Wooderson’s Commencement Speech

That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age. – Wooderson

Many might recognize the Moontower “branding” of this email and my website (pic) as a tribute to the 1993 comedy Dazed and Confused. I first saw it when I was about 16 and have fond memories of having the VHS play in the background during a Florida vacation as my sister and her friend Deez Nutz (sorry Diana, we were young) ran games of Monopoly back-to-back late into the night.

Back to Wooderson. He was that creeper who hangs around the HS crowd years after he’s graduated. Guessing he didn’t pay much attention to the commencement speech. And here’s irony coming around the corner — my favorite all-time commencement speech is by the guy who played Wooderson, Matthew McConaughey.

Presidents, great scientists, Steve Jobs. I can’t imagine the pressure of having to deliver timeless wisdom in the tradition of such minds and achievers. And yet McConaughey, at ease, perched on a barstool, delivers a talk worth your 45 minutes. Watch it with the fam. Even better if you have a grad in your house.

His lessons are both earnest and earned. His stories are fun, relatable, and scratch a behind-the-scenes curiosity too. (Link)

If you can’t wait to get to it, there’s a transcript, but you are missing out on his masterfully droll delivery. (Link)

My Favorite Tips From Wooderson

#1:  Life’s not easy…don’t try and make it that way.

“It’s not fair, it never was, it isn’t now, it won’t ever be. Do not fall into the entitlement trap of feeling you are a victim, you are not. Get over it and get on with it. And yes, most things are more rewarding when you break a sweat to get em.”

#3:  The difference between happiness and joy.

“Happiness is an emotional response to an outcome — If I win I will be happy, if I don’t I won’t. An if-then, cause and effect, quid pro quo standard that we cannot sustain because we immediately raise it every time we attain it. You see, happiness demands a certain outcome, it is result reliant. If happiness is what you’re after, then you are going to be let down frequently and be unhappy much of your time. Joy, though, is something else. It’s not a choice, not a response to some result, it is a constant. Joy is “the feeling we have from doing what we are fashioned to do,” no matter the outcome.”

#4: Define success for yourself.

“How do I define success? For me, it’s a measurement of five things — fatherhood, being a good husband, health, career, friendships. These are what’s important to me in my life. So, I try to measure these five each day, check-in with them, see whether or not I’m in the debit or the credit section with each one. Am I in the red or in the black with each of them?”

#5: A roof is a man-made thing

“You ever choked? You know what I mean, fumbled at the goal line, stuck your foot in your mouth once you got the microphone, had a brain freeze on the exam you were totally prepared for, forgot the punch line to a joke in front of four thousand graduating students at a University of Houston Commencement speech? Or maybe you’ve had that feeling of “Oh my God, life can’t get any better, do I deserve this?” What happens when we get that feeling? We tense up. We have this out-of-body experience where we are literally seeing our self in the third person. We realize that the moment just got bigger than us. You ever felt that way? I have. It’s because we have created a fictitious ceiling, a roof, to our expectations of ourselves, a limit — where we think it’s all too good to be true. But if we stay in the process, within ourselves, in the joy of the doing, we will never choke at the finish line. Why? Because we aren’t thinking of the finish line, we’re not looking at the clock, we’re not watching ourselves on the Jumbotron performing the very act we are in the middle of. No, we’re in the process, the APPROACH IS THE DESTINATION… and we are NEVER finished. Bo Jackson ran over the goal line, through the end zone and up the tunnel — the greatest snipers and marksmen in the world don’t aim at the target, they aim on the other side of it. We do our best when our destinations are beyond the “measurement,” when our reach continually exceeds our grasp, when we have immortal finish lines. When we do this, the race is never over. The journey has no port. The adventure never ends because we are always on our way. Do this, and let them tap us on the shoulder and say, “hey, you scored.” Let them tell you “You won.” Let them come tell you, “you can go home now.” Let them say “I love you too.” Let them say “thank you.” TAKE THE LID OFF THE MAN MADE ROOFS WE PUT ABOVE OURSELVES AND ALWAYS PLAY LIKE AN UNDERDOG.”

#12. Give your obstacles credit.

“Instead of denying your fears, declare them, say them out loud, admit them, give them the credit they deserve. Don’t get all macho and act like they’re no big deal, and don’t get paralyzed by denying they exist and therefore abandoning your need to overcome them. We’re all destined to have to do the thing we fear the most anyway. So, you give your obstacles credit and you will find the courage to overcome them or see clearly that they are not really worth prevailing over.”

More Graduation Inspiration

1) James Clear’s list of great speeches. (Link)

That David Foster Wallace “This Is Water” speech is in there. Wallace was a famously tortured soul who took his own life. I see this speech cited all the time. Justifiably. The bit about driving to the supermarket has always resonated with me. Not because I have a short fuse but because I explicitly don’t.

2) Alexey Guzey’s What You Should Do With Your Life? Directions and Advice is a compilation of amazing resources. Even if none of the resources suit you, at least some of the recommended assays will. (Link)

3) Investor Howard Lindzon’s bullets of advice (Link)

My three favorite:

  • If you can’t code, write.
  • If you can code…don’t forget to write.
  • There is no retirement anymore. Pace yourself.

4) Quotes I keep in mind

  • You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with
  • If you never fail, you’re only trying things that are too easy and playing far below your level.
  • Kipling: “If you don’t get what you want, you either didn’t really want it, or you tried to negotiate over the price”
  • Galloway: “The ratio of time you spend sweating to watching others sweat is a forward-looking indicator of your success.”

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