The Operating System



In this weekly [RE:CON]VERSATION series-within-a-series, thought leader and strategist Jennifer Sertl brings us #REFLECTIONS : a curated list of links mined from her substantive, expansive social technology practice. These resources span geographic and disciplinary bounds to identify sources of guidance and resilience that promise to be of use as we grow in our personal and community behaviors, seeking creative and professional evolution. 

In today’s post, she has scoured the vast offering of commencement speeches from colleges and universities across the country that are now available to the public online — inspiring words and guiding thoughts from a wide range of innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs. When we evolve and grow into resilience, aren’t we always all graduating, daily? There is so much to treasure in today’s collection – these words will resonate no matter what part of your journey you find yourself on.

For more about Jennifer and this series, you can begin with the series introduction here.


My son Griffin is 6 years old and just graduated from kindergarten. Here is a recent conversation we had while I drove him to school one last time:

Griffin: Just like rock, paper, scissors – love always wins bullying, right?

Jennifer : Yes, Griffin. In fact, love also wins learning.

Griffin: I don’t think so. mom – they tie. That won’t work in this game.

Seriously – how lucky are we to learn from our children!
I dedicate this series to all the graduates celebrating a milestone and cheers to the next adventure.
Here are my favorite commencement speeches:
Meryl Streep ~ Your own sweet anonymity, a treasure you don’t even know you have until it’s gone (Barnard College commencement, 2010)

[Full text here at HuffPo]
Jim Yong Kim, President of World Bank ~ Uncertainty is Only Sure Thing  (text only)
Stephen Colbert ~ If you must find your own path and we left you no path – seek the harder path sooner. (University of Virginia commencement, 2013)

Tiffany Shlain ~ If you are not living on the edge – you are taking up way too much space (University of California at Berkeley commencement, 2010)

Steve Jobs ~ You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  (Stanford University commencement, 2005)

[full transcript here]
Noam Chomsky ~ It is common these days to ridicule those who still believe in the ghost in the machine. But that criticism mistakes the problem. Newton exorcised the machine; he left the ghost intact  (University of Connecticut commencement, 1999)

[full transcript here]
David Foster Wallace ~ This is Water ~ (Kenyon College Commencement, 2008)

Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO) ~ Put your foot on that gas pedal and keep it there until the day you have to make a decision, and then make a decision (Barnard College Commencement, 2011)

Oprah Winfrey ~ Failure is just part of moving through life (Harvard University Commencement, 2013)

Steven Covey ~ There are three constants in life . . . change, choice, and principles (Montana State University Convocation, 2008)

I was lucky enough to interview Thomas Friedman in 2006. I asked him how he advising his own daughters relative to career and their future. His response was the following: CQ (curiosity) + PQ (passion) will always supersede IQ (intelligence) . That is curiosity with passion will always find a way to create value.
Onward . . .
Previously in this Series: 
1 –  Series introduction here,
2 – Memorial Day Resources for Resilience here
3 –  Reflections from the Social Innovation Summit at the UN
4 – An Ode to Teachers and Celebration of Learning 


Jennifer Sertl is an internationally respected author, keynote speaker & the president and founder ofAgility3R. Agility3R is a training and development company dedicated to strengthen strategic and critical thinking skills. As a thought leader in the emerging field of corporate consciousness she uses neuroscience and existential philosophy to inspire leaders. Jennifer’s book Strategy, Leadership and the Soul, published by Triarchy Press in the UK provides an innovation model that integrates personal development and business strategy.

Most recently she was a speaker at the Asian Banker Summit in Bangkok, Thailand and at Sibos in Osaka, Japan discussing leadership, globalization and innovation.
Jennifer runs a business simulation strategy game called Interplay™ that facilitates awareness and personal accountability focused upon quantifying intangible assets and human capital.
Caring very deeply about the intersection between human values and technology, she is a strategic advisor to Washington, DC’s think tank Center for Policy and Emerging Technology (C-PET). She was also included in documentary Well-Being In the Digital Age produced by @RDigitaLIFE.
Jennifer has three children ranging in age from kindergarten to high school and is active in her community. She holds dual majors in English and philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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