Thursday, June 14, 2012

4 Insights for Success: Miami International University Commencement Address 2012

Miami International University of Art & Design Commencement Address given by Craig DeLarge at the James L. Knight Center, Hyatt Regency, Downtown Miami, Miami, FL, June 13, 2012

Greetings administrators, professors, parents, and more importantly graduates of the Miami International University (MIU) Class of 2012. 

I am so honored to address you this momentous day when we celebrate not only the completion of your requirements for your respective degree, whether it be an Associate degree, Bachelor degree or Masters degree, but also the commencement, or beginning, as the word denotes, of your contribution to the society and the world, as creatives, artists, designers, innovators, managers, and leaders. 

I am also honored to be here at MIU as it is so exciting to see the work you are all doing here, on one hand, to advance both the theory and practice of the creative arts, and on another to set a new accredited standard in this region for practical creative education and practice. 

I also salute those to have supported these students to this point in their careers be they parents, other family members or friends for truly this achievement of your loved one is yours also as this achievement is a return on your investment of love, encouragement, time and money also. 

I want to now share a few insights with you I know to be true, at least based on my experience and what I have seen of the experience of others in my life, professionally and otherwise to help you on your way. I also understand that your President Fleming shared similar advice at your New Student Orientation and it seemed to have worked to get you here so a reminder will allow you to begin the rest of your career as successfully as you are ending this time at MIU. 

They are to: 1) patiently & persistently follow your bliss, 2) engage your life and career with a sense of Passionate Detachment, 3) live your your life’s Mission, and 4) remember that while you can make it, you cannot make it alone, you must be part of a Community to succeed.

1. Now for the first point. Patiently & Persisently follow your bliss. Joseph Campbell, the great authority on myth and story, who teach about the importance of seeing our lives as The Hero’s Journey, implores us all to “Follow Our Bliss”.

I especially admire all you who have completed this course of study as one who started college as a design major and then switched for fear that I would not be good enough. It so heartens me to see the courage in you that I did not find in myself for in this you are already following your bliss. I also again applaud you family members and friends who are supporting your loved one in their bliss as more of us can take a lesson from you.
Leaving this place and going forward into your respective careers, I encourage this class to use the patience, persistence and courage you have exhibited so far as a continued lever to carry yourself forward into a blissful career and vocation as creatives. Patiently persist to sharpen your skill, experience, reputation and community.  

Remember that patience gets all things done, and persistence wins. Expect challenge and opposition and use them as weights that build the muscle of character, spirit, knowledge, expertise and relationship. Resist the temptation to use them as excuses to become burdened, held up, embittered and demoralized. Even what you have achieved today, though you may have felt impatient and discouraged at times along the way, is the result of patient persistence as so many others have talked about doing what you have done but you have DONE it. Savor this knowing that as you have accomplished this you are capable of accomplishing many other things you want in your lives and careers.

2. The second point I want to share with you is that of engaging your life and career with a sense of Passionate Detachment. In his book, Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, Dr. Richard Carlson talks about the practice of passionate detachment. In a nutshell, passionate detachment is an approach to life work, which focuses on “right execution” of process more than the outcome. In this “state of grace” we learn to enjoy the journey confident that the journey, pursued with the right spirit, will get us to the right destination, even when that destination is different than what we had originally envisioned.

I encourage you today to learn, if you have not already, to love the process, and trust the outcome. Life is such that one can hardly guarantee many outcomes no matter the effort invested, but one can guarantee the quality of attitude, focus, spirit and energy they bring to the process. In this fashion, whether they reach the originally desired outcome or not, they can say they have enjoyed the journey. 

3. The third point I want to share with you is that of living your life’s Mission. Richard Bolles, author of the job seeker & career changer’s bible, What Color Is Your Parachute, implores us to cultivate a mission in life which goes beyond just a job or a career plan, or the acquisition of material possessions and status. He suggests that key clues to one’s mission can be found in exploring one’s 1) talent of delight, 2) places & settings which appeal to them and 3) purposes, ways to improve the world, which resonate with them. You will be tempted and certainly have periods in your career where you lose your connection to mission, and may even have to remake your mission. This is to be expected. That being as it is, I beg you to seek reconnection for such reconnection is a high levee against the flood of despair, cynicism, discouragement and bitterness that you will see too much of in your work life. While this may be true of others, work to avoid it being true of you.

