A meme worth spreading: If you could give the commencement address at a graduation ceremony, what would you say? Matt 27 Jan 2006

43 comments Latest by fred albertson

OK, since the prev post was a bit sourpussy, let me try to be more constructive. So just what kind of meme would I like to see spread? How about this: If you could give the commencement address at a graduation ceremony, what would you say?

See, I’ve always been a sucker for commencement speeches. You get something special from that ripe moment when someone gets to impart what they feel is crucial wisdom to less experienced folks at a criticial juncture in their lives (ones delivered by Steve Jobs, Conan O’Brien, and Guy Kawasaki come to mind — Yahoo has a collection of commencement speeches). It’s the sort of “what really matters” stuff that, unfortunately, is usually glazed over in our day to day lives.

So, Mr./Ms. Commencement Speaker, what would you say? Um, tag or something.

And somewhat related, here’s a little love for How to Do What You Love. Paul Graham is a damn good writer. Some excerpts:

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind — though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.
Is there some test you can use to keep yourself honest? One is to try to do a good job at whatever you’re doing, even if you don’t like it. Then at least you’ll know you’re not using dissatisfaction as an excuse for being lazy. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll get into the habit of doing things well.
“Always produce” is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you’re supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. “Always produce” will discover your life’s work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof.
Don’t decide too soon. Kids who know early what they want to do seem impressive, as if they got the answer to some math question before the other kids. They have an answer, certainly, but odds are it’s wrong.

Alright meme-hungry bloggers, I challenge you to fill my newsreader with content like that instead of four places you’ve been on vacation.

43 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Garrett Murray 27 Jan 06

Classic SVN—the title says it all: “a meme worth spreading.” Why SO BOASTFUL, GUYS? Seriously! Give it a rest with this attitude! Back it off a little, okay? Instead of saying “a meme worth spreading” and adding in your little, “we’re smarter” jab, why not just NOT SAY THAT?

Kendall 27 Jan 06

Or maybe you could just go with the spirit of the post and be constructive.

Chad 27 Jan 06

Charles, meme, in this instance, is defined by the 4th bullet point on the page you linked to. So… it appears he does know what meme means.

Britt 27 Jan 06

1. Scotland
2. Florida
3. California
4. London

jankowski 27 Jan 06

During my commencement speech, I’d list four jobs Id had, four movies I can watch over and over, four places Ive lived, four TV shows I love to watch, four places Ive been on vacation, four of my favorite dishes, four sites I visit daily, four places Id rather be right now, and the four bloggers Im tagging.

I’d also make sure the speech took four hours, and I’d ask for the top four graduating students to help me thank the top four professors alongside the four most famous alumni.

Dave Simon 27 Jan 06

When I give a commencement address, which I doubt I’ll ever be invited to do, but who knows, it would be short.

My advice would probably be to keep moving. Don’t just sit there, do something. Work out, write something, research, read, but don’t just veg.*

I don’t know how wise that is, but I think it would have helped me!

*Vegging is allowed if it is to watch football.

Sam Leibowitz 27 Jan 06

“Be uncomfortable.”

None of my (modest) achievements have ever been prefaced by a period of comfort. On the other hand, many of my failures have. From this, I can only conclude that the process of learning and work is not meant to be comfortable. That’s not to say that “pain is good,” although it can be a worthy teacher. But spending your life in the pursuit of the comfortable is not a worthy task for anyone other than interior designers. Embrace your discomfort.

Jon Hicks 27 Jan 06

Pass.

I bow to your far superior meme creation techniques.

John Oxton 27 Jan 06

All personal bloggers and their stupid memes should be shot! How dare they pollute the interweb with their pointless drivel. Actually it’s an outrage to think that people who blog should want to share a little something of themselves with their regular readers, an outrage I tell you!

Regards,
Disgusted of England.

Gayle 27 Jan 06

I’ve basically been giving commencement speeches to my friends via phone-counselling this past week. Hell, for years. But this is my mood this week.

“Life is not that hard. Don’t stress. Small things don’t matter.

“For an example of perspective, when little things bother you - or even what seems like big things - here’s a little story:

“About a year and a half ago, my brother’s 2-year old son, proud big brother to his 2-week-old brother, fell into the fish pond in the back yard and drowned.

“I remind myself of this real agony in my brother’s life (and my own) whenever something - work, exercise, school, whatever - seems insurmountable. It pulls my life into sharp perspective.

“Life is not that hard. There is real tragedy in this world. Get over yourself, make a decision, and move on.”

That would be the gist of my speech.

Charles Martin 27 Jan 06

Charles, meme, in this instance, is defined by the 4th bullet point on the page you linked to. So it appears he does know what meme means.

No, it just means that a lot of bloggers don’t. Without being self-propagating and self-contained, it’s just a trope.

soxiam 27 Jan 06

There are plenty of jobs out there. Please don’t come after mine.

Charles 27 Jan 06

…the genius of Dr Suess that is.

FineJames 27 Jan 06

1. Pick thy nose, for thou know not what lie within thee.
2. If you’re going to sniff glue, always choose a brand-name. You know its pure
3. If you attend a fancy cocktail party, make sure you yell “I’m Full!!!” when you finish a plate full or hors’ duerves
4. Tiger Balm - Ask an Indian friend about it.

That’s all you need to know. Thank you, thank everyone, and may God Bless the United States of America.

street 27 Jan 06

oh hello, never mind me.. I’m just marking the spot where 37 signals begins to fade into pointless obscurity. Say hi to Pyra Labs on the way down..

