We come from God and cannot objectively be separate from God. Authentic spiritual cognition seems to always have the element of re-cognition to it! It is returning to where we started, realizing that, “truly God has always been here, and we just never knew it.” Fortunately, no matter our journey, God is pulling us back to the Center to discover who we really are in God. God is patient and very productively uses all of our aligned and misaligned steps in our journey toward Him. The progression of our soul seems to be like going three steps forward, two steps backward, and yet both are the mercy of God!
Death does not always relate to the actual end of a life, in a physical sense. Ideas can die, relationships can die, habits can die, and so can projects or perspectives. In fact, our lives are filled with a slow-but-constant set of things “dying” as we move through the various stages of life. The issue is not what is dying, but rather that which has passed from our lives.
Caterpillars die when they leave a cocoon and fly away, transformed into butterflies—so do tadpoles as they morph into frogs. Nature is full of this side of God’s creative use of death that leads to new and transformed life. Indeed, the seasons of the earth are in a constant cycle with summer burning out into fall, fall transitioning into winter, and winter resurrecting the landscape into spring. This process is so constant, that it eludes us until the process itself touches some particular part of or personal lives or relationships. Death is, indeed, a passage into some form of transformation.
The question then becomes, “What kind of transformation is emerging from this cycle in our lives or the lives of the organizations we are immersed within?” Yes, organization—like nature and our personal lives—has cycles of death and rebirth within it as well. Wise leaders, counselors, and analysts understand this phenomena-cycle, and if they are “on their game,” help people and organizations properly relate to these times of death-life transition and maximize what is to be gained from them.
When we resist this process of impending death, we set ourselves up to block the process of new transformation. Death must be “midwifed,” so to speak, and gently carried into the new life that waits on the other side. Leaders, especially, can do real damage to their organizations and those looking to them for direction if they attempt to stop this cycle instead of seeking God for what is in the new.
Jesus managed this process brilliantly as He both predicted and moved into the cross and death while trying to open the eyes of His disciples to the resurrection on the other side. They, on the other hand, mostly managed it poorly, or not at all. Peter, their leader, was a spectacular failure. His total unawareness of this death-transformation process caused him to both betray the Lord and temporarily lose his own total investment he had sacrificed for the last three years of his journey with Jesus.
Our nation and, indeed, many aspects of our lives are now gripped in the drama of a death cycle. So are parts and portions of what we have called “the church.” We must not try to hold on, as much as try to prepare and “midwife” what God is bringing us to shape and embrace. May those who understand this gather and prepare. It is happening, and that is… THE BOTTOM LINE.
Remarks delivered on Friday, May 11, 2012 at University of Southern California’s Annenberg School Commencement Ceremony
Good morning, Annenberg graduates — and congratulations! You’ve made it through one of the most prestigious universities in the world. You are accomplished — and, yes, you are blessed.
Blessed to be stepping out into the world with your degrees in journalism, PR, and Communication — right at the moment when it seems like everything in the world is about communication.
We’re communicating like never before — across borders and time zones — on platforms, devices, computers, tablets, phones, apps, games, you name it.
Communicating 24/7 — wired and wirelessly — talking, texting, and tweeting — trending and friending — to the other side of the room and the other side of the planet — spitting out the old, in order to consume the new.
Every minute you’re awake, you’re reaching out beyond yourself — way out beyond. It feels like the entire universe is an extension of your own nervous system.
You communicate instantly, automatically, and effortlessly. For you…communicating is like breathing.
And today, you’re rarin’ to go. Rarin’ to go out into the “real” world — to get a job and transform the world of communication yet again. It’s a race to be next, to be first, to be new. Sorta scary, isn’t it.
I get that — because when I close my eyes, it feels like just yesterday that I sat where you are, and I remember exactly how I felt.
My boyfriend had hidden a bottle of champagne under his graduation robe for the celebration afterwards. But me? I was anxious, and I was scared.
I had applied for a job in TV news, but I hadn’t heard back. And I remember everybody was asking me, “What are you going to do after graduation? Do you have a job? What’s your job?” — and I felt so bad about myself, because I didn’t have the answer.
I graduated in May, and for months I was asked “What are you gonna do? What are you gonna do?” — which got me beating the living daylights out of myself, all the way until I landed a job in October.
