and wiser I wish I’d
known back then what I learned the hard, slow, and sometimes painful
way. Experience is hard to transfer, and hard-earned wisdom can often
sound like banal platitudes. But you have a chance to say something
one of these kids might remember when they need it most. Or in a
best case scenario, help several of them live better and easier lives.
Content 2: If I were going to give your talk I’d say some or all of the
Choose to be happy. Life is too short to be miserable or to make things
more complicated than you need to. You can’t control everything and
the truth is you shouldn’t want to. We live in a world of marvelous
surprises. It’s good to have goals, and to plan to make them real. But
don’t go through life wearing blinders and with mono-vision or you’ll
miss a lot of what the universe has to offer. Leave room and time for
good things to happen that you might not have the imagination and
creativity to predict or ask for.
Invest in good friends and loving family. They’ll be there for you in the
long run. Ad you’ll get to be there for them. Some of what you’ll
remember with the deepest sense of appreciation when you get older
aren’t the easy happy times. They may be the crises when you had to
make tough decisions, and when you had an opportunity to step up,
help out, and give much more than you may think you are able.
Remember to enjoy yourself. Have fun and adventures. But also to
save some of your money for things you won’t be able to predict you’ll
need it for. Make and spend your money wisely. Do what you enjoy
and have passion for as a vocation if you can. If not, do it for fun.
Take better care of your body and your health than your youth may
make you think you need to. All those candy bars add up. It turns out
that your mother is right: eating right and exercise will keep you able
to enjoy life longer and more happily.
Learn, read, study, pursue knowledge in every form. That can mean
anything from learning a new language or a sport, playing bridge or a
new computer game. Keep your mind facile and active and it’ll be
there when you need it.
Take better care of your parents than you probably do. They won’t be
there forever and you’re gonna miss them when they’re not. Make the
time for the extra phone call or visit. Share your lives with them (Okay
not everything, because they’ll =forget they were just as reckless or
stupid). But tell them often that you love them and appreciate all
they’ve done for you.
Above all, be honest and kind. Take care before you speak ill of others.
Help people who ask you, even if it takes you out of your way. Become
the person other people ask for advice. Tell them what you feel, even if it’s awkward. Don’t let disagreements linger too long lest they erode
Choose a life that makes this place we call home a better and more
loving environment for others and you’ll make a good life for yourself.
And try to laugh often and deeply along the way,