The speaker draws a dichotomy between work and play, as he defines these terms, with work being things done under compulsion and play being things done based on desire (and especially passionate desire). His theme is a clarion call to shape your life, and the way you make a living, around things you love to do and to avoid dying a slow death by simply doing a job that makes money - the point being that it makes no sense to pursue modest comforts at the cost of spending your life doing soul-deadening things you don't like doing just because they earn you a livelihood. That is what "average" people do, and it is a pit that college kids facing life all fresh and ready should by all means avoid.
A few comments on this:
1. Hard work, even lousy forms of work, can be precisely the sort of thing that allows you to develop into someone who has the talent and character to be able to do the extraordinary things you might love. The prototypical person who has all the time and ability to pursue nothing but his passions, I would contend, is the spoiled heir, the person who has never had to work a day in his life in the way the speaker here defines work, i.e., as doing something that only a drudge or a drone would bother with. It is no secret that many persons of privilege of this type will wind up frittering away their lives with little focus or purpose and will never develop the character traits that would enable them to excel in life. They can pursue their "passions" all they like but, in the end, they stand a considerable risk of being spendthrifts, worthless heirs, or whatever other pejorative term captures what it means to waste one's life away in the name of pursuing passions without focus or purpose. Work - hard work, even menial work - is exactly what helps shape most people to rise above the frittering stage and to make something of themselves. For me, as a young kid and through my early adult years, it meant preparing myself for life's challenges by doing a whole host of things that I was "compelled to do" as the speaker uses the term: (a) enduring the drudgery of many parts of the education system itself, (b) selling papers, delivering donuts, working in a cannery, washing dishes, busing tables, waiting tables, tending bar, running delivery routes for a pharmaceutical wholesaler (yes, I know where most every pharmacy is in the Bay Area), (c) learning Latin on my own to help fill a deficit in my vocabulary and grammatical skills, (d) doing scut work to help meet family obligations, (e) working as a slave in a large law firm doing endless round-the-clock tasks of the dreary kind that young attorneys employed by large law firms often do (and quite a few other things to boot). Eventually, all these things led me to a position where I developed the skill and talent to do what I loved, and to do it well. But there was no short-cut to getting there. Work, pain, and adversity are an integral part of life and it is no loss - indeed, it is great gain - to spend some years doing things you don't necessarily love if they help shape your character in a strong way and if they help you develop skill sets that you can later apply in a more optimal way. It is called "growing up."
2. What most young people lack is not passion or intelligence but wisdom. That is, they do not yet know at their stage in life how best to apply the skills, talents, and strengths that they know they possess. They have a sense of what they want but insufficient life experiences to make right judgments about how best to proceed. In this sense, the old, dreary job - with all its limitations - is very often a good way to get out in the world and discover important things about yourself as you gradually grow and develop to face even more important challenges ahead (which, by the way, can consist of doing exciting things in the form of a job - not all jobs are dreary and many provide all the excitement and challenge one would expect even in a startup). I would add that merely deciding to "play" (as the speaker uses the term) can be decidedly dangerous in this sense because it assumes, very often contrary to fact, that the goals you want to play with are really worth pursuing - of course, they may be and I am all for those who want to throw themselves headlong into what they love doing, but many young people will simply not be equipped to make the sort of good judgment at an early age that they could make later after they have had a few working years under their belt. Wisdom combines intelligence with good practical judgments; to make good practical judgments, one needs to know life and not simply from the vantage point of a 22-year-old who normally has not yet developed to a fully mature stage.
3. Many people throughout the world do not have the privilege of completing a college education and it simply cannot be a rule of life that "play" is the operative way of doing things. Hardship and privation are everywhere in many large pockets of the world and people live life doing many things they wouldn't do if they had different circumstances. Often this takes the form of hard, manual labor, agricultural or otherwise. Can it be said that such a large segment of humanity is doing nothing ennobling but is merely spending life dying a slow death while living worthless lives because work is done of necessity? This to me comes off as exceedingly elitist. There is much in life that is precious and people everywhere share these things, whether they are forced to do things they don't want or not to earn a livelihood. My parents were immigrants who grew up in conditions of squalor. They couldn't wait to come to America to have the chance to better themselves, and they did. But they did so through incredible hard work of the type that the speaker here denigrates. To this, I say to him, "get out of your bubble and get a broader perspective."
