Commencement Alumni Address for Graduates at Regent's College London
Faculty, parents, friends, distinguished guests, and the graduating Class of
2016. I’m honored to be here on your special day. I’m humbled to share the
stage with Harry Potter [replace] and Professor Dumbledore [replace].
[Insert stuff about people on stage, the alumni association, etc.
Graduates, you’re the best of the best — an example of what Regent's
University offers the world. Give yourselves another round of applause.
[People applaud themselves.]
Before we get started, I’d like to address the obvious. I'm American. When I
told my colleagues I was speaking in London, they said — avoid politics.
But my entire life has been marked by one thing: I don’t do what adults tell
me to do.
This was true twenty years ago when I attended Regent's University London.
It’s true today.
When I graduated from university, I wanted to be a writer. I quickly realized
writers don't earn any money. So I listened to the adults in my life. My mom
thought I should go to law school. My dad wanted me to be a flight
attendant, but I’m too short.
I found a job in Human Resources. I wasn't thrilled, but it was respectable. I
paid my bills, got married, started my life.
Had I continued to listen to those cranky adults in my life, I would still be in
HR. But something amazing happened. I stumbled on this thing called
blogging. I was good at it. I wrote anonymously and spilled my HR
secrets. And I quit my job in HR. I now make money by writing on the
internet and offering career advice.
You may have doubts about taking advice from a woman who hails from the
land of Donald Trump. You should. But I’ve been where you are — a
beginner. And as I speak to you from this platform, which makes me look
important and taller, my first piece of advice is to approach everything
adults tell you with skepticism.
Don’t believe anybody. Don’t let anybody boss you around.
There are people who think you’re slow. And young. And stupid. Even with
your amazing education from Regent’s University.
They are trying to cement their own comfort. They are focused on their
legacies, not yours. They take you for a naïve fool.
Prove them wrong.
But, you know, who can blame them? Let’s be honest. You don’t know what
you don’t know.
You’re about to do something new. Maybe graduate school. Or a professional
career. Or you might make the decision to start a family. Some of you may
move home with your parents. I don't know. It’s how the kids do it in
Trust me. Whatever you do, things are about to get a little complicated.
First off, navigating your family is about to change. People have hopes and
dreams for you that might not align with yours. Some of you may choose to
ignore your dreams and take a miserable job because it makes your parents
happy. Or you might break your parents' hearts and pursue your passion
instead of joining the family business.
Right out of the gate, there are no easy choices. Adulthood forces us into
uncomfortable conversations about obligation and responsibility.
Unfortunately, some of you may respond by running away — physically or
mentally. You’ll try to spare yourselves emotional heartburn. Or you’ll work
in your family’s business, but you won't tell your parents and family who you
are and what you want to do with your life.
Adulthood can be uncomfortable, but when possible, be honest with your
family. Even when it feels terrible and hopeless. It’s good practice for the
real world. The first reaction isn’t the final reaction. And I promise you can
temporarily disappoint your parents and they will always love you.
And when those adult conversations are hard, tell your friends in the
Regent’s University alumni association about it. They’re all beginners, too.
You can all laugh at your crazy families, just like your parents laughed at
theirs. If you share your stories about tough conversations, your friends will
learn from you, too.
Thankfully, some of you are starting your dream job or beginning a top-
notch graduate program. Your parents are totally on board. Awesome. Good
for you. Guess what? Your dream job will have some tough moments, too.
You'll have a colleague who doesn't play well with other people. You’ll have a
boss who behaves in dishonest or dysfunctional ways.
Conflict happens to all of us. It happens in start-ups. It happens when you're
a consultant. And it happens with some of the biggest and best brands &
employers in the world.
In those moments where work is hard and you wonder if there's more to life
than a steady paycheck and job security, the answer is yes. Of course. It's
But a paycheck always helps.
No matter what you do with your life to earn money — whether you enjoy it
or not, conflict or smooth sailing — your job doesn't define you. Let me
repeat it again. You are more than your job. Your values define you. Your
integrity defines you. Your relationships define you.
A job? It can be great, but sometimes it’s just a job. You have to find
happiness everywhere because a job is only one aspect of what ought to be
a wholly differentiated life — lots of hobbies, lots of friends, and lots of
So if works sucks? So what. You're in a band! You actively volunteer in your
community! You have a new puppy!
Whatever. Laugh about work, just like you laughed about your parents. Keep
it all in perspective. If you live an interesting life, an uncomfortable moment
at work is just that — a moment. Then it’s over.
And if your job keeps dragging you down, get a new one. It’s the beauty of a
university education, by the way. You’ve gone through years of exams and
stress and heartache. You’ve learned resilience, patience, and the value of
hard work during your time at Regent’s University. You’ve got skills. You’re
You can have a career. Have a family. Make art. Live creatively.
Don’t just pick one. Pick them all.
Finally, I'd like to leave you with one thought. As I said at the beginning,
you're all beginners — at adulthood, as professionals, and as citizens of the
world. You'll face uncomfortable situations that will have you running for the
Or the nearest pub.
I hope you stop, take a second, and sit with being uncomfortable. Try to
understand what's making your life so miserable. And then get busy fixing it
— for yourself and others.
You are the benefactor of your parents, professors, and amazing world
leaders who could no longer tolerate mediocrity and fought like hell to
change the world. The easy examples are Nelson Mandela, Malala, and even
But regular people who do "everyday work" are fighting in small ways to
change the world, too. There are doctors, teachers, sanitation workers,
marketing executives (the list is endless) who would rather endure
uncomfortable situations and risk everything — their reputations, the fear of
being shamed, frustration, failure — than continue to propagate the status
Some of those people are your parents. Your family members. Professors up
here on stage. They worked hard to make your world better. Now it’s your
Don’t be one of those people who enters adulthood in it for yourself. You
don’t want to be the guy who seeks out personal comfort at the expense of
others. You don’t want to lie, cheat, steal, and build a wall to cement your
comfort at the cost of others.
While we all want to feel safe and secure, blindly chasing the dream of
comfort is a dangerous lie. You have a world-class education from Regents
University. You’ve been given the gift of a moral compass. Use it.
So, my dear graduates, be brave. Be bold. Dare to be honest — with
yourself and with others. Have tough conversations and fight on behalf of
those who don’t have the great fortune of graduating from university.
And laugh. A lot. It’s the only way to keep the absurdity of life in
Please stay in touch with me by joining the alumni association. Let me know
if I can provide guidance and support throughout your careers. We are part
of one extended family, and I love you all.
Good luck, and congratulations. May you live a good life where you do
whatever the hell you want to do — not what adults tell you to do — and
may it be a life that benefits others.