Back then, I didn’t realize that that question — the “What-are-you-gonna-do?” question — dogs us all our lives:
When you get that assignment desk job in local TV, everyone asks you, “When are you going on The Air?” And then it’s “When are you going to the Network?”
After you meet that special someone, people ask you, “When are you going to get married?” Then right away, it’s “When are you going to have a kid?” After that: “When are you going to have the next one?”
I remember when I wrote my first book, people would come up to me at book-signings and ask when the next book was coming out.
Right in the middle of the Women’s Conferences I produced, people would ask me, “Who are you gonna get to speak next year?”
Even today at my age, people come up to me all the time asking, ‘Maria, What are you doing? What’s your job? Are you going back into television? Are you writing another book?
Are you gonna run another women’s conference? What are you doing?’
It’s like what we’re doing at this precise moment doesn’t even exist. Everyone is focused on the next thing. Everyone is racing to the Next Thing.
Well, I got caught up in that for a really long time — so much so, that I could never really enjoy what I WAS doing, because I was always worried about what I was going to be doing.
I tell you all this, because I know right now everybody’s asking you those same questions: “What are you gonna do after graduation? Do you have a job? Where will you be working? How much are they paying? Where are you going? Where will you be living? Who are you seeing?” Oh, my God — so many questions!
And here you are: sitting there ready to hit the Fast Forward button and find out the answers. I get that. I was just LIKE you: I lived on Fast Forward.
But today, I have one wish for you. Before you go out and press that fast foward button, I’m hoping — I’m praying — that you’ll have the courage to first press the pause button.
That’s right: the pause button. I hope if you learn anything from me today, you learn and remember — The Power of the Pause.
Pausing allows you to take a beat — to take a breath in your life. As everybody else is rushing around like a lunatic out there, I dare you to do the opposite.
I’m asking you to do this, because I believe you have an important opportunity in front of you, graduates of The Annenberg School of Communication.
I’m asking you to learn how to pause, because I believe the state of our communication is out of control. And you? I believe you have the incredible opportunity to fix it.
You have the power, each and every one of you, to change the way we as a nation speak to one another. I truly believe you can change our national discourse for the better.
You have the chance to change the way we talk to one another, what we read on the Web and newspapers and magazines, what we see on TV, what we hear on radio. You can help us change the channel.
I’m hoping you young men and women dare to bring change to our community by changing our communication.
Change it from criticism and fault-finding to understanding and compassion. Change it from nay-saying and name-calling to acceptance and appreciation.
Change it from dissembling and dishonesty to openness and explanation.
Change from screaming to speaking.
Show us the way, Annenberg graduates. Take us out to what I’ve been calling “The Open Field”. Go there! Go beyond! I know you can do it — because a communications degree means nothing today unless you know how to go beyond the easy into the unknown — unless you know how to pause, how to listen.
You know — I know quite a bit about the communication business. I’ve done it through my TV news work, my books, my website, in magazines, speeches, blogs, and conferences. And if you thought I was going to come here today to tell you how I’ve done all that, the answer is pretty simple: I worked my butt off!
You’ll have to work your butt off, too, but today, I’m saying that while you do that, it’s really important to pause along the way and take a break from communicating outwardly, so you can communicate inwardly, with yourself.
PAUSE — and take the time to find out, what’s important to you. Find out what you love, what’s real and true to you — so it can infuse and inform your work and make it your own.
PAUSE — before you report something you don’t know is absolutely true, something you haven’t corroborated with not just one, but two sources, as I was taught. And make sure that they’re two reliable sources.
PAUSE — before you put a rumor out there as fact. Just because you read it or saw it on TV or the Web — no matter how many times — doesn’t mean its true. Don’t just pass on garbage because you want to be first. There’s no glory in being first with garbage.
PAUSE — before you hit the “send” button and forward a picture that could ruin someone’s life — or write something nasty on someone’s Wall because you think it’s funny or clever. Believe me, it isn’t.
PAUSE — before you make judgments about people’s personal or professional decisions.
PAUSE — before you join in and disparage someone’s sexuality or intellectual ability.
PAUSE — before forwarding the untrue and inflammatory tidbits that have made it so difficult for would-be public servants and their families to step up and lead. Edmund Hillary once said, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
Sometimes when you pause, you’ll realize you’re gonna have to hold yourself back from acting out on your ego and your first impulse.
