If I Gave Your Graduation Speech -Uncle Chad (My TED talk)




I was asked to try a TED talk about ten years ago and just didn’t really understand the idea.  I didn’t do it.

Wow talk about blowing it.  – just sayin’ – if you know anyone – I’m 100% up for it.

It did however spawn one of my dozen or so book ideas that lie on my laptop half completed.  Wow, this episode started poorly – It’s time to start finishing some stuff up already…

The Book my head was exploding out was tentatively called “Tips from Uncle Chad” and although it never came to be, it has spawned 100’s of notes and papers and lectures.


I was around 30 at the time with no kids of my own but seemed to relate well with them through my clinic and coaching, personal training and the ever burning desire to never grow up nor get old.   Here’s how it all went down..

A 17 year old girl was in my clinic having her elbow and shoulder looked at.  She was discussing much everything hurt but it came through quite clearly how emotionally down she was.    Not from her pain in her arm but the pain of having been dumped the night before the homecoming dance.   Her joy and happy anticipation of a great night shattered by some punk 18 year old.  This dude had crushed her.

Her dad was in a chair in the same room looking over his cell phone at stocks or emails or whatever is important for a business class suit and tie wearing guy and without looking up told her, “that high school stuff;  prom, boys, friends… none of that is important.”

Boom, my head nearly exploded.

Here I was caught in the middle, a crazy time of my life where I had friends that were parents and also friends that were kids in high school and college  — I remember one trip I took to a lake house and my wife and I weren’t sure if we were guests of the kid or his mom.   We spent most of the weekend with recently graduated high school senior and his 5th grade sister but we had a glass of wine with the mom at night.   At one point I distinctly remember shouting “Don’t tell your mom!” during a disastrous jet ski incident that shall forever remain clouded in controversy.

back to Uncle Chad…the idea of the book was to be an mediation between the young adult world and the so called real adult world.     The homecoming dance?  Really?  Not important?  It sure as hell was important, for that dad, back when he was in school.  It was for me.

It is for his daughter.  Maybe the MOST important!

So was high school football,  My hair style, a new pair of Jordans and a super pimped out red leather Adidas jacket that sprang my mom to the “cool mom” status before all my friends.

And really what about her and what she thinks of her dad’s stuff?  – Do you think she really cares about 401K, stocks, deadlines, bills and how much per month the iPhone costs.   not really.

The importance and relevance comes from where we are at that particular time in our life.

Not to brag, but I think I still have a strong grasp on this concept and do a great job being between and back and forth the age groups.  I have to be to survive a career of working with kids this age and still putting food on the table as a parent in my adult life.  I think the idea for the book is still super strong and needed.  I would make it rich in sales and best seller lists – but alas, I am now older.  I have kids and am no longer at the in-between age enough to make the whole idea non-hypocritical and cheesy.

The book just isn’t now what it would have been then.   So Ok, moving on, I’m not going to talk about what’s important to a high schooler and emotions and all that.  I’ll pick 1 topic I know you get pressed on from ohhh, I’d say 6th grader on with more emphasis as you get into your late teens and all the way through adulthood until retirement with ever increasing pressure.

Your job.

Yep, instead of a bunch of Uncle Chad rules of life you get – the chapter about THIS generation and:

“What are you going to do after high school?”

This is what I would pick for my TED talk or if I was asked to be the commencement speaker for this year’s HS graduating class.

A few tricks of the trade from someone who isn’t your father but maybe has some years of experience and a unique slant on life.    I hope you all had a real life uncle like this to call on.  I did and still call on My Uncle Tom for ideas and advice all the time.

If I was to speak to the graduating class here it what I would profess…

This generation,  at this time frame in the United States, is sitting in maybe the most remarkable time frame in history.    The way the world works, the information available, the internet, the speed of conversation has taken the third planet from the sun and in essence  – made it a small village.  We are able to communicate ideas, thoughts, even emotions and opinions instantly – with whomever we want.

The technology and speed of development means a new world, but not something you are uncomfortable with or at any means foreign to you at all.  You’ve grown up with it.  Its not the weird at all  – or modern or future at all – but your norm.

The fact that in your pocket you hold a device that can instantly access any song, any written word and all the pieces of literature that have ever been written on the planet’s history, as well as act as a flashlight and problem solver as well as send pictures, take pictures and contact famous celebrities – what is what my grandmother calls the greatest invention to ever be invented IN HISTORY…and that’s just a phone, brah – no biggie, chill out – I left mine in my locker..

It’s unique.

The United States is so incredibly blessed and amazing that we are virtually all without true social stature.  Maybe for the first time in Human History.

Most every person in the US has a home, a car, a phone and a job.  Look, Its not perfect, 300 million people cohabitating cannot be perfect – but you have to have some degree of stubborn (that job is beneath me), lack of will power, or mental condition to not be doing OK.     I am not an ostrich with my head in the sand, I understand the dichotomy of more or less money and power.  It’s real –  but step back a second and look at it from your great great grandparents standpoint or from the nomad in Africa a millennia ago – He was scared of being eaten by a lion…is that’s a better visual.   We have it soooo good.

What do the rich guys have you don’t?

a phone?  shelter?  food? (most of us are fat) …access to health care and a real hospital?   Water safe enough to drink?  Look guys, we’re from the USA..we have it really really good here.    I understand the difference between a Ferrari and a POS 1995 beat up Mazda but they both get you down the road and to work.

And really what does the real money get you anyway?   A bigger house,  a bigger car, a newer phone the latest and coolest is nice but not necessarily a huge social status deal.    There was a day when a 50 inch TV meant something.  man, that guys has $$! But today they are all at Walmart for $200 and are 70 inches!

