If you want to change the world, start each day by making you bed.
Admiral William McRaven
This evening I had the honour of delivering the Commencement Address at Gold Creek High School. I would like to wish all those who graduated all the best on their future endeavours.
A transcript of my address can be found below.
"Good evening staff, parents, guest and most importantly the graduating class of 2017. In addressing you this evening I thought it was fitting to reflect back on my own high school graduation.
I went to high school in NSW, so I graduated year 12 a mere 5 years ago. Now for those less mathematically minded, that means I sat in your shoes only 7 years ago. In preparing for my address tonight, and reflecting back on my own graduation, it dawned on me I can’t remember who our commencement speaker was, or what they said.
It was this very realisation, that put at ease any fears I had of my words inadvertently influencing you here this evening. It put at ease my fear that the budding doctors, lawyers, teachers and police officers amongst you, won’t tomorrow drop everything and run off to the nearest circus. Simply because my advice tonight is designed to insight reflection, rather than command action, and I and I’m sure you have no idea where the nearest circus is.
With this liberating discovery, I can safely share my story and advice with you.
My high school journey began Hurlstone Agricultural High School in 2007. When my parents abandoned me, to relive the stress of having to raise two teenage children at once.
It was in 2010, a mere 7 years ago, when I sat where you are today pondering the next two years of high school, questioning my university selections, and wondering why they only served caramel slice every forth Wednesday.
Reflecting back on this moment, the best piece of advice I could give is don’t worry. The next two years of your life will not define you, take this time to learn something new, study with a sense of curiosity and open mindedness.
The coming two years, will be stressful at times, but at others liberating. You will find yourselves completing that assignment you simply forgot at 2am, and will party the night away until the sun rises the next morning. Over the next two years remember to not let the results you achieve, define who you are. The only expectations that matter are your own, and just because you fail, will never make you a failure.
My final reflection on my own experience is to enjoy life. You will never have these years of your life again. Don’t hide behind a wall of textbooks and don’t grow too quickly, explore the world, make new friends and keep catching Pokémon.
You will define the next chapter of your life, and how you chose to live it. As International Baccalaureate students, you have learnt to live with an open mind and take risks, the next two or even five years of your education will not define your future. Enjoy your life, because high school, university or TAFE is not the end of your learning, it is merely the beginning.
There are two key learnings I have made over the past 7 years, that I feel necessary to share with you today.
The first is to live, lead and learn with authenticity and pride.
We often change who we are, in order to be appealing or be liked. We manipulate our appearance and our behaviour in order to be accepted and to be normal. And we often convince ourselves that our adaptations are in fact us. But the fact is there is no such thing as normal, normal is just another word for lifeless. The names you give yourself, and the names other people call you are just labels, you are and never will be defined by them. No matter how flattering or uncomplimentary they are, what defines you is your heart and your passion.
Never let your gender identity, age, sexuality, disability, culture or religion limit who you are or what you want to become. Embrace your idiosyncrasies and individuality, in doing so you will find the best version of yourself.
The second is my understanding of leadership.
My view of leadership in year 10 and my understanding of leadership now has changed more than anything else in my life. I once saw leadership as a position of authority, but have come to understand that leadership is not about taking change, it’s about taking care.
From the United Nations to Buckingham Palace, my leadership journey has been one of incredible discovery. Leadership is about humility, and integrity much more than success. No matter how insightful leaders may seem, they are all equally as clueless. Enlightenment begins with the understanding that there are no masters in life, only helpers. So, if you want to be a good leader, be a helper, inspire someone, empower them and their soul.
My final advice to those graduating today, is above all else, enjoy your life, and do so with a sense of urgency. Tough times will come, but they have come to pass. You will fall in love, and someone will break your heart. You will cry and you will laugh, you will smile and you will probably pout. Life is a journey, be spontaneous, get distracted. Take risks, climb mountains, have your avocado on toast and party hard. Don’t live to retire, live for today, travel the world, chase your dreams, go without a plan. Remember, things will always change, this is our time and things feel normal to us, but the fact once again there is no normal, there’s only change, resistance to it and more change.
There is no straight path from where you are today to where you will be in 5 or even 10 years’ time. What defines you now, will be mere shades and hues into the future. Don’t try to draw that line, because in doing so you’ll miss opportunities that present themselves along the way. Your life and career will be full of zig zags, jumps, starts and stops. There will be times when the line surprises you and times when you can’t remember how you made it home at 6am.
If by chance you do remember something from my address today let be these words from US Admiral McRaven.
If you want to change the world, start by making your bed. If you make your bed each and every day, you will have accomplished the first task, and that will lead to another and another, and another. Making your bed will reinforce that the little things in life matter, if you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And no matter how miserable or unhappy you are by the end of the day. You will come home to a made bed, that you made. And that will give you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
Class of 2017, good luck, have fun and don’t forget to make your bed."