Do you remember who gave your commencement speech? If you did, what was the main message they delivered at your graduation?

Are commencement speeches worth the time?

The commencement speaker at my undergraduate ceremony was Chuck Scarborough, news anchor at WNBC-TV, the New York city flagship station for the NBC News Network. I don’t remember what he said. Nevertheless it was cool having him as the speaker. I always liked Mr. Scarborough.

With regret and embarrassment, I don’t remember who spoke at the graduation ceremony when I received my masters degree from Syracuse University in 1997. I looked it up. Robert Coles, professor of social ethics, at Harvard University. With all due respect Mr. Coles, I don’t remember the message.

SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor gave the commencement speech at my daughters’ graduation in May 2013. I do remember her message. 

And of course, the greatest commencement speech I ever read, ironically for the class of 1997, was never delivered. “Wear Sunscreen” written by Mary Schmich for the Chicago Tribune.

Last week, Sandra Bullock, the Academy Award winning actress, and one of my  fave’s, surprised the graduating seniors at Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans as she emerged secretly from the tunnel in a body-snugging alizarin crimson dress to give this year’s commencement speech.

“If you could go back and talk to your younger self, what would you say?” the “Gravity” star said to the teenage graduates. Funny, I ask my clients this question all the time.

Sandra’s listicle followed by my take:

1 – Stop worrying so much.

Worrying keeps you from being mindful. Being present.

We all have an Itty Bitty Shitty Committee. Those voices that pop into our heads, whispering words of a negative story of how things won’t work out or that we’re not good enough or the unthinkable will happen.

Instead of using energy to get yourself all worked up, use the same energy to tell yourself a better story.


2 – Raise the bar higher.

The people that make a dent keep raising the stakes. Each time they up the ante, they learn something new and put it all back in the blender and try again.

The individual who’s achieved any level of success took lots of chances.

As I always say, the first person to make 5,000 mistakes, wins.


3 – Turn up the music and dance before leaving the house. It changes the way you walk.

If you’re stuck in a rut, change your energy. Dance, sing, run, or go to a yoga class. Anything to shake things up.

Don’t feel like moving? Try this. Right now, I want you to smile.


Picture yourself swimming in a stack of birthday card envelopes stuffed with cash.

That was easy! 😉


4 – Eat something green every day with every meal.

Last year I experimented with my diet. Vegan, vegetarian, and then flexitarian (that’s in between vegetarian and meat eater.)

The cleaner you eat, the better you feel, so eat your…


5 – Don’t pick your nose in public.

Enough said.


6 – When someone hugs you, hug them back with two arms.

Two years ago I went to visit my cousin Bobby who was suffering from cancer and waiting to graduate to heaven. When I went to say my last goodbye, I hugged him for a half minute or so. When I went to break away, he pulled me back in and we hugged even longer. I’ll never forget that moment. Miss you Bobby.


7 – Find someone who wants to play.

The people I hang with have changed over the years. I’ve migrated from one group to another and it’s all good. People come into my life for a reason and I appreciate them all.

Same goes for my business.

I’m constantly scanning the environment looking for extraordinary fun people to help upgrade my skills. I’m focused on delivering the best coaching I can for my clients.

Same goes for my clients. I want to partner with people who are fun to be with. Those that want to make a difference.


8 – Go find your joy.

This is all about being real. Most of us are living a lie. Trying to be something we’re not. In the end, you’ll only have regrets.

If you’re not happy with your career, do something about it.

Unhappy with your business? Follow Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt’s advice. Hire a coach.

Complacency is death. Get moving and try something.


I wonder how many of the graduating students will remember Sandra’s words of advice?

Unlike my commencement address which is nowhere to be found on the web in any form, luckily these students have YouTube to thank for saving this special moment for posterity.

One day these seniors will reach a low moment looking for clarity. An answer.The teacher appears when the student is ready.

Commencement speeches are definitely worth the time. If the speaker’s message only resonates with a few students in the audience, it’s still worth doing. The message might be the jumpstart someone needs to change the direction of their life.

How about you, who’s your favorite commencement speaker or the message they delivered?

Tell me below in the comments section.

(Sandra Bullock’s commencement speech video.)

Photo by Jingle the Pirate.

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