4. All that said, I liked the punchy, colorful style with which the speaker presented his points and I can appreciate that the points made, and the manner of presentation, can cause young graduates to examine their premises and to think about what they really want to do with their lives. No one with even a modicum of ambition really strives to be average. On that broad theme, the speaker's points resonated with me. By all means, strive to rise above the mediocre. I would just take issue with the idea that hard work of even the "deadening" type is not an important part of that process.
Elitist? It's quite the opposite. Elitist is calling it noble and righteous to toil away miserable while yourself enjoying a nice lifestyle.
2. You can learn things about yourself through a variety of ways. This just seems so limiting. Maybe you think making fancy widgets at age 22 is the best thing ever and will make you happy because you love it. Maybe you try it, and it turns out to be a terrible idea. Maybe you learn something incredibly valuable by failing. You have the rest of your life to "get things right". Your early 20s are the best time to screw up by experimenting with different paths. Once you have a family, a mortgage, etc., it's harder to be irresponsible. (Jeez, I feel like I'm pitching "why you should start a startup" with this one.)
3. It's very rare that a particular piece of advice can be taken by everyone. Most advice has a limited audience. In this case that audience was a graduating class at a college in an affluent country. Telling a group of people who have the means to "play" and why not playing is undesirable needn't be denigrating to those who do not. There's a difference between putting down the "bad" jobs, and putting down the people who perform them. Grellas, your parents sound like amazing people, but I doubt they enjoyed the fact that they had to move to a new country and work themselves to the bone to better their conditions. It must have been very difficult to do that, and, all things being equal, I would hope that a sane person would prefer life without restrictions over one with many.
I loved this piece. A little iffy on the "don't tell the truth" part, but I think it just wasn't communicated well and came off more "always lie" than the author intended. I want to play. I have the means to do so. I just need to figure out what playing means to me. The bit on loving someone also struck a chord with me, especially the bit about society being anti-love. Rejecting someone requires but one reason, loving someone requires acceptance of everything. Very poignant.
2) Yes, young people might not know if what they want to do is really meaningful. Unfortunately the chance that any job they would take on instead would be meaningful is also rather slim. This is maybe what you missed from the speech, or maybe I read more into it, but I also think it is true: most jobs are completely useless and meaningless. Therefore just taking on a job does not help. At least if you "play" you can make adjustments and have a chance of getting to something meaningful.
Thoughts on this?
"Play" is usually used to refer to divergent creativity. Convergent creativity is also important, and most people who never experience any pressure or limitations never get the latter of those down. Here's a post I wrote last week on divergent convergent creativity: http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/creativity-an...
What makes most "work" idiotic and soul-munching is that most of it's white-collar social climbing. Most people are actually more relaxed and happier when doing work activities than on average. What makes them unhappy are all the social stresses and extrinsics (such as unreasonable deadlines, bad personalities, implicit threats of professional adversity) that "work" imposes on them and that have nothing to do with actually getting things done.
Age 16, me: "I want to publish comic books." Others: "Get serious, that's no way to make a living."
Age 22, me: "I want to teach math." Others: "Get serious. You'll never make much money that way."
Age 30, me: "I want to publish my own software." Others: "Get serious. No one will buy yours over some big company's."
Age 35, me: "I want do a start-up." Others: "Get serious. You're too old. You have responsibilities."
Age 40, me: "I want to be a stand-up comic." Others: "Get serious. Only the top 1% of the top 1% make any money."
Yesterday, me: "I want to sit in a cubicle all day long and maintain someone else's crappy code." Others: "Get serious. No one could possibly want that."