Remember this: You have a degree from a prestigious Communication School.
Communication has so much power to do GOOD. Look at Kony-2012. And what about Egypt and Libya! In almost an instant, communicators toppled dictators and governments in place for decades!
That’s power — and with power, comes responsibility.
So remember to pause and reflect — before you sign on with someone or some organization whose work you don’t admire and respect. Who you work for is as important as what you do.
And if you don’t have a job yet and someone asks you “What-are-ya-gonna-do?” Just pause, and be aware of this fundamental truth: It’s okay not to know what you’re going to do! It’s okay not to have all the answers. You don’t have to be like I was at your age and beat yourself up for not knowing.
It’s okay to go with the truth and tell people, “You know what? It’s a tough job market out there. I’m not sure what I’m going be doing. I’m pausing, I’m open, and I’m looking at my options.” Hey, that’s exactly what I’m saying to people these days — and so far, so good!
And while you’re waiting for that perfect job — know this: There are so many incredible nonprofits out there doing important high-impact life-changing work. They can use your brains and talent in the meantime to help them communicate their mission and message.
You know, I didn’t invent this stop-everything-and-pause idea.
Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the desert. Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond. Ann Morrow Lindberg went to the sea. Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa — the greatest and wisest have often stopped and withdrawn from active lives to journey within themselves. The wisdom they garnered there and shared with us has impacted the world.
But, hey, don’t worry! I’m not asking you for 40 days and nights! I’m only asking you to stop every so often and turn off your mobile device, put down the Angry Birds and the Words with Friends and take a moment. Stop to look up and look around. Pause and check in with yourself — and spend a moment there.
Feel your strength and your vulnerability. Acknowledge your goodness, and don’t be afraid of it. Look at your darkness — and work to understand it, so you’ll have the power to choose who you’ll be in the world.
Women: look at your toughness and your softness. You can and should make room for both in your life. The world needs both.
Men: find your gentleness, and wrap it into your manliness. You, too, can make room for both. The greatest men do.
Today, I pray that you will be able to pause and spend time with yourself to give thanks for the journey that has brought you here. Express your gratitude today to all those who made your journey possible.
Be grateful for all the love you have in your life and all the love you’ve ever had.
And while you’re at it — how about pausing and doing something refreshingly different?
Like talking to your mother or father or someone else you care deeply about — not just texting them — but talking to them with your mouth!
And dare I suggest that you pause and write an actual thank you note — with a pen on paper? Believe it or not, there are people like me who never hire anybody who didn’t send them a hand-written note thanking them for the interview.
As for me, the truth is that today, I am deeply grateful. Grateful for the life I’ve lived that has brought me here — and all the experiences I’ve had that have made me the communicator I am.
Today I’m pausing to be in awe of this moment, that I’m attending my first child’s college graduation. Katherine, I’m in awe of you — where are you? I’m in awe of the woman you are — your grace and courage and strength. I’m so proud of all of you and what you’ve done to get here.
Oh, how this world needs you — young men and women with the guts to pause and acknowledge where you’re at and how you got here — and then to change course if you need to — and trust me, sometimes you’ll need to change course! But know you’ve got the strength to do it.
So today, as you head out into the Open Field of life, keep your mind open, keep your heart open. Don’t be afraid to be afraid. Courageous people often are afraid. In fact, that’s why they need courage in the first place!
Have the courage to go beyond your fears. Have the courage to go beyond judgment.
Have the courage go beyond shoulda-could-woulda — go beyond others’ rules and expectations.
Live and write your own story and then be brave enough to communicate it authentically.
Trust me, someone else will be inspired by it and learn from it.
Be committed to communicating the truth. Don’t get so caught up along the way in what you’re doing and where you’re going that you lose sight of your core values: who you are and what’s important in your life.
And finally, remember this: Whenever you’re in doubt: PAUSE — take a moment. Look at your options — check your intentions — and THEN? Take the high road.
OK, then — that’s it! End of lesson.
Get out there and start communicating!
Fight to make a difference in this world.
Fight for good. Fight for fairness. Fight on!
How can ambitious graduates entering the corporate world quickly distinguish themselves as winners?
