Delivered by Jensen, Peter
Chancellor McCain, President Campbell, distinguished faculty, paying parents, and graduating students ... it is my distinct honor to address you this afternoon at my alma mater UNB. In the fall of 1964 at 18 years of age I got on an evening bus in Noranda, a northern Quebec mining town for an overnight trip to Montreal where I boarded a train that I thought was bound for Fredericton. Turned out the train went to Newcastle where my trunk and I were dumped on the platform. Unbeknownst to me my post secondary education had just begun. Adversity can be a gifted teacher if you let it. Some of life's most important lessons are not very friendly. Like being dumped on a platform in Newcastle!
Now throughout high school and during my first 2 years at UNB my marks were always in the half of the class that made the top half possible. Then the new Beaverbrook library opened. Instead of going to the Riverview Arms immediately after dinner I started going and sitting in the new red room at the library for a half hour. It was pleasant and it turned out that there were a lot of young women in the library. I started to stay longer and to fit in I actually started to do school work and a miraculous thing occurred ... my marks went up quite dramatically. I still got to the pub, just closer to 9 and found out I really hadn't missed anything. But the strangest thing was I started to actually enjoy being an achiever.
I graduated, got a teaching job, and eventually went back to grad school and over the years arrived where I am now. You are at the graduating part right now in that journey and very soon things will change quite dramatically for you. The last few years, whether you're aware of it or not, you had tremendous clarity in terms of your goal and where you are going. You wanted to be here, at this graduation ceremony. Congratulations you're at the first landing on the staircase of life. End goals are an interesting thing you know where you're at and you know where you want to go but the middle is often very murky. When you first started at UNB you had a sense of where you want to go but it wasn't a straight line to you getting on the stage. The next stage can be a bit harder.
Deciding to go to university gives you some clarity and sense of purpose for four years but what about now? One of the things that I have learned in my life is that it is easier to be pulled by where you're going then pushed by where you're at. What is going to pull you through the next 2 to 3 years of your life? What is your clear and compelling mental image of the future? Now I'm quite sure you won't do this tonight or perhaps even this month but it's never a bad idea to get some sense of where you going. The famous American philosopher Yogi Berra once said, "if you don't know where you're going then you're bound to end up somewhere else."
From my work with elite performers I have discovered that there are two allies that can really help you on this journey to becoming who and what you want to be. They are emotion and imagination. Emotion is very much the fast track to the brain. Often it isn't until were totally dissatisfied with what is happening now that we move to ought to be, we move away from what we want to be less like towards what we like to be more like.
We don't always see emotion as development but it is. Emotion does not come out of the sky it comes from the stories we tell ourselves and the bits of those stories we start to imagine.
It really comes in layers. There are the stories we tell ourselves then the minute we start to imagine that meeting, this difficult presentation, that irritating person .... Our physiology starts to change. It really doesn't matter by the way if what we are telling our self is true. If you're alone late at night in a house you don't feel comfortable in whether you're safe or not does not even come into it the minute you start to imagine things your physiology changes dramatically.
But here's the key thing under every single emotion is energy, the energy to transform, the energy to move forward. On that platform in Newcastle I can assure you there was energy beneath my fear and uncertainty. I will often say to an elite athlete who has a major set back or disappointment .... where are you going to put that energy? You can use it to talk to others who are equally disappointment and it will make us feel close, pull us together as a group ... it's what Joan B once called aufulizing ... Ben Zandler, the conduct of the Boston Philharmonic calls it the conversation of no possibilities because it doesn't take us anywhere.
If emotion is a push out of somewhere, then imagery is a pull towards something. Quite simply imagery is the language of performance. What does that mean? You can't do things you can't imagine. Imagination, said Einstein, is more important than knowledge. Most blocks are internal, in the imagination. You body speaks imagery not English, French, Korean or Italian.
When you hit a rough patch take the energy beneath your emotion/disappointment, get back in touch with your vision, where you want to go, and put your attention on the next step. Performance in any realm is all about what you choose to pay attention too. You may be hurt, or disappointed, or afraid but what else are you? At difficult time we would do well to remember all of who we are. I am competent, strong, caring, skilled ... and afraid. That is the whole truth. Afraid or disappointed is one small piece of the pie that is you. And while your at it, don't forget ... you are a UNB Grad ... or will be soon if I ever finish!
Lastly take a sense of humour with you. At the turn of the last century Chesterton said that angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. We fly much higher and with greater ease on ourselves and on those around us when we choose to take ourselves a little more lightly.
Thank you very much and my very best to each and everyone of you.
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