In my high school when GUESS jeans came out at $100/pair and Jordans were a status symbol, you were ballin’ if you had that brand.    Now, brands?  really?  They’re certainly still cool, but not so much necessary to fit in.

Does Anyone you know truly care what brand of jeans I’m wearing now.   Or the guy that sits next to you in third period Chem?

I mean, an old beat up pickup is RETRO – it’s cool to drive now.    I’m not saying social status isn’t real.  For God’s sake when I was your age I was captain of the team and superjock – I’m hyper aware it’s real.    I’m just saying its way overrated and at the next step  – as a college kid or trade worker, as a young adult and professional it is  less important.  The social lines between the have and have nots are certainly blurred more now more than ever.  No one really cares about clothes, cars, ethnicity, race, what music you listen to at all.   Friends that are different than you, that’s what makes life so interesting.

So what does a blur in social status equate to?    My hypothesis?   Your’s will be the first generation to reverse engineer your trade, work and career.    There are a few reasons why.

My hypothesis…

Many of you will pick lifestyle over money.

And the dividends will be HUGE!

Back in my day, (crusty old man voice) my HS counselor, college advisor and influential adults I asked would push us to get a high paying job.    “You’ll make more money.”

Like the money would bring the happiness and fulfill my wishes.    OK hold on for a sec.  This blog is not the “money doesn’t equal life” rah rah forum.   Uncle Chad wouldn’t lie to you like that.  Money can really help bring fun, toys, trips and other means to satisfaction.  Money is important.

But not like it used to be.     Your generation will reverse engineer it all.

Imagine the LIFESTYLE YOU WANT.  Sitting on a beach, the ability to go surfing whenever you want.   The ability to go on a hike in the mountains and sit on a rock watching a rainbow form.  Foreign trips, watching every single time your kid gets up to bat in tee ball.   A happy family that plays together.   Maybe it is the GWagons and 10,000 sq foot mansions —I’m not telling you what to think –  Whatever is your thing.  Really put into detail whatever your lifestyle should look like.

Now, how does it take to make that happen?

My idea is a lot of you have seen that for many – the money and the power doesn’t make you happy.  Your rock star idols and even our political leaders share openly how miserable they are and how mad they are.  They are an open book.  So I’m guessing you guys will opt for freedom.

If you want the FREEDOM, to live your life and play with your kids and travel it will take being flexible in work hours, the ability to communicate mobily , maybe you’ll have to invent a job that can do that.  Maybe you’ll share information, who knows. (thats what I’m trying to do with this site!)

Some facts are concrete however.  You will need to make money, you most likely will work for someone (even self employed work for their costumers).  Start to figure out the hows, the whys, the cost and you’ll most likely come up with a much more focused and exciting path.   The idea of “you’ll never work a day in your life if your work is something you LOVE to do.”  is a lie.  A LIE STEVEN…

Its work, and if you love it and own it, you’ll work even harder for it…but work can still be fun.

The idea that your job hasn’t even been invented yet is real..   Grab it.  Invent it.  Modify it for you.   Do an old job in a new way.

Here’s the second reason your generation has  hit the jackpot.

You can survive and thrive with a skillset.    It’s not just for the doctors and lawyers (man those guys work a lot of hours!) Vocation, trade skills are at an all time premium.  No one knows how to do anything.

For instance, I cant fix my washing machine when it breaks.  The guy that can –  he charges me $100/hr to do it and I’m happy to pay him as I don’t possess that skillset.   Welders, plumbers, electricians they have got me one upped.    If you have a skill,  you own something that fewer and fewer have – then the way up the success ladder is to just show up every day and pass the drug test!

To add to this – If you are cool being in a business that is not usually considered desirable (think of every episode of Dirty Jobs) even better, the competition is much less so it is easier to become and expert or even world class.   The best get to charge more.

Don’t believe me – ask around.   I knew a big wig with over a 1 million dollar/year job at a oil company that started as a grunt turning valves with a hammer.    As the years went along, he showed up everyday.  Didn’t skip work.  Didn’t do drugs or show up an hour late and hungover.    He developed the reputation as a do-er and worked his way up the chain.  All of the sudden he’s the top guy on the totem pole.  He knows every nook and cranny and how to do every job.   Better still he knows how to do it better than anyone else to and has a track record of actually caring.

He understood true Disipline.     Never did he tell me he was the best.  He just had discipline in a time where it’s at an all time low in the corporate and vocational world.  You need to understand, my generation and the one older than me has this idea that you guys are a bunch of slackers.   Is it true?  Don’t lie to yourself.

If it is true, if your generation is lazy and wont work or show up than even better for you that will – look around, can you be better than the person sitting beside you?

I’m telling this generation…We have it so sweet in the US that just getting up and going to work every day will land you in a heap of success.  IT’S THAT EASY!

Its not overnight, you’ll need to put in your time.  You most likely won’t hit the lottery you think is waiting for you or land that NBA career that pays 100 million but hey! You don’t have to be a millionaire by 30 AND more importantly you don’t NEED to because you can get all the stuff you need for way less than millions.

(insert applause and square caps thrown)

So to reiterate my points.  –

You can be a success a number of ways with your future employment.

First, figure out what is important to you and what you really would like to have and how you want to live.

Now make THAT happen.  having the goal of making a million a year is just a goal. It doesn’t get you anything by itself and is just an arbitrary number.    Get a real idea.

Now how do you get there?

Well, I’ll offer two ways.

  1. ReInvent work.  Invent the new idea or information or way of packaging it.  Go for the big shot and nail it.  yo uguys have the tools and ease to do it better than my age people.
  2. – Just get a job and show up.  Work.   The majority of the employees will quit, fail, leave or change and you’ll all of the sudden be the OG.









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