On May 28, 2011, IPC President Rosetta Hillary delivered the keynote address the the Brown University Onyx Dinner at the Westin Hotel in Providence, RI. Below is an abbreviated transcript of her remarks.
Lessons That Are Never Too Late to Learn….
By Rosetta Hillary, IPC President
Welcome family and friends and congratulations to the Class of 2011. I am honored and privileged to share a few words with you on this HUGE day in your life. I want to take this precious opportunity to give a word that may in the days and weeks and years to come support you in overcoming a perceived obstacle or hurdle or in taking yourself to a new level in your life experience. Your world is one of greater complexity and freedom, and with that, your capacity to choose – what to think, to feel, to act, how you show up in the world – vitally impacts your experience and the experience of those who come into contact with you in everyway, every moment of every day. Some of you may know the ideas I am sharing. Good for you. Use my talk as a reminder to not take these ideas for granted. They work if you work them. For the rest of us, these ideas may be new or still in our learning curve. It’s never too late to learn, and we are all learners. It’s all good. Are you ready? Let’s go. It’s never too late to learn the following (not in any order):
1. Forgive yourself, and forgive everyone and everything else. Forgiveness is not about making what happened to you OK. It’s about claiming your freedom from the past so that you can fully inhabit the present and declare a future that would not have happened otherwise. The words in a song, “I Forgive You,” sung by Rachelle Ferrell give you a sense of this possibility:
I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you.
Totally, completely now.
What a freedom just releasing from my heart
From my mind and soul!
I no longer want to hold on
To that which doesn’t make me strong
And I don’t wanna care no more
‘Bout what’s right or wrong
I just wanna be whole again
I want to be free again
Want to be me again
I just want to heal…
2. Be grateful for everything no matter what is going on in any given moment. This alone determines your experience of life no matter the circumstances.
3. Engage in an ongoing inquiry of what is a “good life” for you and go about claiming it, receiving it, creating, and recreating what is for you a good life in accordance with your desires. Living is not a passive activity. You have everything to do with your experience of your life. Moment-to-moment, you are making choices and decisions that cause the life your are experiencing whether you are consciously aware of or not. Be about consciously choosing with intention to have the desired experience you seek vs. allowing anything to show up. This will be a life long inquiry as you explore what you care about, what you value, and many possibilities for a good life will come to your awareness as you set about designing and redesigning what you desire.
4. Be clear about what you stand for. What do you care about? Care is about your values, what matters to you such that you take action. This is vital to your choices and decisions. When we are disconnected from our “care,” we carry a mood of limitation that dampens our energy and aliveness. This does not make for a meaningful and satisfying life, nor does it allow for excellent and valuable performance. Our life becomes a life of obligation, sacrifice, endurance, devoid of meaning, and too often, rife with resignation. Yet when we are engaged in action for what we care about, we are most alive, energized and find what we do meaningful. We are capable of excellent, if not being extraordinary, performance filled with passion, energy, and inspired purpose. I ask the question “what do you care about” as way to open for you the exploration of where meaning, passion, and aliveness can reside in your life. When we are connected to our care, our commitments and actions are connected and coherent with our care. We find our actions and lives meaningful, producing energy and passion, and enabling high levels of commitment and performance. Living from your care is also an important part of creating a good life, a meaningful and satisfying life and empowering the kind of leadership and action in the world that is needed. The question of care is an ongoing inquiry that provides a solid foundation for who we are, and as we give into our care again and again, it feeds us, sustains us.
5. Practice being Present in your life [and notice when you are not present in order to self-correct.] You are present when you are fully available and connected in the moment engaged in influencing how you are heard and responded to and your impact through your spoken word, emotions, mood, demeanor, body, choice of words spoken, movements, etc. You are not present when you allow yourself to be triggered, physically/emotionally contracted, by a person, thing or situation outside of yourself. You are saying “It’s about them, it, her/him” and in reaction, you become hijacked by the past. Nonetheless, you are always at choice to self-correct and order yourself into alignment with the present moment.
6. Practice Acting to Know. Another way of saying that is be comfortable with not-knowing. In Western culture, we are conditioned to making knowing important so much so that when we find ourselves facing a new challenge, breakdown, or opportunity, we say “I don’t know what to do.” Not knowing then becomes a barrier to action, and knowing a requirement for action. Suffering ensues as we are not able to move forward or we do so with anxiety and fear. I invite you to consider a new possibility – where not knowing is a starting point for action, rather than a barrier. In that space, there is opportunity for exploration, discovery, learning, creating something new/innovative, and leading in all domains of your life. You enter a mood of rich possibility, curiosity, and playful adventure. You once knew this instinctively as a baby. Of course, we rely on knowing and what others know, competence, in certain situations. We trust the performance of others based on our assessment that they “know how” to perform competently. We have a breakdown with knowing and performing when our not knowing becomes anxiety triggering and a challenge because we think we should know. Under those circumstances, it’s unfamiliar or inappropriate to ask for help, and we don’t see we have time to learn. We become trapped into thinking we have to act now – no time and space to learn, and we don’t know.
Rather than know to act, learn to act in order to know. Being comfortable in the domain of not knowing is true leadership power. How? Notice the contraction, anxiety, and fear perhaps that show up when we don’t know. Now shift by entering into a mood of curiosity, inquiry, and possibility. This becomes a space to play, explore, and create. We are most alive here because we are creating. This is when people experience being “in the zone, in the flow,” where we are so deeply engaged we don’t notice time, and we are energized and satisfied by the engagement for its own sake – intrinsically motivated. Brain science has established that “play” powerfully engages the parts of the brain that generate possibilities, and learning can happen up to 70 times faster from engaging in “play” than in serious attempts to “learn” or do a new practice correctly. Make the time and energy available for the inquiry of possibility and the mood of exploration as well as learning, experimentation, design, and invention vs. “doing” at all costs.
7. Be kind. In the fast pace of this modern world, let’s not get so caught up in striving that we forget to honor, respect, and be courteous to each other.
8. Give back. Serve. Contribute. “Pay it forward.” Your life is enriched when you give back to the. Your presence here today is due in large part to the continuing efforts of many alumni over the decades who held a vision and whose ongoing commitment made it important that you be here and that you be successful.
Now go out and claim the successful lives that await you, for which you have been prepared, and that you richly deserve for no other reason than it’s your birthright. In closing, I want to borrow from the words of Nicki Minaj’s song “Moment for Life”:
. . .
I fly with the stars in the skies,
I am no longer trying to survive,
I believe that life is a prize,
But to live doesn’t mean you’re alive.
I wish that I could have this moment for life, for life, for life
Cuz in this moment I just feel so alive, alive, alive.
Thank you for patiently listening, and congratulations to the Class of 2011.