06/02/2017 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Advice to the Class of 2017

graduates throwing caps into the air

We know that high school graduates can find the advice of adults a bit obvious and perhaps insufferable this time of year. But one of the joys of being a grown-up is watching teenagers roll their eyes at our brilliant wisdom — knowing that someday a small part of it will sink in and take root. So we can’t help but highlight some of the advice being offered to the Class of 2017 as they transition from the kids’ team to ours. As always, the advice we give is also advice we should take to heart in our own lives.

Pay attention to what you pay attention to.

One of our favorite bloggers is artist and writer Austin Kleon. His weekly blog always connects us to interesting creative minds in the fields of art, music, literature, and philosophy. Of course, we also look forward to his latest “blackout poems.” Last year, Kleon offer five pieces of advice to graduates. This year, he added five more nuggets: find a new city, study something you love in depth, steal old stuff, talk to strangers, pay attention to what you pay attention to.

By “find a new city,” he’s simply asking young artists, entrepreneurs, and otherwise creative people starting out to find an affordable city (not New York) where the cost of living is low enough that they can commit to their craft or project without too much financial pressure. By “steal old stuff,” he’s referring to one of his beliefs that artists need to steal from other artists — that is, borrow themes, techniques, and ideas that resonate with you and reconstruct them in your own way. The notion of stealing “old” stuff is simply a reminder that some of the great wisdom of the past can be the great wisdom of the present, too.

The advice that resonates most with us is the last: Pay attention to what you pay attention to. Kleon actually borrowed this from the extraordinary writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal who died in March, too young, of cancer. In addition to her writing, Rosenthal made a series of videos — all of which remind us to be our fullest version of ourselves.

Build collective resilience.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, speaking at Virginia Tech, focused on the importance of building collective resilience. After the sudden death of her husband two years ago, Sandberg said she spent her time grieving and trying to find a way forward. In the process, she discovered the importance of building resilience and rediscovering hope. “Resilience is a muscle,” she reminded us. “We need to build it into ourselves, into the ones we love, and into our communities.”

The capacity to find strength in oneself has always mattered, but in our increasingly interconnected world, the notion of “collective resilience,” she says, is perhaps more important than ever. “An important way you can serve and lead,” Sandberg concluded, “is by helping build resilience in the world.”

For those wanting a deeper exploration of how to build resilience, especially after a devastating loss, Sandberg cowrote a book, “Option B,” with Adam Grant, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

It’s OK to quit (sometimes).

And speaking of Adam Grant…in his speech at Utah State University, he turned the tables on conventional graduation-day wisdom. Perseverance may be a good thing — even a virtue — but it’s OK to give up sometimes. “Virtues can be a little bit like vitamins,” he said. “Vitamins are essential for health. But what if you get more than your body needs? If you take too much Vitamin C, it won’t hurt you. If you overdose on Vitamin D, though, it can do serious harm: you could wind up with kidney problems.” Too much generosity can lead to burnout (ask a teacher). Trying too hard to be your “authentic self” can close one down to possibilities and stymie growth. A gritty, obsessive commitment to a single goal can be damaging if the chances of success are low.

“My advice for you,” Grant concludes, “is to take a page out of the Goldilocks story. Watch out for virtues that burn too hot, not just too cold. If you want to be resilient, find the right amount of generosity and authenticity and grit.”

Be humble, but not too humble.

Pharrell Williams, singer, songwriter, and producer, speaking at New York University, made it clear that this generation of young adults needs to be politically and socially active in the community and nation. “Be humble, but not too humble,” he said. “Don’t be invisible…The days of being an anonymous activist or participant are over. How can we inspire if we are only behind the scenes? How will an anonymous donation ever inspire another? That was the way of previous generations…Don’t be like them.” In particular he praised the students for their shared commitment to gender equity. He also urged graduates to “fuel the demand” for more accessible education. “Let your actions be an endorsement for education, and watch the demand rise.”

Run your leg of the race effectively.

OK, so this didn’t come from a graduation speech, but it meets the spirit of one. Former President Barack Obama, in a conversation at the Brandenburg Gate with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in May, offered this observation: “Each generation tries to make progress knowing that [it] is not going to be perfect, that it’s not going to solve every problem, and that we’re going to pass the baton to somebody behind us…but [if] we’ve run our leg of the race effectively, the world has gotten a little better.”

Consider a career in teaching.

We encourage all young adults to find their authentic paths, but we also hope some will return to school as teachers in the near future. There is always a need for excellent teachers, and schools benefit greatly from the new wisdom, intelligence, and love each new generation of teachers brings to the community and the classroom. Some of the most effective and beloved educators we know through our work at CS&A started out in perhaps a situation you’re familiar with: young college graduates who knew they had a passion for their area of study, but weren’t sure what to do with it. The schools we work with are looking for people just like that — people who have a love for learning, for their subject area, and for sharing that love with other learners (no formal study of education required!).

Are you a recent or upcoming college grad who in curious about translating your love for your area of study into a job? Learn more about what we do and apply to become a candidate with us today.

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