Returning to scenes of youth is always complicated business, the stuff that makes high school reunions emotionally fraught. How have I changed, how haven’t I, and how do I express those things when I come home? I know Brad Frost was sweating these topics as he toiled over his commencement speech at the high school where he graduated 14 years ago.
Months before he gave the talk, he told me he was already nervous about it. Turns out he didn’t need to worry. In fact, the “what has/hasn’t changed” anxiety turned out to be central to his wonderful speech. I especially loved this message:
The things you will be doing in 14 years’ time will no doubt be different than the things you’re doing at this phase in your life. A recent study by the Department of Labor showed that 65% of students going through the education system today will work in jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Think about that. That means that the majority of today’s students — probably including the majority of this graduating class — will end up working in jobs that don’t presently exist. Technology is advancing at a staggering rate, it’s disrupting industries, it’s inventing new ones, and it’s constantly changing the way we live and work.
When I was a kid, I didn’t say “Mom, Dad, I want to be a web designer when I grow up!” That wasn’t a thing. And yet that’s now how I spend most of my waking hours, and how I earn my living, and how I provide for my family.
Our daughter Nika is about to start her final year of high school, and she sometimes worries that she doesn’t yet have enough vision for what she’ll become in her life and career—that she’s behind. But she knows what she loves, and she has so many talents, so we try to reassure her that knowing her skills, values, and personality is far more important than knowing a vocation. Vocations shift far more quickly than the rest.
When I graduated from high school (30 years ago next year!), the web hadn’t been invented, mainstream email was years away, and phones were cabled to the wall. But even then, I had a passion for both storytelling and systems—and those have been the guiding threads of a career spanning many kinds of jobs, culminating (for now at least!) in work shaping experiences of and for connected devices.
The great thing about returning to scenes of youth is that sometimes—like Brad—you get to talk to the kids coming up behind you. You can share the advice you’d offer your younger self. Nice work, Brad.