Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality: May 20, 2008

Best shadow graduation speech I have seen in quite a while: Simon Kuper: My life tips for graduates: embrace your ignorance: "You are graduating almost entirely ignorant. This isn’t your fault...

...Your most fecund educational years were aged nought to three, when your brain was fairly porous, but the opportunity was probably wasted. You then spent each school day surrounded by up to 30 other people, each with their own problems and ability levels. Since high school, you’ve been additionally handicapped by hormones, smartphones and early-morning starts. If you are graduating in a vocational or technical subject, then whatever you learnt is going out of date as I speak.... In short, you’re going to have to keep learning all your life. Here are a few tips:

  • Just shut up and listen....
  • Also avoid all house-price talk, route talk, diet talk, name-dropping and current-affairs clichés. Over a lifetime, this can save you years.
  • Listen hardest to people younger than you. They are ignorant and generally have lowly jobs, but their fragments of knowledge will be more cutting-edge than yours. If you’re ever tempted to kid yourself that your knowledge will hold good over time, listen to aged relatives recite the race theories they picked up in the 1940s.
  • If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
  • If you have a theory that explains everything, bin it....
  • When you meet someone who likes pontificating, you might pick up his tiny bit of expertise, if he has any. You’ll probably never have a productive conversation with him, and he won’t have learnt much from other people, so best to avoid.
  • When you discover you were wrong about something... treasure the moment
  • Don’t let conflicts derail your working life.... If you have to work with somebody irritating, deal with it. If you find lots of people irritating, then you’re the problem.
  • Even if you become an expert, you’ll still be pretty ignorant....
  • Obviously, you can’t be whatever you want to be. The trick is to work out what you should be.