That’s me swallowing a live goldfish at Ithaca High School before my 1976 senior class.
That’s also me serving as the commencement speaker before Natasha’s 2017 senior class. “Tash” is the youngest of 7 Miller offspring.
In 1976, I’d heard that “fortune favors the bold”—so down went that fish!
41 years later, I didn’t swallow a fish, but I did tell the 103 graduating high school seniors to be bold. I never used the word “bold,” but did teach the QBQ! book’s message of PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY. If a young person chooses to practice that powerful principle, it would make him or her pretty bold in a society that does not support accountability, responsibility, and taking ownership for one’s life.
Do you agree that a person who practices accountability, responsibility, and ownership in today’s world is bold?
My brief QBQ! commencement talk recording is at the end of this blog. Before you dive into the short audio, though, allow me to share my “speaker prep” with you. When brainstorming ideas to share with these fine young Coloradans, I came up with a list. What do you think of it? …
Ideas For Successful Living
- Victim thinking stinks
- Don’t get offended
- Own your actions and results
- Own your relationships
- Own your life
- Focus only on changing self
- Don’t be envious of those who have more than you
- Financially, give first, save second, spend third
- Don’t become entitled
- Try new things
- Skip the blame; don’t point fingers
- The government isn’t there to care for you
- Your family isn’t there to rescue you
- Chase some dreams, take some risks
- Get stuff done today
- Learn, learn, learn
- Earn, earn, earn
- Be punctual
- Stay late on the job sometimes
- Say “please” and “thank you” because manners still matter
- Give each task 100%
- Love others—and yourself
- Don’t take pencils from work or eat grocery store grapes before you’ve paid for them
- Make eye contact, have a firm handshake, smile
- If you grew up in Dysfunction Junction move beyond it now
- Swallow a goldfish or two—BE BOLD!!!
This list would’ve made for a dandy life-success keynote, but the high school principal gave me just 12 minutes. So here’s what I actually said to the 103 graduates—click to enjoy!
John speaks to high school graduates on PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
Thanks for listening. Two questions:
What was the most important point made?
What would you have told these graduates?
Hats off and well done on the brilliant speech! Even though you were providing this special life lesson to the young graduates, everyone in that room (and who listened to your speech from your blog) also obtained the valuable message.
What would I have said to the graduates? Never stop learning. Say “thank-you” (politeness goes a LONG way!). Listen to your gut. Moving forward means there will be some stumbles along the way …. this is how we learn – to keep moving. (Never stop moving!!!) And that ol cliche, “don’t sweat the small stuff”. To much energy can be lost on the little things … when the big picture is out there in front of you waiting to enjoy!! Own it! (be accountable for your actions!!). Lastly, To live, learn and lead effectively …. you must make sure you are not just talking about it ……… you HAVE to live it!!!
And on a final end note: Smile when you answer the phone.
Ann, so kind. Thanks! And great advice to people everywhere! Thanks for sharing!
Great, powerful message, John, to all the graduates, as well as family members in the audience! I like your bulleted list in the blog, too! Thanks!
Wow, YES, I totally agree that being bold applies to personal accountability, and I could hardly believe it when you posted this story!
Just two days ago, I facilitated a QBQ conversation with our 23 newest hires. One of our participants is a gregarious Englishman who admitted that procrastination is his biggest challenge. We were discussing ways to address that familiar hurdle, and he offered a colorful expression that was new to many of us North Americans: “Sometimes you just have to swallow the frog!” He of course meant that sometimes you have to make yourself push those unpleasant tasks to the top of the list, and just close your eyes, hold your breath and knock them back. Since fear is one thing that sometimes prevents us from tackling the tough stuff, I absolutely think that we need to be BOLD with ourselves that way, whether swallowing fish or frogs!
Thanks for sharing your great insights with both recent graduates and lifetime learners, John!
I came from a Dysfunctional family. I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day. I had just returned from visiting family and was hurt, discouraged by the lifestyle that some of my family had chosen. I shared with this co worker that I felt guilty because I chose a better lifestyle and some of my family members were living in such dysfunction. So to see this on your list was so encouraging. I continue to pray for my family daily. I made the right choice.
The high school message I would not change anything it was great. Thanks
Felicia, so kind of you to share. It can be tough when we see family and wish/want better for them. I know! And thanks for the warm words on the graduation talk!