June 2, 2010
It all matters.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 6/1, 5:30PM) Detroit. If you were asked to give a commencement address, what would you say? It’s easy to dismiss or even make fun of what people say in commencement addresses, it’s quite another when you’re asked. Everything changes in an instant. You’re facing a crowd of students, parents and educators, all wondering absolutely the same thing: Is this person worth my time and attention? Will any of what this person has to say really matter?
What do you say to the parents who in a lot of cases have scrimped and saved and struggled to see their child get through college? What can possibly be said to them about the sacrifices and the sheer will it took to arrive upon this very day, a day that seemed so far off in their young lives but now was staring them in the face, right along with their own mortality?
And how about the graduates? What do you say to these young people brimming with hopes and dreams and possibilities, but facing a world of rampant uncertainty?
There is a lot to say and a lot to talk about, but if you had to make it count, how would you do it?
First of all I would say, “thank you” to the parents. Thank you for having the courage and the conviction to see this through. And by “this” I mean parenting and all that it entails. Thank you for the long, difficult days and the endless frustrations that you met along the way with perseverance, dedication, and the unwavering and remarkably uplifting belief that it would all be worth it and that it would all make a difference one day.
Well that day is here and it is worth it and you have made a difference.
The graduates here before you today are living, breathing examples of your relentless drive and your unwillingness to accept the status quo for them, or for the greater world we live in. Your all-consuming belief that your sacrifices will result in not only giving your children a better opportunity, but making the world at large a better place is to be commended, because it is absolutely true.
And at least at this very moment in time, please know this: Every step along the way on this difficult journey was worth every sleepless night, every sacrifice and every time you gave of yourself when it seemed that you had nothing left to give. It all mattered.
And maybe just to say “thank you” at this juncture doesn’t begin to cover it, but know that it’s heartfelt and said with the utmost gratitude.
And to the graduates, what could possibly be said at this point that might resonate with you? After all, you have been warned, schooled, admonished and coached every which way from Sunday on what you should expect out of life and the challenges you will soon be facing.
And I’m sure a lot of it went in one ear and out the other too. After all, what’s a little knowledge without a little – or maybe a lot - of skepticism to go with it? I mean, what could we possibly know that you haven’t already figured out for yourselves, right?
Well, maybe we don’t know all that much, at least from your perspective. You’ve seen the mistakes and the flaws and the failures and the frustrations that we adults have either lived with or been responsible for, and you’re absolutely convinced that you won’t make the same ones and that you will do better. Much better.
And I hope with all of my heart that is absolutely true.
But a funny thing happens along the way with this thing we call “life.”
It’s exhilarating, frustrating, depressing, magical, nonsensical, shocking, ludicrous, fantastic, joyful, happy and sad all at once. And sometimes even on the same day.
There is nothing I can possibly say to prepare you for the journey you’re about to embark on because whatever you think it is, believe me it’s so much more than you can even imagine that my words can’t remotely do it justice.
I will deign to say this, however. That “truism” that life goes by fast so make the most of it each and every day? It’s absolutely true. But let me add to that the following: If you let life steer you – whether by your inaction, callousness, flat-out laziness or complacency – to a place that leaves you woefully unhappy and frustrated, then I can assure you life can be and will be an unending slog full of relentless predictability and utter somberness.
And at that point the “life” you dreamed about will barely be recognizable and seem so impossibly remote that the sadness you feel will permeate every inch of your being, right through to your soul.
That’s not life, that’s a sentence. And please, whatever you do from this day forward, do not allow yourself to chart a course for that kind of crushing disappointment. I can safely say that it’s not worth it, especially when you’re capable of so much, much more. Don’t succumb to that kind of negativity, and don’t allow yourself to become a slave to the notion that “I can’t do anything about it, so why bother?”
And please do your best to purge that catchall phrase for mediocrity, detachment and indecision that has become one of my least favorite words in the English language. Which word am I talking about?
To me it’s a piece of slang that should be purged from our lexicon immediately, because trust me - there is absolutely nothing about life that qualifies as a “whatever.”
If you engage in life to the fullest of your capabilities, and do it with dignity, conviction and while exuding a passion for it that’s palpable to everyone around you, believe me there will be nothing “whatever” about it.
And let me expand on that word “passion” for a moment. If you take anything away from my words today I want it to be passion, because without passion in your life you will be a zombie of unhappiness, perfectly comfortable with going through the motions and going with the flow, but having nothing to add when the bell sounds, or when it really counts.
Let me tell you a little story about passion.
Eleven years ago today I walked away from an advertising career that had lasted for over two decades. My ad career was punctuated by fleeting moments of absolute exhilaration, creativity, excitement and fun, but gradually the very life was sucked right out of the business as I saw a triumphantly exuberant endeavor become overrun by mediocrity and rampant negativity, and the profession that I once loved had became a sentence of pure drudgery.
I knew I had to do it because at that point in my life I refused to believe that I had gone as far as I could possibly go, that it was, in effect, “over” for me in this thing called life.
So I walked. And I decided right then and there to dedicate myself to an endeavor that I believed in and that I was extremely passionate about, and even though I didn’t know where my new journey was going to take me, I jumped in with both feet and never looked back.
And I have enjoyed every single moment of it ever since. Not that it hasn’t been difficult or challenging or just plain hard at times, but believe me, it has been worth every single minute.
So, in closing, I want you to find your passion. Be courageous about your convictions, believe in yourself and your abilities and then go out and find something that grabs you and won’t let go.
Then be good at it - no, go ahead and dare to be great at it - and make that passion become your signature.
What, no mention of “smelling the roses” and enjoying life along the way?
Become known as someone who brings an unwavering passion to what you do every single day, and I will guarantee you that your life will be bursting with bouquets of roses cloaked in exhilaration, satisfaction and unending joy.
I hope this day is the beginning of an incredible journey for all of you.
But please remember that this isn’t a drill, and life isn’t something that you’ll be able to “phone in” while you’re sitting at a computer.
Everything you believe in and everything that got you to this point and everything you do from this day forward - and how you conduct yourself personally and professionally - is going to matter.
It all matters.
And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.
Editor’s Note: This issue marks the 11th Anniversary of Autoextremist.com - a weekly Internet publication devoted to the business and the passion of the automobile - which we started on June 1st, 1999. It has been an unbelievably wild ride - beyond anything we could have imagined when we first started out. We talked about pulling the plug countless times but somehow never could. This is what we do and who we are, and there's just no turning back. To those of you who have followed us on this journey - a million thanks. And may your passion for the automobile continue to burn bright. -WG
See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, with Peter De Lorenzo and friends this Thursday evening, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv.
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