Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NYT Op Ed to all New Grads: "It's Not About You"

David Brooks should have been the commencement speaker at every graduation using his Op-Ed in the New York Times "It's Not About You".  This is the generation that got a trophy for every sport where they showed up. Everything they do is great and they don't play sudden death, they play sudden victory. 

From the Op-Ed:
"More important, their lives have been perversely structured. This year’s graduates are members of the most supervised generation in American history. Through their childhoods and teenage years, they have been monitored, tutored, coached and honed to an unprecedented degree.
Yet upon graduation they will enter a world that is unprecedentedly wide open and unstructured. Most of them will not quickly get married, buy a home and have kids, as previous generations did. Instead, they will confront amazingly diverse job markets, social landscapes and lifestyle niches. Most will spend a decade wandering from job to job and clique to clique, searching for a role."

And
"Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.


The graduates are also told to pursue happiness and joy. But, of course, when you read a biography of someone you admire, it’s rarely the things that made them happy that compel your admiration. It’s the things they did to court unhappiness — the things they did that were arduous and miserable, which sometimes cost them friends and aroused hatred. It’s excellence, not happiness, that we admire most."

And the big finish that says it all:
"Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself."

Great stuff Mr. Brooks and I hope more people pass this around to new graduates so they are not disillusioned with the real world.