Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Faculty, Administrators, Friends and Family and, of course, the Hoover High School graduating Class of 2010, today I want to talk to you about something that has been ten or so years in the making. Just a little over a decade ago I myself sat in the same place as you do now. Looking around, it is surprising just how little they have updated the Canton Civic Center since then. In fact, if the person on the farthest seat to the left, 14 rows back finds gum under their chair, sorry about that.
Years ago on that particular May afternoon of my own graduation, I can remember the speaker of the day retelling Loren Eiseley’s famous “Star Thrower” story, you know the tale where one person stumbles upon another person saving the lives of as many starfish as possible before the sun dries them out. I guess the moral of the story, and often quoted line, “I made a difference to that one,” unfazed me at the time as my own imagination was busy day-dreaming just how far I myself could chuck a starfish. But in the time since leaving this auditorium, my own life has been a mixture of fascinating, exciting, and the occasional moments that are hard to understand. I even believe that I have come to understand the lesson that one person can in fact make a difference. I once either heard or read somewhere that in life “we should expect the unexpected,” and if you get no other pearl of wisdom from me today, just go with that one. Believe me it’s true.
Now, if you were to look up “10 Years” on Wikipedia, you would get one of two things. The first is an article about a metal band with that particular name that formed in Knoxville, TN and the second is a page that describes how the word “decade” derives from the ancient Greek word dekas, which means 10. Therefore, once again students, Wikipedia has failed you, so please do not use it as a guide for your future research papers. What is missing in that said search is how crucial the idea of “ten years” can be when understood in the right context.
For instance, did you know that most historians will only examine an event in modern history after 10 years has gone by. Now, before your eyes gloss over and you begin to yawn at just the very mention of history, I promise this idea is not as boring as it may seem. You see, a historian would argue to you that 10 years of time needs to elapse before we can truly have a grasp on all the aspects of a particular situation. I believe that this concept is true. Notice however that I am NOT telling you to never react to something, to not get passionate about the things you care about. In fact I believe it is vital for everyone to follow your passions, make decisions, and to learn from your own mistakes. 10 years from now you will be able to look back at this moment of graduation and see it for its true meaning, which by the way is not about you getting presents from your grandparents and other family members. What is it all about, well that is for you to decide.
Famed writer Malcolm Gladwell just recently published an entire book entitled The Outliers with his thoughts on the ten-year or 10,000 hour rule. He argues that it will take a person a good ten years or at least 10,000 hours of working hard at something before they become completely confident and exceptional in their endeavors. He sites The Beatles and their years of playing music in Hamburg as just one example of this principle. The point to his argument is that hard work does truly pay off. Of course there are those out there who have “made it,” merely out of good luck or who they know, but more often than not from the stars in Hollywood to the musicians on you ipod, and to every other success story out there, their path to accomplishment was paved by hard work and dedication.
When I reflect back to my own time of graduation 10 years ago, I still tend to reflect back to my friendships with my fellow classmates. There are those that I have lost touch with, and some who have unfortunately passed away far too early in life. But there have also been several memorable moments with my former classmates, such as the time Andrew Jackson Litz performed air guitar while riding on my shoulders during the 2006 Air Guitar New York City National Championship. A moment, by the way, that got us in the famous New York newspaper The Village Voice.
In closing, I want to wish all of you the best of luck out there in the world. And with all good closings to speeches, it is probably best to use a quotation by someone from the past to emphasize the point beyond my own musings and ideas, so in that regard I ask you to listen thoughtfully to the advice from Mr. Mark Twain:
“Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Short bio- Rod Jones graduated high school in 1997, and had the gray hairs in his beard to prove it! Since graduation he has lived in 4 states, visited 8 countries, read over 400 books (give or take a few), figured out that his favorite food is Indian Chicken Curry.
Now here’s what I have to say about Rod. I would consider Rod the East Nasty welcome committee. I was nervous about a new running group and that didn’t last long before Rod came over, introduced himself and welcomed me. When I was looking for someone to run with for the marathon, Rod introduced me to Christy. Rod is the glue and makes sure no one comes to East Nasty without being welcomed, and that’s a big job.
Through that I am thrilled to have a new friend in Rod. Rod keeps me laughing with his stories and is my go-to for a great book or writing. I am so thankful for my friends from EN like Rod that keep me running, reading and laughing.
Check out Rod’s Blog The Western Wind and DO NOT MISS his Retro Picture Fridays. I look forward to it every week! I mean come on, check out this jewel. You want more of where that came from.
About this series: This is one of a series of guest posts in May that will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.