Ken Burns, filmmaker, delivered the commencement address at Stanford this spring. I wouldn't have known that had his topic not been Donald Trump, which caught my friend Ralph Miller's attention, who forwarded the presentation to me.
I'm not going to make a political statement, however, I've included the video if you'd like to hear it.
Instead of taking a whack at Trump, which is way too easy, I'm going to take a noteworthy line from the presentation and share it with you.
The line is "Don't Confuse Success With Excellence." That seems self-explanatory... or is it? I've thought about it a lot since I heard Burns' presentation, and though it might be self-explanatory, as is often the case with self-explanatory things, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Thanks to television, smart phones, social media and other instant electronic entertainment presentations, there is little time left for contemplation. Information; right, wrong and neutral, is flying at us at such speed that we have established filters which automatically sort and file it without consideration to content, accuracy, or importance. All that matters is grabbing enough from it to carry on a thirty-second conversation about it at work or at the gym.
Yes, Mr. Burns, we do confuse success with excellence. We also confuse right with wrong and black with white. We don't do that because we're stupid. We do it because we're into information overload, and we're afraid if we back away from the deluge we'll miss something important. Or, to put it another way, we are drowning because we don't believe we have time to learn to swim.
The issue isn't confusing success with excellence. The issue is taking the time to consider the issue. It's time, and way past time, for us to withdraw, breathe, and remember what matters. That's right - REMEMBER. Because, Mr. Burns, we do know the difference between success and excellence, right and wrong, and black and white. What we don't seem to know is how to step out of the river of bullshit and relax in what matters.
Tomorrow we'll look at a timeless way to do just that - it's called Mindfulness.
Insist on heroes and be one.
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