"In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story."
Four beloved years at my university end today. I was a little slow getting here, but some dreams just won't die no matter how much we try to let them go. It's time for commencement.
Choosing between options is hard. There are so many possible opportunities and adventures; the idea that we can only take one path through the infinite possibilities of life never seems enough - yet each day overflows with wonder and beautiful, amazing things if we put our attention right.
In his 2010 commencement address, Jeff Bezos told of the time he had a great job and a brilliant boss, and when he shared his crazy idea to quit and sell books on the internet, his boss said:"That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn't already have a good job."That logic made some sense to me, and he convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision. Seen in that light, it really was a difficult choice, but ultimately, I decided I had to give it a shot. I didn't think I'd regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all. After much consideration, I took the less safe path to follow my passion, and I'm proud of that choice.
The founder of Amazon goes on to share some very good questions. They help remind me to make the most of the little time I get.Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life -- the life you author from scratch on your own -- begins.How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?Will you bluff it out when you're wrong, or will you apologize?Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?When it's tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.
Commencement is a bit bigger event, but really we awaken every day and into each moment. What we do today matters. Steve Jobs at his commencement address in 2005 said:When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
 Jeff Bezos, Princeton (2010). http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S27/52/51O99/index.xml
 Steve Jobs, Stanford (2005). http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html
image source: Christine Case (used with permission)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdkFXBtqkjk #commencement