DSiv 27 Jan 06

If you’re feeling unmotivated, take some time off. Sir around on your butt for a little while. This might seem like a collosal waste of time, but eventually you will get tired of it and feel like doing something. That something might just be the thing that you are looking for.

It’s hard (socially, financially, etc) to take time off, but it only gets harder the longer you wait.

John 27 Jan 06

Hey, what happened to Garret Murray’s second comment?

Joshua Tuscan 27 Jan 06

I’m going to have to go with the Brits on this one and say you guys should get your heads out of your collective ass. You don’t like a particular trend, just say so and try not to be so smarmy.

Ben Collins 27 Jan 06

I am an instructor at a small college in Long Beach, CA and I have given the last 5 commencement addresses at my school.

They are the most difficult 10 minutes of public speaking you’ll ever do! It is so difficult to be inspiring and address a serious subject without being boring. Humor works but is such a fine line to walk because of the constraints of the circumstance and the audience.

But when it goes well, there is really a feeling of magic because you tap into the joy and significance of the event. Graduation is a really happy time.

jordan 27 Jan 06

I think a ‘meme’ _can_ have value, if it’s likely to extract some information that may otherwise have remained dormant in the brain of the writer; or one that really causes you to think about something you may never have considered. Like the ‘meme’ at the top of this page.

‘Name your four favourite movies’ is generally useless, because it’ll generate a million dull, stock answers: ‘casablanca’, ‘citizen kane’, ‘apocalpyse now’, ‘2001’, ‘star wars’, ‘the matrix’ — or for the ‘alt’ crowd, throw in some wes anderson, kevin smith, or anything with Paul Giacometti in.

Something like “Name a film you love but that’s not been seen by anyone else you know” is more challenging, and ultimately, probably more interesting; someone may end up hunting down a rare gem and enjoying it as much as you did.

It does raise the bar for the pretentious crowd I suppose, but every silver lining does have a cloud.

I think bloggers love them (memes) as they give them an opportunity add just a little bit more content (remember guys, it’s quantity, and not quality that counts) without having to engage their brains; and of course it gives them an excuse to ‘big-up’ their buddies and/or namecheck a z-list web-celeb they e-mail every now and again.

Wow, I’m sounding grumpy now! Must be catching.

Nate 28 Jan 06

I challenge the last quotation in your post. I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was 12, and it hasn’t changed in the last 12 years, so I’m pretty sure I’m on the right track.

dean 29 Jan 06

READ OR LISTEN TO THE RECENT AUDIO/PRINT OF BILL BRISON AND THEN COME BACK TO YOU OWN MORTLITY AND BEING IN THE HOURS AND PRECXIOUS MOMENT YOU HAVE TO OFFER TO ALL THAT IS AND IN OUR LITTLE BEING IS THE GREATEST FEELING IN ALL OF THE ALL.

Greg Brown 29 Jan 06

David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech is probably the best I’ve ever read.

Ian Waring 29 Jan 06

I think the Ali G one to Harvard was the most memorable i’ve ever seen (and probably to all the parents and grandparents who turned up on the day too). However, i’ve yet to find any transcript or footage of Borat’s equivalent at Princeton.

I’d leave it to the experts :-)

Ian W.

Arne Gleason 30 Jan 06

Worthy memes?If someone gave me a good one, Id almost certainly mangle it in the process of passing it on (all noise — no signal).

Andy Budd 30 Jan 06

We don’t really have commencement speeches here in the UK, but If we did I’d tell people to relax, learn to have fun and not take themselves too seriously. I’d tell people that community and social interaction is an important part of life and not to be dismissed. And I’d tell people that the word meme is pronounced like the word “theme” and not like the word “them”.

Ian 31 Jan 06

jesus… this is hardly worth getting one’s knickers in a twist is it?

in any case, memes are so fucking gay.

James Robertson 31 Jan 06

I have to say - one of the most moving things I ever read was the commencement speach given by Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes: see it at http://home3.inet.tele.dk/stadil/spe_kc.htm

Nathan Pitman 31 Jan 06

Sorry, I thought ‘Four things’ was more insightful. ;)

Shea G 31 Jan 06

Conan O’Brien’s speech at Harvard… hands down one of the best fwd’s I’ve ever received!!

MrsAgentSmith 01 Feb 06

Wear sunscreen.

Julian Leviston 01 Feb 06

Hmmmm - you sure you totally understand what a meme is?

google:define:meme (top of the list)

As defined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976): “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” “Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. …

Julian Leviston 01 Feb 06

Hmmmm - you sure you totally understand what a meme is?

google:define:meme (top of the list)

As defined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976): “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” “Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. …

Nathan 02 Feb 06

This meme is worth spreading?

How?

I can’t believe the “blogosphere” has turned into such a childish place!

“I don’t like your (albeit possibly misused) meme so I’ll make a better one…”

FFS get over it please!

Gareth 03 Feb 06

Thanks for the links Matt ;-)

fred albertson 04 Feb 06

Would I have a cultural thought worthy of transfer from my mind to many others? I have one that might, though you miay find it vapid, so why don’t I bloviate and you decide.
‘Can All Things Be Possible?’ …. Cosider that I went some time ago to a Wendy’s resturant for lunch. Being famished I ordered two all- u -can- eat salad bars. Please, before you laugh, I must inform you that I was able to finish both. So, you see, could be they are.

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