A Message to Graduates

Aspirations

By Alan Eggleston

What do you aspire to become? Isn’t that what life is all about – aspirations? Finding out what you want to become, and then realizing those aspirations?

When I was a boy, I wanted to become a writer. When I was a writer, I wanted to become an editor. When I was an editor – well, I had found my calling. Yet I aspired to be more.

Curiosity Gives Birth to Aspiration

Interesting the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.” I don’t believe it for a minute. Curiosity inspires exploration. Exploration inspires adventure. Adventure inspires risk. Risk can kill. But curiosity itself doesn’t kill. Curiosity keeps the spirit alive.

All my life, curiosity has driven my aspirations. I love to do research, in part because I learn so much in doing it. There is always the primary goal of the research, but then there’s the secondary benefit that you learn so much more than what you originally set out to learn. And writing involves a lot of research – on the subject, on the background, on words you use, on spelling, on grammar and punctuation, and so on. And as you do the research, you discover lots of interesting extra bits of knowledge along the way. In fact, if you aren’t careful you can get easily sidetracked from your original topic.

So being driven to become a writer was, in part, about quenching my thirst for curiosity. I aspired to discover new things and write about them. In college, as I rethought my physics major in favor of media, my sage faculty advisor took me aside and told me, “Go into science writing! There is always a great need for science writers.” I’ve always had an unquenchable curiosity about science!

As an editor, among all the duties I perform, one of the most interesting to me is fact checking: checking a writer’s calculations, researching quotes, verifying facts, looking up sources and – on the Web especially – links. The old curiosity kicks in again.

Thirst for Knowledge Furthers Aspiration

What I think this really boils down to is a thirst for knowledge. Not a formal education per se. I aspire to know. I attended school from kindergarten through my bachelor’s degree straight through. But 15 years after graduating from college, I suddenly had the urge to return to university, and I started earning my master’s degree. And when I had attained that and wasn’t satisfied, I attended professional conferences and seminars. I got full conference passes and crammed as many classes into a three or four day session as I could. For years.  Seminars and conferences on books, on writing and editing, on html coding, on online publishing, on design.

At the same time as my curiosity was running on high, so was my career. I became determined to learn something to benefit my work and my readers from every class. As a result, I received promotions, raises, and bonuses. And my employer paid to support my learning habit.

Why do I tell you all this? Because many of you graduating today think you’ve come to an end of learning and a beginning of doing. You’re tossing your graduation caps in tradition and your thinking caps in freedom.

Please reconsider the latter, keeping your thinking cap close at hand.

Aspirations Drive Creativity and Progress

What are your aspirations? Aspirations tend to be loftier than goals or objectives. They tend to drive creativity and meaning and years of activity that lead to achieving individual goals and objectives.

Aspirations are the engine that drives the spirit forward. Learning is the fuel that feeds the engine and revs the spirit.

I know, the last thing you want to think about right now is more learning – you just completed a diploma or degree or certification! Understood – congratulations! Go out and celebrate. Take some time off to enjoy your accomplishment and rest your brain. Start a career or change a profession. You deserve it. But always remember your aspirations. Keep that thinking cap handy and don it occasionally. That’s what got me to web editor.

Aspirations are what life is all about – finding out what you want to become and realizing your aspirations. They should last a lifetime.

Next Up – Of Pandas and Penguins

As providers of content, which of two recent new Google algorithms should you most be concerned – Panda or Penguin? Join me for my next column.

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2 thoughts on “A Message to Graduates

  1. Eloquently written, Alan. I always think of myself as a lifetime student and in many places online, my avatar is student:) It’s sound advice not only for graduates, but for all of us wayfarers, trudging through life.
    Congratulations to all our graduates – I hope that your constant thirst for knowledge will always take you to new heights.

    • Thank you for comment, Gazalla, and your compliment.

      We are all students of life and the thing seems to be to become cognizant of the power of learning and figure out how to benefit from it and actually engage in the process to further our aspirations in life.

      Alan

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