Recently I had the opportunity to watch Stephen Colbert’s commencement speech to the graduating class of 2011 at Northwestern University. Though his speech was riddled with endless jokes about brothels, skipping class and our generation being inferior, the end of his speech moved me.
There were a couple of thought-provoking takeaways that I would share with you.
1. You Are Not The Most Important Person
Colbert moved down to Chicago after college to take a stab at improv. He quickly found out some key fundamentals to improvisational comedy. “One of the things I was taught early on is that you are not the most important person in the scene. Everybody else is. And if everybody else is more important than you are, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them.”
In improv, and in life, it should be about them, not us. But many of us have the perception that it should be about ME ME ME. We ask, “what can I get out of a particular situation?” We have become consumed in a culture of ME.
Colbert brings a simple solution to perception of, “what can I gain from this?” He goes on to say, “but the good news is you’re in the scene, too. So, hopefully, to them you’re the most important person, and they will serve you. No one is leading. You’re all following the follower; serving the servant.”
If we surround ourselves with people who aren’t about ME, but WE, each of us gains an infinite amount of love, life and happiness. It all starts with realizing a WE over ME approach.
2. You Cannot Win Your Life
You cannot win improv,” Colbert explained.”And life is like an improvisation. You never know what’s going to happen next.”
We don’t know when a job offer is going to come our way, we don’t know the exact date the love of our life is going come in our life, we don’t know when a loved one will get cancer and we don’t where we will be living 20 years from now. As with improv, we often just make things up as we go along.
In my experience, you will truly serve only what you love,” he added, “because as the prophet said, service is love made visible:
If you love friends, you will serve your friends.
If you love community, you will serve your community.
If you love money, you will serve your money.
If you love only yourself, you will serve only yourself. And you will have only yourself.”
So no more winning. No more one-upping one another. Reverse the focus of “ME ME ME” to “WE WE WE”. Serve others and love others, because hopefully you will find those who love and serve you in return.
– Sam Thompson