Earlier this week, students from the School of Inspired Leadership in India, where I taught at the beginning of this year, contacted me with a request to write a testimonial for their yearbook. Apparently, the year is over and they are graduating from the school that holds the values of Ethics, Mindfulness, Diversity, Compassion, and Sustainability and instills these throughout the year-long MBA degree. There is a lot I wanted to say and write, yet the limit was 150 words. A very limiting limit. Luckily, here, I don’t have to limit myself and can add all the other thoughts I had to remove.
“Work is the very fire where we are baked to perfection, and like the master of the fire itself, we add the essential ingredient and fulfillment when we walk into the flames ourselves and fuel the transformation of ordinary, everyday, forms into the exquisite and the rare.” – David Whyte
Dear graduates everywhere.
We live in a time of paradox, of more growth and bigger business, yet more poverty and ecological disasters. We strive for more, yet have less. We buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and fancier lifestyles, yet less fulfillment and meaning in our lives. We have more education and degrees, yet less heart and common sense, more information and knowledge, but less wisdom, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We know how to split the atom and the quark, yet have no idea how to keep a family together through a turbulent time. We have more, and faster, and better, communication technology coming out of our yin-yang, yet we don’t know how to have an intimate and open conversation with a friend. We have more choice, yet less freedom.
It was our generation, and the ones before that created many of the challenges you are stepping into now. And while we are still around, and are still exploring ways to reduce and mitigate and reuse and recycle and solve the problems we have created and bestowed upon you, we won’t be able to do much about. It will be up to you to solve these. It is unfortunate that the world you are inheriting from us is in a worse condition than the one we have inherited from the generation of our grandparents. Luckily, you are not us either, so there is hope. Just don’t believe our dreams.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone else planted a tree long ago.”
My hope is that, many years from now, when your grandchild asks you, “Grandma (or Grandpa), remember that time when our planet was on that delicate brink of disaster? What have you done to make sure I have a future?” – you will have a rich and beautiful story to share with them, about being of service, of making a difference, of doing something of real and lasting meaning and value. While at it, I also hope that many of our generation will have such a story too.