First of all, forget some of the most basic habits you learned in school. Once you are in the real world — and it doesn’t make any difference if you are 22 or 62, starting your first job or your fifth — the way to look great and get ahead is to over-deliver. For years you’ve been taught the virtue of meeting specific expectations. And you’ve been trained to believe that an A-plus performance means fully answering every question the teacher asks. Those days are over.
To get an A-plus in business, you have to expand the organization’s expectations of you and then exceed them, and you have to fully answer every question the “teachers” ask, plus a slew they didn’t think of.
Your goal, in other words, should be to make your bosses smarter, your team more effective, and the whole company more competitive because of your energy, creativity, and insights. And you thought school was hard!
Don’t panic. Just get in there and start thinking big. If your boss asks you for a report on the outlook for one of your company’s products for the next year, you can be sure she already has a solid sense of the answer. So go beyond being the grunt assigned to confirm her hunch. Do the extra legwork and data-crunching to give her something that really expands her thinking — an analysis, for instance, of how the entire industry might play out over the next three years. What new companies and products might emerge? What technologies could change the game?
In other words, give your boss shock and awe — something compelling that she can report to her bosses. In time, those kinds of ideas will move the company forward, and move you upward.
But be careful. People who strive to over-deliver can swiftly self-destruct if their exciting suggestions are seen by others as unfettered braggadocio, not-so-subtle ladder scaling, or both. That’s right. Personal ambition can backfire.
Now, we’re not saying curb your enthusiasm. But the minute you wear career lust on your sleeve, you run the risk of alienating people, in particular your peers. They will soon come to doubt the motives of your hard work. They will see any comments you make about, say, how the team could operate better, as political jockeying. And they will eventually peg you as an unrestrained striver, and, in the long run, that’s a label that all the A-plus performing in the world can’t overcome. So by all means, over-deliver — but keep your desire to distinguish yourself as a winner to yourself. You’ll become one faster.
The best advice I could give any graduate is to spend your time working on whatever you are passionate about in life. If your degree was focused upon one particular area, don’t let that stop you moving in another direction. If college hasn’t worked out for you, don’t let that put you off. Virgin’s expansion into so many different areas is borne out of my insatiable curiosity to enjoy new experiences and pursue fresh challenges.
You may decide to take a break and consider your options. I would urge you to travel, take on new experiences and draw upon those when it comes to making the decisions that will shape your future. The amount of business ideas that people pick up from traveling the world is enormous. If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, you may find a business that works in another market that could be adapted for your own. Gap years don’t only have to happen before you go to college. Actually, a good option is to travel instead of going to university. You can work and still have a lot of fun along the way: you won’t create as much debt, you’ll learn an awful lot and may come back with some great ideas.
Equally, if you spot an opportunity early on and are really excited by it, throw yourself into it with everything you have got. Be ambitious. There probably won’t be another time in your life when you have such freedom of opportunity. Grasp it with both hands. If you can’t find an opening that fits what you want to do, why not try to create one yourself? We always enter markets where the leaders are not doing a great job, so we can go in and disrupt them by offering better quality services. Until this week I had never had a boss in my entire life. I lasted about five hours before Tony Fernandes sacked me, after throwing a tray of drinks over him while working as a stewardess on a flight! (It was all for a bet to raise money for charity, so I wasn’t too upset.)
My own transition from education to a working life was pretty straightforward. I started Student Magazine at school and was spending an increasingly large amount of time working on getting it off the ground. The headmaster gave me an ultimatum: he said if I wanted to carry on with Student, I had to stop being a student. So I left to start my adventures in business. Being dyslexic, I never excelled in the classroom and entrepreneurship wasn’t encouraged. I didn’t even know what I was doing was called entrepreneurship until somebody told me!
However, education is absolutely crucial to success and to the progress of the world at large. As Nelson Mandela said:
Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.”
But education doesn’t take place in stuffy classrooms and university buildings, it can happen everywhere, every day to every person. I was on a panel at a University in Australia recently and it turned out the only one of us onstage who had graduated was the Dean himself!
I have been offered to do graduation speeches over the years and did accept an honorary Doctor of Technology from Loughborough University. It was strange at the time, but now we have Virgin Galactic perhaps it’s not so strange! I was chuffed to receive it, having left school at 15. It was a hell of a lot easier than going through university to get it! If you are graduating, congratulations and good luck for your future. Every graduate – scratch that – every person has the chance to reach for the stars in their chosen field.