I sometimes feel a bit weary of the commencement speech genre but I did enjoy many moments from this one by Tim Minchin.
Here’s the Youtube version:
He kicks off with a well-observed dig at the cliché of the “inspirational speaker” at sales conferences:
It was weird. Software salespeople need to hear from someone who has had a long, successful and happy career in software sales, not from an overly-optimistic, ex-mountaineer.
And then he has this to say about focussing on what you’re doing now, being micro-ambitious:
I never really had one of these big dreams. And so I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up. Just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery. Which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye. Right?
I like that word. I keep relearning that on small scales and large, so many of the dreams and fantasies I have about future events just turn out as I expect. For good or ill. And holding on to them, whilst superficially a source of inspiration easily becomes a distraction. There’s something very satisfying about bring attention into the present and finding satisfaction in what I’m doing right now. And when I’m working with people experimenting with new ways of behaving, it’s fascinating how even small tilts in the moment have unlooked for, often rather startling, impacts.