Author: Charles Wheelan
Title: 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said
Published: May 7, 2012
I have no recollection of the commencement speech at my graduation. Heck, for all I know, there wasn’t one. If there was one, I’m relatively positive it wasn’t given by a celebrity like Ellen DeGeneres (give that one a watch). What I can say for sure is that I wish someone would have told me these 10 pieces of advice before I left college or graduate school. The premise of this book, which was based off a commencement speech that the author gave to the graduating class of Dartmouth, was for Wheelan to convey the 10 (and a half) pieces of knowledge he wish someone had told him long ago when he graduated from college (he happened to go to Dartmouth). The knowledge that he shares is incredibly valuable.
My favorite piece of advice in particular was related to delayed gratification. To quote the book:
“To be able to delay immediate satisfaction for the sake of future consequences has long been considered an essential achievement of human development.”
Wheelan argues that we’ve largely lost that ability as a nation. I agree.
Here is all I am asking you to do: look around every once in a while and ask yourself; Have I created a race out of something that ought to be a journey?
People who change the world often clash with the establishment first—because they see things differently. They drop out or get fired (or both in the case of Steve Jobs). And then, somehow, the world catches up.
The Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri, whose parents immigrated from India, captured this inevitable tension in a wonderful autobiographical essay for The New Yorker.
Not surprisingly, that brings me back to happiness research, which clearly reveals what provides us with a sense of satisfaction and well-being in the long run: healthy relationships with friends and family, exercise, hobbies, and purpose. The same research suggests that we tend to overestimate the satisfaction we will get from that next promotion and from the things we can buy with the extra salary, because we get used to them so quickly. We become habituated to a bigger house or a new car, meaning that after a short stretch, the extra square footage or the heated leather seats don’t necessarily make us any happier than the old house or car did.
Take joy in the journey, rather than building your life around how good you expect the view to be when you get to the top.
Here is the test: Would I regret doing this, spending my life this way, if I were to get hit by a bus next week, or next year?