Today, me: "Since I spent my whole life listening to people who never mattered, now I'm going to really "get serious" and do what I want: surf Hacker News and write cool software." Others: "".
The general rule of thumb here is that you can make a comfortable living with ~15,000 twitter followers - just enough fans to make a tour viable.
In that vein, being a session musician is also "making it" as well. But "it" is subjective - if "it" is being on stage, you didn't "make it" in either case.
Edit: Oops. Wrong "comics".
"Living the life you want to live or one society expects you to?"
Fortunately I was given a severe life lesson not too long ago - certainly made me more selfish but at least it taught me to do what I enjoy, and ignore the nay-sayers.
Life is not fair and you should do something you love. Birds also sing, mom is a pretty good person, and be sure to wear clean underwear. This missing piece here is that life is about how you choose to interact with it. It does not exist without your perception of it. Instead of wondering whether life is fair or not, you are the entity that should be fair. Instead of wondering how something might or might not feel to you, realize that you are the entity responsible for your feelings. You should be able to learn to love things you might not initially. If this were not true we'd all be stuck playing video games or taking drugs. The feeling that something initially gives you is not a very good indicator of how much you might or might not deeply love it over time. Learn to take orders and follow directions and you can be exposed to more things that you might like. Don't do that and you'll never know what you've missed.
This entire line of thought the speaker espouses is like that: half-formed and glossy. You should do something that is meaningful and other people might not like, but don't use their hatred as any kind of indicator of the worth of what you're doing. That's backwards. Sounds good, but it's backwards. It also skips over the most important part -- how to know if what you're doing is meaningful and important. Using other people's hatred is not going to work.
What's worse is that after a while all these commencement speeches just run together. All the same pablum about not having to follow rules, make life a game, follow your heart, stick it to the man, and so on. Enough already.
It's not that these things are not true, it's that they are watered down, feel-good bullshit phrases that really don't give you much chance of actually doing anything useful from what you've learned from the speaker.
I can understand why people like this essay. If it were the only one of it's kind I'd like it too. Hell, if there were only a hundred like this I'd still like it. But at some point I feel that we're doing a great disservice to college graduates by telling them a bunch of stuff that they would be inclined to believe anyway, just in a more clever format. Sometimes, maybe only once in a decade, somebody should tell these kids something that's a bit more practical.
Worship your intellect, being seen as smart -- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.
PS: Do you not have corner shops in the US?
Also, because Americans drive everywhere and walking is impossible in most places, most of our convenience stores are attached to gas stations (petrol stations to you).
But yeah, most American suburbs don't have any of that, which is what you're describing.
By this logic, a full third of the workforce ought to be professional gamers...
There are plenty of people who create stuff of value around popular games, and make a living out of it.
It's not enough to simply chase your dream; you need a plan and many strategies. Most of your strategies will fail, and some will succeed. What you're really doing in your failures and successes and constant practice is grooming and changing yourself such that you eventually become the person who can succeed in the endeavor you have chosen.
If you stop learning, you're deciding that there's nothing left to learn. Besides the sheer arrogance of such a stance, it leaves you inflexible, unable to change yourself any more. It means that what you're capable of right now is all you'll ever be capable of, and that is a terrible waste, stunting your growth and locking you out of everything you could be.
The real exhortation should be: Don't be mindless.
Don't get stuck in a routine simply for the sake of the routine. Routines are good if they serve a higher purpose. They are great servants, and terrible masters. Know WHY you are doing, in everything you do.
Don't do work simply for work's sake. Work should serve a higher purpose than simply keeping you breathing and maybe squirreling away a paltry sum for some nebulous retirement. You won't avoid work, so make work work for you.
Everything happens according to a plan. If you're not building and furthering your plan, your life will be ruled by the plans of others.
Don't worry about whether people hate you or not; that comes as naturally as human nature. Your success can be measured by only one person: you. Everyone WILL judge you, but none is justified in judging EXCEPT for you. If you accept their judgment, it is really you who is judging yourself, for better or for worse. Know the difference!