4. A fourth and final insight I want to share is related to that of Community for while you can make it you cannot make it alone. Contrary to the American myth of rugged individualism, there truly are no self-made successes, though I imagine there are many failures who attempted to be "self-made". Always remember that you are part of a rich and vibrant global community of creatives. This community started in the design environments and programs who experienced before MIU, then here in the classrooms and studios of MIU and now on to the agencies, consultancies, practices and companies where you will further sharpen your respective gifts and grow your legacy in the world. This community needs your fresh ideas, energy and perspective, even though they may not always be willing to admit it. This community is here to welcome and encourage your growth and contribution in it. Be willing and committed to being a part of this community as life-long learners and contributors, and eventually as leaders and mentors, for we are taken care of as we take care of one another.

So remember: 1) Patient Persistence, 2) Passionate Detachment, 3) Life’s Mission, and 4) Community. As you are true to these, they will be true to you.

You are blessed to be coming out of school into a global economy where design continues to be on the ascendancy and more important, available and valuable than ever. Design is capable of truly impacting the world’s intractable problems and ungrasped opportunities from poverty and hunger, to improved relations among people and peoples, to healthcare, to education, to spirituality, to increased productivity in our work and play. Design is solving these problems and capitalizing on these opportunities, and you are the latest generation of carriers and practitioners of this brilliant expertise. Do not forsake its power in your hands to shape and change the world on every level from idea, to belief, to feeling, to action. Take this responsibility seriously and carry it out faithfully. The world depends on it!

Thank you for your time and attention this afternoon. Congratulations again to you all! May you enjoy every challenge and success your life has for you, and may we all benefit from your contribution and gift in the world. 


Saturday, June 02, 2012

Every Annoyance, A Button & A Projection (And Every Pleasure also)

Recently, at Coaching School, I learned a powerful mind trick which  (figuratively) changed the color of the sky for me! The trick is around the idea of perceptual projections and taking responsibility. I will not explain this perfectly but let's give it a go. 

We all have our buttons. Our ways of believing, assuming and interpreting which cause us to be annoyed or pleased by things which happen in life. So much of life's angst and compulsion, whether over things we avoid for annoyance or pursue for pleasure, is exasperated by our lack of consciousness around how, when & why our buttons are pushed. With consciousness, we can reduce the dominance of our buttons so that we can recover more astutely, proact (versus react) more wisely and generally improve our quality of relationships (with ourselves and others), work and life. 

We all have our projections. Our life experiences, and habits of perceiving and thinking cause us to see what we are looking for rather than what is there. We get emails and hear emotions in words, that are not there. We see body language and jump to defensive conclusions about what people are meaning, thinking, feeling, which may not be true. Requests are made of us and we hear and see threats that on further reflection do not exist at the level of threat we originally perceived. Situations occur which are different than our plans and we assume malice in the forces of change which is often not really there. Pleasurable & satisfying experiences are experienced and we too mindlessly and habitually pursue them as comfort & soothing mechanisms when it might be better to address sources of our discomfort in more sustainable and productive ways. So much of life's angst and compulsion is fueled by our projections on situations and people, which if seen as projections (not necessarily reality) would free us to be more positive, resilient, energized and influential.

What I learned was that the vast majority (I am not ready to admit to all) of my annoyances (and pleasures) are my projections, and that because they are my own creations, I can take responsibility for what I create and how I respond to those creations. I can take responsibility rather than blaming, being angry with or annoyed by with others, or on the other hand, being co-dependent and addicted to the liking and approval of others. 

As I increase my "projection consciousness" and my willingness to take responsibility for them, the complexion of the world truly changes. I can then see that my annoyance at unreasonable requests is a projection of my fear of failure when put in a time or resource bind. I can see that my anger over others disagreeing with me, either in word or body language, is a projection of my insecurity over being liked and approved of. I can see that when someone does not keep their promise to me and I become aggressive and interrogative, this is a projection of my need for control and my tendency to distrust those things that threaten my sense of control. I can see that when I elect to socialize on FaceBook for an hour too long rather than work on my book manuscript, this is a projection of my desire for comfort against my fear of being rejected as an author. 

With these and myriad other "projection realizations", I overreact less, approach myself, others and situations with more composure and compassion, and engage more mindfully to enable more productive process and outcomes in every area of my life, as well as the lives of those I interact with. These realizations also challenge me to ponder what my projections say about me. They also call me to take responsibility for my being, believing, feeling, thinking and doing at an entirely higher level. I am convinced this is an essence of maturity.

I have to tell you that this has been such a magnificent breakthrough for me, but challenging also as taking responsibility for my own projections is so much more difficult than situational mindlessness or blaming others for pushing my buttons & projections. The fact is that no one or situation can push a button that is not available to be pushed. Another fact is that our projections, left in the field of unconsciousness, are ruthless masters that drive us in ways we know not but they can, with consciousness, be converted to productive servants. 

May we all increase our "projection consciousness" and reduce our "buttons" so we can be more productive and response-able in how we go about our work and lives.