In super cool news at MYO, in the graduating class last year, 26 of the top 30 high school graduates were MYO alumni. Think about that. A school with hundreds of students—at least 125 or 150 grade 12 seniors, and 26 of top 30 are our kids. It absolutely makes me start crying a bit to think about that.
Sue, who does an amazing job of staying connected with our alumni, asked me to write some words that she could read at our alumni event for this graduating class. Since I could not be there. I should have been there.
But here are the words I provided.
Obviously, congratulations. Academic excellence is a reflection of commitment and hard work.
While I don’t know most of you by name or sight, the fact that we have the shared experience of MYO makes me feel connected to you. Proud of you. Interested in your lives and your next steps.
I always encourage remaining in touch and Sue can share with my contact details if you desire.
There are two traits that I find absolutely endearing in people. I find that if I consistently focus on these two things, I remain contented and happy in my life. If I lose sight of these two things, I become a little lost and do not feel as if I am living my best life.
The first is intellectual curiosity. The deeply embedded need to constantly be learning. I simply am not satisfied if I do not have a learning project underway.
This can be as simple as reading a book on how to make healthier meals, watching YouTube videos on how to make a canoe (my current project), or watching a documentary about how global warming will affect future generations.
One practical extension of this sentiment, is that I am not ever without a book in progress. I tend to be reading two books at the same time, but I am not ever without one in progress. When I finish one book, I pick up another.
But I also take a few minutes each day to skim news headlines. I like to remain aware of important events in my community and around the world. I even read ‘The Namibian’ on-line, because events in Namibia may impact our beloved MYO. I listen to podcasts and talk radio; read trade journals and magazines and of course scroll across the internet in search of things to learn that are of importance to me or someone I care about.
I personally cannot imagine a life without learning. Many people my age start talking about retirement. That is a concept that is absolutely foreign to me. What would I possibly do if I were not engaged in meaningful pursuits every day? In my work, technology, the pace of change is incredible. I read massively to remain relevant in the workplace and to constantly be refining my skills.
Being informed. Being educated. Being intellectually curious simply makes us better humans. We are more thoughtful of others and take better care of ourselves. We become better friends, better siblings, more responsible parents and outperform others in our employment. Informed people are more responsible caretakers of our democracies.
I strongly encourage you to look at your departure from High School as the starting point of your quest for lifelong learning. Learn a little about everything. And learn a lot about a few things.
The other trait I strive to embrace in my life, and which I admire greatly in others, is humility. The concept of humility is centered around the awareness of our place within our immediate surroundings, our community, our nation, the world, and the universe. Humility is the foundation for enabling lifelong learning. It’s the tacit acknowledgment that no matter how much we think we know, there is always more to learn and understand.
There is an interesting juxtaposition between confidence and humility. It is possible, and even admirable, to be confident in ourselves and in our ability, but to also be humble. For example, I have a great deal of confidence in my ability to perform in my chosen profession. But I am conscious of the fact that there is still far more I do not know about the environment I work in than what I do know. I am good at what I do, which is confidence. But there are many others who are equally good or better at what I do. I have my challenges, which I strive to overcome.
Humility allows me to acknowledge my shortcomings, and in that intellectual honesty arises the opportunity and desire to improve.
I hope you all strive to develop a level of confidence in a number of areas—but never arrogance. Arrogance and pettiness will always, always, hold you back. These traits will poison your relationships and inhibit your ability to learn and develop. Humble people are consciously self-aware and cognizant that our life is precious—but not more or less so than any other beings on the planet.
Each of you is capable of greatness, and have the opportunity to create a happy and satisfying life experience for yourselves; and to enable these same opportunities for others.
One of our deepest and most basic instincts, is the understanding that our lives are our own. That no one can completely tell us how to live. Maybe, at best, we allow ourselves, on occasion, to be influenced. Perhaps some insight from someone else resonates a bit. I accept this accountability for my own life, and embrace the idea that our lives will unfold according to the choices we make.
But if there is anything I can offer you, it is just these things. Humility and curiosity.
I wish you all the very best.
Know that our shared experience of MYO binds us together.
Know you are all loved and supported.