I was honored to be able to address the final graduating class at Remington College’s campus on the West side of Cleveland, Ohio. It was also my pleasure to be one of the first instructors there and to design much of the curriculum used in their Computer Networking Technology program. Here is the commencement address for those who wish to read it. Congratulations Remington College graduates.
Faculty and staff, parents and friends of the graduates, and the graduating class of 2013. It’s a great honor to commemorate your graduation and all the dedication and effort that went into it. You should be proud.
I’m sure you’re eager to leave here, diploma in hand, to celebrate with all your friends and family. Before you do, take this one truth with you…Cultivate real relationships.
Career pursuits, technology, entertainment, and life pressures have a way of distancing us from others. Don’t let that happen. Establish deep relationships with a few close people. They’re the ones who can be relied on in troubled times and they make life worth living.
Most of you are probably on Facebook. When I joined Facebook, it sure did change my life. I quickly connected with friends from school and work. Soon after, family members joined my circle of friends. People I hadn’t talked to in years came out of the digital woodwork, eager to reconnect, share experiences, photos, and memories. Looking at each page was like meeting in a coffee shop sharing wallet photos and catching up.
It didn’t take long, however, before I had a few hundred friends. Friends who tried their best to keep me up-to-date on their lives. I was flooded with information on the games they were playing, the food they were eating, or the programs they liked on TV. The intimate coffee shop I had liked so much turned into a busy train station.
I tried my best to keep up with it all. I read their updates and posted thoughtful replies until one day I saw one of my friends at the store. I tried to remember something she’d recently posted on Facebook so I could strike up a conversation, but it was all a jumble in my head. She had just gotten back from scuba diving. No. That was someone else. Her sister had a baby. No, still not right.
I realized then that I was trying to do the impossible. By dividing my attention among so many people I wasn’t being a good friend to any of them. Mark Vernon, the author of The Philosophy of Friendship, says, “You really have to have mulled over things with [someone] to become really good friends and there’s only so many people you can do that with.” In other words, you need to spend quality time together in order to cultivate really good friends and you can only do that with a few people. Quality time is sometimes a shared experience. At other times it is giving a person your undivided attention or a listening ear.
“Be courteous to all”, George Washington said, “but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.”
We need a few close friends – the kind you can call anytime or count on in times of trouble. They are the ones who love you and want the best for you. Sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona found that these close friendships have decreased by a third in the last twenty years. A third of close friendships lost in a period where technological advances would seem to make us more connected. Instead, I am becoming increasingly isolated.
Meaningful relationships need to be cultivated. It’s something you’ll have to make time for. This is important because a lack of close friends can lead to loneliness, anxiety, and a diminished satisfaction in life. I want you to live a happy fulfilled life. A life you’re not going to find in social networking, climbing the corporate ladder or driving that fancy new Lexus. Don’t get so caught up in life that you forget to cherish relationships. You’ve come this far and I’m sure it wasn’t all on your own. You’ve had some help from parents, a spouse, friends, teachers, or peers.
Take a minute to identify those people and vow to cultivate those relationships, for a rewarding life is not built alone. Cultivate real relationships. They will be more valuable to you than anything you achieve.