As the school year winds down across the nation’s college campuses, prominent speakers offer advice and words of wisdom to new graduates who are preparing to enter the next stages of their lives. Someone forwarded us the commencement address that Tony Blair gave at Colby College and we loved his advice so much that we thought we would share it. One piece of advice struck me as especially important: times of challenge present unprecedented opportunity. It reminded me that it is not how big or how important the challenge is, what matters is how we choose to face it and ultimately how we use it as an opportunity to grow, learn, and adapt. Mr. Blair offers seven life lessons we can all benefit from, no matter what stage of life we are at.
Lesson one: “Never stop learning. Carry on. And have the humility always to know that you can learn more,” he said. “Successful people are not defined by a restless search for fame and fortune but by an insatiable desire to be better and an infinite curiosity as to how. They’re perpetual voyagers on the journey of self-improvement.”
Lesson two: Maintain an open mind. “Be open to those of different faiths, cultures, races, and nations,” Blair said. “These things are the boundaries of division in history, but the open mind crosses them.”
Lesson three: “Giving is as good as getting,” Blair said. “Compassion is as important as ambition. So don’t just choose a career, choose a cause. There are many to choose from. … The noble causes — believe me they’re there amongst all the drudgery and self obsession of human existence — find them and save a bit of yourselves for them. It’s worth it.”
Lesson four: Friendship matters, and family matters most. “It’s in the family that you learn one of the most important lessons of life: that it is not all about you.”
Lesson five: Be a leader, not a follower. “And above all else, be a doer and not a critic, Blair said. “Human progress has never been shaped by commentators, complainers, or cynics. Progress is forged by the courage of the change-maker. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the overcoming of fear. And the leaders that I’ve met — all of them have always had their doubts, anxieties, periods of acute lack of confidence, worry,” he said.
Lesson six: Make use of the interconnected world. “It’s a fascinating and energizing and exciting world out there,” Blair said. “Take advantage of it. See the world. See its possibilities.”
Lesson seven: This time of challenge presents unprecedented opportunity. “Have confidence,” said Blair. “Because we’re not an empire based on interest but a way of life based on values. And those values — democracy, liberty, the equality of each human being regardless of race and religion, faith, or gender, free enterprise, fair play — these values that define your nation at its best and my nation at its best — they’re not a monument to our past, they are humanity’s best hope for the future.”