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20 May 2012 - Writing a Book of Life

About a month ago I talked about two challenges that I am facing. Number One, writing a book about my life’s adventures and Number Two, the invitation to deliver the Commencement Address at the University of Illinois.

No. 2 is now history and some of you have sent e-mails asking, “ . . . so what do you tell college graduates today?” That was a question I asked myself every day for a month as I prepared for the presentation on Mother’s Day. I focused on two themes, first, ‘You Can’t Dream Big Enough’ and I based that on my own experience because when I was 16 years-old, sitting on a stool milking cows on the Wisconsin dairy farm, I could never have dreamed of the adventures that I would have, the places I would visit and the people I would meet, so I tell young people today, ‘You can’t dream big enough’.

Then, since I am finally involved in writing a book, and know what that challenge is like, I compared the life of graduates to writing a book. When each of us arrives on this planet, we begin writing our ‘Book of
Life’. I told the graduates that on their graduation day, they start writing a new chapter and, God willing, there will be many more chapters in their book. So I suggested some chapter titles for their book of life, starting with technology and the change it brings to our lives, and shared my feeling that half of the graduates will end up in jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

Then I suggested the “Dream” chapter, containing those bigger-than-life dreams and how to make them reality; along with that a chapter titled “Bumps in the Road” because not every idea goes as planned. I suggested a chapter on “Heroes”, mentors to help guide your life; in my case, people like Harold Brock, a tractor designer of two iconic farm tractors and Norman Borlaug, Father of the Green Revolution.

Another chapter...”Life Lessons Learned”, and I shared a couple of mine. First of all, ‘Never evaluate a happening when it happens. Give it some time to develop because there is probably a reason for it.’ Number two, ‘Find something you like to do so much you will do it for nothing, and then do it so well, you will get paid for it’. I have been doing that for the past 60 years.

And I ended with what I consider the most important chapter of all, “The Family,” putting spouse and children first and making time to devote to family activities. So, in 17 minutes I told the graduates to dream big and write a positive book of life.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.