Tim Sackett’s 10 Tips For a Great (But Honest) Commencement Speech

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It’s that time of year when universities and high schools go through graduation ceremonies and we celebrate educational achievements.

It’s also that time of year when you get bombarded with every great commencement speech ever given.

There is clearly a recipe for giving a great commencement speech. Here are the ingredients:

  • Make the graduates feel like they are about to accomplish something really great, and not just becoming part of the machine.
  • Make graduates believe that somehow they will be difference makers.
  • Make graduates think they have endless possibilities and opportunities.
  • Make graduates think the world really wants and needs them and can’t wait to work with them.
  • Wear sunscreen.

I think that about sums up every great commencement speech ever given.

10 things I would tell a graduating class

Let’s face it: the key to any great speech is not telling people what they need to hear, but telling them what they want to hear!

I would like to give a commencement speech. I think it would be fun. I like to inspire people. Here are the main topics I would hit if I were to give a commencement speech:

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  1. Work sucks, but being poor sucks more. Don’t ever think work should make you happy. Find happiness in yourself, not what you do.
  2. You owe a lot of people a lot of stuff. Shut your mouth and give back to them. Stop looking for the world to keep giving you stuff.
  3. No one cares about you. Well, maybe your Mom (if you had a good Mom). No, they care about what you can do for them. Basically, you can’t do much — yes, you’re a new grad.
  4. Don’t think you’re going to be special. About 99.9 percent of people are just normal people, so will you. The sooner you come to grips with this, the sooner you’ll be happy.
  5. Don’t listen to your bitter parents. Almost always, the person who works the hardest has better outcomes in anything in life. Once in a while, a person who doesn’t work hard, but has supremely better talent or connections than you, will kick your ass. That’s life. Buy a helmet.
  6. Don’t listen to advice from famous people. Their view of the world is warped through their grandiose belief some how they made it through hard work and effort. It’s usually just good timing.
  7. Find out who you care about in life, and make them a priority. In this world you have very few people you truly care about, and who care about you in return. Don’t fuck that up.
  8. Make your mistakes when you’re young. Failure is difficult, it’s profoundly more difficult when you have a mortgage and two kids to take care of.
  9. It’s all right that sometimes you have to kiss ass. It doesn’t make you less of a person.
  10. Wear sunscreen. Cancer sucks.

Feeling inspired?

So, do you feel inspired now!?

Any high schools or colleges, feel free to email me. I’m completely wide open on my commencement speech calendar and willing to give this speech on a moments notice!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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2 Comments on “Tim Sackett’s 10 Tips For a Great (But Honest) Commencement Speech

  1. Makes me want to go back to school just so I can graduate again and hear this commencement address. Love it.

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