Cory Leonard

George Saunders Has Some Advice: Watch out for Monkey Poop

In career on August 6, 2013 at 4:25 am

I am not the first–not will I be the last to quote it. (I will be trying to find someone like him to give an equally magnificent commencement speech,). He is the “Writer of our Time“–the person responsible for the book to read in 2013. He is someone to heed.

His point is that as life progressed, he regretted few of the difficulties but wished he had cultivated more kindness.

He speaks directly to the soon-to-be-minted graduates, whose expectations, fears, and parents are all assembled:

When young, we’re anxious – understandably – to find out if we’ve got what it takes. Can we succeed? Can we build a viable life for ourselves? But you – in particular you, of this generation – may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition. You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can….

And this is actually O.K. If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

Jump to the end:

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

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