Some Advice for the Young & Ambitious

Every spring, The New York Times publishes highlights from the various commencement addresses given around the country. They print a few paragraphs from the famous and notables who impart their wisdom to the graduating masses. It’s one of my favorite annual features.

That nitwit Clarence Thomas gave the commencement address at High Point University and in it, he said the following:

Let me first confess that I am no good at telling people what to think or how to live their lives.

Pardon me, but isn’t that EXACTLY what the Supreme Court purports to do? He is a small, silly man who wound up with a very important job. J.K. Rowling gave the commencement address at Harvard and her comments were the best by far. Take a moment and read this. It’s worth your time.

By any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.

I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

It’s enough to give you hope, isn’t it?

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