It will come as no surprise that I am no Scott Galloway. I have my hair, I am not a serial entrepreneur who founded nine firms and according to his latest book, The Algebra of Happiness, Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning, I am paid far less by NYU for each “podium” hour. That could be because he teaches lecture halls of 175 students and my classes are capped at 25 or that he teaches at Stern and I at NYUSPS, but I digress.
What we do have in common is a love for teaching and according to this note I received from a former student, apparently a tendency to go beyond the stated curriculum.
“There are two types of teachers, ones who teach their students what the syllabus dictates and the others, who go beyond the coursework to teach their students things that life dictates. Thank you for being the latter.”
And yes, that note made me weepy.
Scott’s book, which is high on my list of recommended reading, is based on one of his most popular lectures and is without a doubt beyond the curriculum of a Brand Strategy course. It is a thoughtful, inspiring, poignant and at times laugh out loud funny collection of what he’s learned, what he’s learning and what advice he has to give based on both.
While it’s intended audience may be those at the beginning of their career there is much to be inspired in there for any age group, including an aging baby boomer such as myself. And inspired I was. So much so that as I was reading his advice and watching Robert Smith deliver his to the graduating class of Morehouse College along with the gift of wiping out their student loan debt, I started wondering what advice I would give if I was ever asked to deliver a commencement speech. This is what I came up with.
Don’t get so caught up taking pictures of your life that you forget to experience that life.
Everywhere I go these days people are taking pictures of what they’re doing, eating and seeing. I find it annoying. They block subway exits, tie up traffic and back right into me as I’m trying to walk down the street and then look at me as if I am the problem. They miss the beauty of the sunset or the familiar face just a few feet away because they’re too busy making sure the light is right. Don’t be one of these people. Take your pictures. But first pause and let the moment wash over you. The moment is all you can ever be sure of.
Learn to love yourself.
It took me decades to love me and somedays I still have trouble. But here’s the thing I’ve learned – no one else is going to love you unless you love you first. Learn to appreciate who you are, warts and all. Learn to like you even when you make mistakes because you will make plenty of them. It takes practice and some days it’s harder than others, but love is always easier than hate.
Own your story.
I talk a lot about the importance of knowing your story – who you are, what you do and why you do it. (See my workbook) But it will never be enough to just know it. You have to own it too.
Owning it gets you the jobs you want and moves you forward. Owning it allows you step away when you have to. Owning it helps you to learn to love yourself. Some days you will own it more than others. Those will be the days you close the big deal or land the new job or finally ask out the guy you’ve been crushing on for weeks.
Always be learning.
At the beginning of each semester I tell my students that if they think I have all the answers they are dead wrong. No one, not one person knows everything there is to know about everything. And if they tell you they do, they are lying.
Read. Both sides of the story. Stay open to a differing viewpoint. Try to understand their rationale – even if you still don’t agree. There is always something new to learn. Stay curious. It’s how you learn.
Love what you do.
In his book Scott is down on the idea of following your passion. I am somewhere in between. If you’re not good at what you’re passionate about, either get good at it or find something you are good at and learn to be passionate about that.
In my wildest dreams, selling radio advertising in the eighties and nineties was not something I would ever have thought I would be passionate about but when a set of circumstances found me in that business I discovered I was really good at it. And the more I learned, the more passionate I became. Until the day I wasn’t.
When you stop having fun, press reset.
I loved my career in radio and television marketing and advertising until I didn’t. That can happen to you and it probably will – at least once in your life. When you stop having fun, when you feel you are no longer learning or in an environment that is not healthy for your personal and professional growth, start planning your escape. It might be another company or another career. It might take some time to execute your plan, but don’t stay someplace you hate for too long. It will eat away at your soul.
Your vote does count. This country is in a shambles right now because people have not been paying enough attention to the issues and to who is getting elected at every level of government. People have fought and died for the right to vote and not every country on this planet gives you that right.
Don’t. Take. It. For. Granted.
When you’re not voting at the polls, vote with your wallet. Support companies and organizations whose values align with your own. It may not sound like much, but it’s a small step to creating big change.
There is so much hatred in the world today. Try a little kindness. Hold a door open for a stranger. No matter how different it may seem we all are, we’re all looking for points of commonality so we can connect as humans. If you stay open you can always find the good in someone, but you have to take the time to look for it.
I do not go to bed without writing down three things I have to be grateful for. Somedays it is hell to come up with even one and that is the whole point. When we get caught up in the minutiae of our days we can forget what we already have to be grateful for. Somedays it might just be the roof over your head or a delicious cup of coffee. But the truth is we can’t make room for more if we aren’t grateful for what we already have.
There is always a way.
No matter what obstacles are put in your path, and there will be lots of obstacles, remember there is always a way. You can right a wrong. You can move the obstacle on that path or you just might find that obstacle was really a miracle designed to take that path in a whole new direction you hadn’t yet thought of.
You are our future. This world needs a lot of fixing and we are counting on you to do your part. Now go do it!