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Make your bed every morning, and other pearls from this year's commencement speeches

May 26, 2014, at 5:14 PM
 
Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia advises graduates to "let it go."

Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia advises graduates to "let it go." Photo: Screen shot

Did you make your bed this morning?

If you did, says the country's special operations chief, you're on your way to success.

The commencement address that Adm. William McRaven, the SOCOM commander, Navy SEAL, and all-around bad-ass, gave to graduates at the University of Texas at Austin last week has gone viral. Here, for example, is what he said about making sure to make your bed every morning:

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that's Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

Here's a round-up of other interesting wisdomic pearls I've come across during these first few weeks of the commencement season:

Scientist Bill Nye, at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell:

If you smell fresh paint, don't walk under the ladder. Don't wear shoes from a thumbtack factory and don't try and smoke in the rain. In fact, don't try and smoke at all.

Singer/songwriter John Legend, at Penn:

Every religion has this idea of philanthropy, love for mankind, at its core. But you shouldn't do this just to make sure you get into the "pearly gates." Look at the work of Marty Seligman here at Penn, who has literally written the book on happiness. Look at the work of Adam Grant, whom I hear is the most highly rated professor here: He has the data to show that giving works. There's an increasing body of research and knowledge that tells us that living a life of love and compassion is the true path to success and contentment.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia actor Charlie Day, at Merrimack College:

What does your degree say? It says: I have expanded my mind and destroyed my liver, but I didn't give up. And although 44 of you here today took more than four years to accomplish that goal — think of the plus side — you've bought your parents a few extra years of nobody living in your basement. ... Here's my advice: Don't worry about that girl...she's not into you. Let it go.

Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, at Wake Forest University:

When I was leaving my office for the last time, I grabbed a book off my shelf, Robert Frost Speaking on Campus. In closing, I'm going to leave you with some wisdom from the Colby College commencement speech the great poet gave in 1956. He described life after graduating as piece of knitting to go on with. What he meant is that life is always unfinished business, like the bits of knitting women used to carry around with them, to be picked up in different intervals. And for those of you who have never knitted, think of it as akin to your Tumblr: something you can pick up from time to time. My mother was a great knitter and she made some really magnificent things. But she also made a few itchy and frankly hideous sweaters for me. She left some things unfinished. So today you gorgeous, brilliant people, get on with your knitting.

Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, at NYU:

There is an unfortunate myth that success is mainly determined by something called "ability." But research indicates that our best measures of these qualities are unreliable predictors of performance in academics or employment. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth says that what really matters is a quality she calls "grit" — an abiding commitment to work hard toward long-range goals and to persevere through the setbacks that come along the way.

President Obama's former top speechwriter, Jon Favreau, got an honorary degree of the College of Holy Cross 11 years after getting a real one.

… My wish today is that you choose to hope – hard and risky as it may be. My wish is that you choose to give others the same presumption of good faith that you want to be given. My wish is that despite all the sound and logical reasons not to, you choose to try.

Chef José Andrés, at George Washington University:

If things don't go as expected, make the unexpected work in your favor. Change the name of the dish.

Actress Sandra Bullock, at a charter school:

And if someone doesn't want to play with you, it's OK. It's OK. You know, not everyone's going to love us. Go find somebody who does want to play with you and who appreciates what you have to offer. And last but not least is, go find your joy. Whatever that is, go find your joy. Are you going to have a good day or are you going to have a great day, because it's completely up to you. It's what you're going to remember in the end. You're not going to remember how you worried. You're not going to remember the what ifs or the whys or who wronged you. It's the joy that stays with you, and I want to thank you guys for the amazing joy that Warren Easton brings me every day. You make me walk out into the world with pride and I want you to go find it and I want you to go save the world while you're at it, and I thank you so much. Congratulations, class of 2014. You make me so proud.

 

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