George Saunders (a speech by winner of the PEN/Malamud short-story prize)

saunders-author-photo-credit-basso-cannarsa_vert-aceb9f289b8bdec8f1b2cfdbd2e1869200810880-s6-c30Here’s a link to a wonderful convocation speech by writer George Saunders (winner of the PEN/Malamud short-story prize) at Syracuse University for the class of 2013. His speech highlights themes about our book’s call for the Gentle Giant–a kinder leadership style that’s needed in the age of technology and rapid change.
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Excerpt:  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.

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.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s.  Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

Link to full article: http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates/

 

About giraffesoftechnology

Giraffes of Technology: The Making of the 21st-Century Leader is an upcoming book by Dr. Hubert Glover with Professor John Curry. Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Giraffes-Technology-Making-Twenty-First-Century-Leader/dp/1479349224/
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