So live, love, learn, teach, create, grow, succeed, fail, laugh, cry, suffer, comfort, transcend. It's your life, after all, and you only get one.
> Don't work.
I would rephrase as "Don't do something you hate" or perhaps even better: "Find what you love and do that". I generally enjoy my work and I'd be unhappy if I stopped working... In fact, I make very little distinction between work and play. (I also enjoy learning but apparently I should quit that, too!)
> Be hated.
Earning people's hate is often a strong signal that you are causing them some kind of harm. But when should you care? I don't think you should care about everybody's hatred equally, if you were liked or loved by somebody with opposing values it would signify miscommunication on your part. Perhaps you should care about the opinions of the people you love -- choose your own authority in others! --, and greater than this, you should care about your own opinion of yourself: "Am I the man I wish to be?"
"You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."
I'm 21 and about to graduate. I totally relate to this and am already trying to adopt this way living into my life.
My friends often tell me I'm being unrealistic and I'll soon realise that I need to grow up.
My plan is to work part-time when I leave university leaving myself all the time I want to work on my own projects and to socialise. That's what makes me happy, so that's how I want to spend the majority of my time.
Kudos to you if you manage half time.
If you want to do it, see if your employer would allow it. Don't regret not doing so ten years down the track.
I like programming, but sometimes I wish I could do it only a few days a week and spend the rest doing something where I wasn't hunched over in front of a box 13 hours a day. Sales! Photography! Helping injured animals! I've never done anything that didn't involve sitting alone a desk all day...
I would probably agree with this a couple of months ago but I don't know any more. I just love meeting people, everyone is so different and interesting.
Your approach is great if the only thing that's going to make you happy is money and success but I've realised, only just lately for me, that it's not everything.
Just do what ever maximises your happiness and feeling of self-fulfilment. I'm sure money and success are great and can even be a source of happiness but I'm know if I was a millionaire tomorrow, I wouldn't feel content.
The second part gets a bit more complicated if you want to freelance or start your own company, but IMO you can still learn a lot early on "working for the man" that will help carry you forward in your own ventures.
I have never been happier.
Don't feel guilty about being subsidized. There's more than enough wealth from technology for everyone, we just don't know how to spend it properly.
By being hated, I guess the author wants us to stay true to our convictions. It's okay to be hated, as long as there are supporters as well. It's very difficult to stand alone, though sometimes we must. Even so, if we can be accommodating but still stay true to our convictions most of the time, that's the way to go.
Having spent some time "making a living" as a field technician I can completely agree with what the speaker said about killing yourself day by day, all the while pretending you are saving up for some magical future. It's living death, and the fact that the majority of people around you are engaged in that same decay doesn't make it any better.
I've been happier, healthier, and more productive figuring out a way to support myself from my pastimes than slogging through "work" hoping to spare an hour of energy at the end of the day for what I truly care about.
So, you can attack it on both fronts. Your job isn't everything you always dreamed of? Well, if that dream job is out of reach for now, you can start working on your personal life. Half your life is spent working, but half of it is not. Don't overlook the chance to live that second half of life just because of work.
Yes, try to aim for a job you enjoy. But if you can't secure that dreamy job where work feels like play every day, all hope is not lost.
(FWIW, this is conclusion is not the result of a defeatist attitude, but rather the realization that the satisfaction I derive from my personal life lags that which I derive from my professional life. Consequentially, I can reap the largest improvements in my personal life. I can't take shortcuts and fill that void with more work, because my physical & mental health deteriorates when the balance breaks down in either direction)
As they always say, "Life is a journey, not a destination." I admire how you strike a balance between work and play, which I have found it to be really difficult to achieve. My approach to this is to give my best shot in every thing I do. How would you know if something is not suitable unless you put in the extra effort? This has benefited me thus far and I am proud to have discovered my passion (even before I finish college).
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling life's toughest problems. One has to be willing to take the leap of faith and explore his or her own purpose in life. The speaker has merely presented his own take on life and we can choose to learn from it, or not. But ultimately, take everyone's advice with a pinch of salt and listen to your heart :)
Does it count as a job, if it's freelancing?
