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As the president of a tech startup, I learned that if you can’t make your point in five minutes or less, you need to rethink your message. So rather than tell you all why you all are the best or drone on about “back in my day” I will adhere to this startup best practice and share the unvarnished truth of the three challenges I faced and you will face after graduating.
Some of you are facing this day with anticipation and excitement believing you know exactly what comes next and others feel a sense of loss and anxiety. But regardless of which group you fall in, at some point after today, some part of your life is going to go horribly not according to plan. Mine was totaling my car, missing my monthly sales target for the first time at my job, all on the day I was supposed to travel to a friend’s wedding out of state. In those moments there will be a sense of nostalgia. A dull ache and desire to go back to what was familiar here at Benedictine. To retreat to the routine and lifestyle that has become second nature to you over the last four years.
But my prompt to you is the same as the angel to the apostles after the resurrection “What are you looking at?”
You have received gifts and talents that you must go out and boldly share with the world.
These times of challenge are no time to stare at the sky. You must move “Forward Always Forward.”
But what will you go to? I remember being in doctor Rioux’s ethics class and getting the most true and useless answer to this “Do good. Avoid evil”. I believe each of you wants to do what is good and right for yourself, your loved ones, and the world. But you will quickly find how finite your time is and you will feel the aggressive pull that various parts of your life will put on it. And while I don’t have an answer for each of you, I will share my second piece of advice and it is what not to do.
As the months after my graduation progressed, I was shocked by my own despondence to various parts of my life. Not only in the face of great challenges but even in some of my greatest achievements, there was a nagging emptiness shadowing those moments. I tried many different remedies, more sleep, exercise, positive self affirmation, counseling, and increased personal prayer. But each of my attempts petered out as the familiar nothingness sapped my motivation
And it was in trying to break out of this nothingness by myself that I learned my final and greatest lesson that I will share today. It is the necessity of a community.
I was shocked how many of my fellow graduates shared this struggle. And the more we share, the more insight and energy we gain to fight it.
To this day, even as the president of a public company I have an hour scheduled to talk to one of my best friends from Benedictine every week before we start work. And I even have a standing Friday night ritual to play video games with three of my closest friends from Benedictine.
St. Benedict is one of the greatest pioneers of Catholic community life. If you didn’t take Father Meinrad’s Benedictine spirituality, I’m sorry but you missed out. While I cannot do the whole content of that class justice, I tell you we are all fortunate to inherit some of his wisdom through our time at Benedictine College. You are part of a larger Benedictine community that is a unique remedy to the car wrecks, work failures, nostalgia, and existential angst you will face.
I believe I’ve hit my five minutes. And I implore you all to stop looking at the sky and proceed to the next stage of life together moving forward always forward.