Make as Many Mistakes as You Can


Graduating is not something I have forgotten or better stated, I remember well how I felt at graduation. The title of my feelings could have been “Now What?”. Having spent years growing up and getting an education I was then standing on the threshold of a life I had yet to experience. Hopes and dreams were plenty, but what road to take toward them was fuzzy at best.

And so it is today, my third day into retirement from a long successful professional life. I am lucky and able to do this younger than most and am grateful for the opportunity. However, it feels like I am just past graduation again asking “Now What?”. There’s the same sense of things as when younger: lots I plan and imagine doing but uncertain where to begin.

In a book called “Hold Fast Your Dreams” Carrie Boyko and Kimberly Colen published twenty commencement speeches. Thumbing through it this morning I was touched by an address by Ken Burns at Georgetown University in 2006. Here’s a few highlights that stuck me as pertinent to my most recent “graduation”:

As you pursue your goals in life, that is to say your future, pursue your past. Let it be your guide. Insist on having a past and then you will have a future.

Replace cynicism with its old-fashioned antidote, skepticism.

Don’t confuse success with excellence.

Insist on heroes. And be one.

Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all — not the car, not the TV, not the computer.

Write: write letters. Keep journals. Besides your children, there is no surer way of achieving immortality.

Do not lose your enthusiasm. In its Greek etymology, the word enthusiasm means, “God in us”.

Here at late morning I am off into my day with new inspiration borrowed from the past words of a man I know only through his documentaries and speeches. I am grateful the cosmos choose today for me to pull the book off my shelf that contained Ken Burns 2006 speech. Over and over and over… what I need arrives. All I have to do is believe and let things come to me in their own time. As long as I keep an open heart and mind they always seem to…

When we were five, they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up.
Our answers were thing like astronaut, president, or in my case… princess.
When we were ten, they asked again and we answered –
rock star, cowboy, or in my case, gold medalist.
But now that we’ve grown up, they want a serious answer.
Well, how ’bout this: who the hell knows?!
This isn’t the time to make hard and fast decisions,
its time to make mistakes.
Take the wrong train and get stuck somewhere chill. Fall in love – a lot.
Major in philosophy ’cause there’s no way to make a career out of that.
Change your mind. Then change it again, because nothing is permanent.
So make as many mistakes as you can. That way, someday,
when they ask again what we want to be… we won’t have to guess.
We’ll know.
Stephenie Meyer