Does it count as a job, if it's in a company you own 30%+ of?
These are important questions. I agree in principle, but I wonder where people draw the line between work and play.
All these speeches quite idiotically fail to make a distinction between work and remunerative work.
Life's is not fair => Disagree, that's depending on your perception
Resist the temptation to get a job => CHECK
Work kills => he is a little unclear here—I gues he talks about working for other, that's true—but the activtiy of working itself, being productive is a great thing which makes you happy and satisfied, always.
Find something you love doing => yes and no, from my point of view, yes find something you like but when trying to get big or to start something, seeing and taking opportunities which don't look like your passion at the first sight is more important, much more. Take opportunities, the more the better, don't miss any and wait the awesome idea that perfectly matches what you love (BS and time waster)
Be hated => BS, 20 yrs ago maybe I'd agree a little and in appropriate settings BUT nowadays it's a very false advice and too risky, building a good reputation is hard, takes long and can be destroyed in hours with the Internet, with just one enemy
Avoid telling the truth => DOUBLE-CHECK but it has a bitter taste in how he's presenting it, but maybe this needs just more depth: "avoid telling the truth" could also mean, try to see everything positive. True or not true is often not clear and subject to your values/beliefs. Focus on the goal and don't try to fool people, if it's about staying positive and omitting negativity, fine.
Love someone => CHECK, but dont focus too much on this
I think his point was that if you do something important, it's likely that some people will quite energetically oppose it. This shouldn't stop you if you really think it needs to be done. In fact, take heart: if somebody hates you it's likely that you are doing something important. It's ok to be disruptive.
I recently watched the documentary "Jiro dreams of Sushi". Jiro is 85 years old and still works at his restaurant in Tokyo making sushi. He has won three michelin stars and could retire any day but he keeps coming back to his restaurant. Jiro says "you have to fall in love with your work". This is a statement that one constantly hears and it is so often ignored however I really think its true. I look at Jiro and hope that I also never retire because I am doing what I love.
Just because I loved programming at home as a hobby did not mean that I enjoyed sitting in a cubicle doing assigned programming projects all day.
On one hand the author says:
"The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth."
"Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating....It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence."
On the other hand he says:
"Every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.
It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions."
There is great contradiction in these two opposing statements.
First of all - the example that he cites, Jesus being nailed to the cross, is a fallacy. Jesus was killed as a direct result of his truth telling at all times, convenient and not - and his sticking to his convictions.
Second - I wonder if greatness, or love or hatred for that matter is worth achieving if you not been honest in attaining it. If you withhold the truth you feel in your heart, feel comfort in silence and make sure not to step on any toes - the recognition that you receive must also be a false one.
Greatness made by silencing the truth follows "be loved"
Both require "much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone."
I take a lot of personal pride in being able to persevere; lots of people do -- why downplay this or regard them as "suckers"?
First, he says "marriage is a milestone", and makes it seems like it's the top milestone since he mentions it first. OK, that's fine and dandy but has serious demoralizing consequences for the single dude who has tough luck finding love. Never ever say marriage is a milestone to single people.
Second, I agree with you. Loving someone when they don't love back makes no sense. It's something you can't control, so putting so much focus on love makes no sense. And if he's talking about love in terms of friendships, he's very naive. In this world, people will reciprocate attention if you give them 1 of 2 things: money or orgasms (or babies). I've tried to be good friends with people, and they'll easily forget you because you are insignificant to them.
My advice is - in spite of previous dissapointments, you shouldn't give up on people, but keep on looking for this "natural" match. IMO, for most people, having a true friend  introduces more happiness than any professional/financial success, so it's definitely something worth pursuing.
 Bonus points if that true friend is also your spouse.
Yeah, this part's got me a little confused, too, not gonna lie :p
Is the essay is a lie?
Wow, what an extremely stupid and sexist comment.
And what about the rest of life?