The Past: The Dream
What would we like to do if money were no object?
How would we really enjoy spending our lives?
Let us suppose that every night you could dream any dream you wanted to dream
You now have the power to dream 75, 85, or 100 years of time in one night
On this journey each of us would fulfill all your wishes and desires.
In your dream would have every kind of pleasure and success you could conceive.
You would be born,
You would attend school,
You would have your first kiss,
Your first love,
Your first car,
You would swim for the first time in the sea,
You would ski unskiiable mountains high above the clouds
You would climb the highest peaks,
You would float in space and
See fish swim across the sea floor.
You would marry,
Have a family and see your child’s eyes as you imparted your wisdom unto them and money would never be an object.
Forget the money.
You see, Money is a means to an end.
It will take you where you want to go, but it will not replace you as the driver.
Money is important as a tool.
But if you say that money is the most important thing, you’ll be doing things you don’t like doing to go on living, that is: to go on doing things you don’t like doing.
Which is stupid.
Now, think back to your own childhood….
You were a dreamer…
What were the fascinating things?
What’s out there?
What’s beyond the mountains?
What’s beyond the seas?
What’s beyond the stars?
When a child dreams it is exciting.
It is full of uncertainty, but we are excited…
Its something that never ends.
Yet at the same time, embracing the uncertainty of this very moment is hard isn’t it?
We are often distracted with nostalgia for the past or anxiety over our future.
Yet .. When we play a game and the outcome of the game becomes certain, we at that very moment – cancel the game and begin a new one.
Because the whole excitement of the thing is that you don’t know what the next step is going to be.
If you did know, you wouldn’t take it.
Let’s have a dream which isn’t under control.
Let’s have a dream which is out of control.
You would like that and come out and say wow that was a close shave wasn’t it?
And then you would be dreaming: where you are right now.
You see – A completely predictable future is already the past. You’ve had it already.
** It is your solemn duty to learn how to enjoy yourself. **
The Now: A Sense of Purpose and Enjoyment
Every once in a while a man should stop and look around and ask himself, where am I and where am I going?
And at each moment he is either a King or a slave.
We must always know which we are.
As we surrender to the wrong appetites, to human weakness; as we fall subject any condition, to any environment, to any failure, we are slaves.
Yet as we day by day crush out human weakness,
master opposing elements within ourselves,
and day by day re-create ourselves,
rising from the sin and folly of our past,
—then we are Kings.
We are Kings ruling with wisdom over ourselves, zealously conquering each moment in which we live as that moment arrives.
God will only ask you for one thing when you die, just as he did Alexander the Great –
When I gave you so much, why did you settle for so little?
Because it’s not enough, is it?
Our lives, our careers, even this very moment …
Alexander the Great conquered the whole world except,— Alexander. Emperor of the earth, he was the servile slave of his own passions.
It is far better to have a shorter life as King of yourself – full of the things you like doing than a longer life spent in a miserable way – as a slave to condition and environment — the artificial demands of a facile world
To quote the British Philosopher Alan Watts: ** It is your solemn duty to learn how to enjoy yourself. **
The secret is … your life will be longer anyway.
When you combine a purpose-driven life with happiness you get something the Japanese call Ikigai.
It is your raison d’etre … it is your purpose of being.
In 2004, Dan Buettner, an American explorer teamed up with National Geographic and a team of longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people live measurably longer better.
These places are called Blue Zones
In these “Blue Zones” Dan and his team found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.
After identifying 5 of the world’s Blue Zones, Dan and National Geographic took teams of scientists to each location to identify lifestyle characteristics that might explain longevity.
They found that the lifestyles of all Blue Zones residents shared nine specific characteristics but one moreso than any other.
Dan found that the blue zone of Okinawa, Japan was joined with the others all over the world including Nuoro, Sardinia, in one significant feature:
Older citizens could still readily articulate the reason they get up in the morning.
Their sense of purpose gives them clear roles of responsibility and feelings of being needed well into their 100s.
But not every purpose is ikigai.
It’s quite possible to be driven and dedicated but without experiencing the true nature of ikigai.
Ikigai is something that brings joy and contentment.
It fills a person with resolve and a sense of satisfaction in what they are doing. Most of all, it brings happiness.
** This is the heart of the EMBL – Success and personal enjoyment can come together in one package. **
What we have done was rarely dull, it was rarely easy, it was rarely unenjoyable, it was an adventure, it was the combination of hard work and enjoyment, the keys to a long happy life…
That is the spirit of what we have enjoyed and endured here in this program.
I suspect many of us in this room came here with an expectation … a prediction of what would be gained.
I also suspect that for many of us what we gained was what we needed more than what we predicted.
Back in June 2014, some 18 months, 8 passport stamps and 30,000 lufthansa miles ago we started on a journey together. This journey has lead us here and into the future.
Now the road divides and our lives change, perhaps it rejoins in the future, it crosses and merges
As we leave this program we are faced with new uncertainties…
The Future: Finding Progress from Chaos
What will this degree mean?
Will I stay in my job?
Will I continue my studies?
Will I continue to live in Switzerland, or America, or China, or Russia, or Austria, or Germany?
Will I see my friends from around the world?
In 2012 one of my best friends told me about the Camino de Santiago in northern spain.
After walking almost 800 kilometres across spain I learned something that I carry with me every day.
Something my best friend told me …
Living life is like being a boxer in the ring, never stop moving or else you will get hit.
I propose that each of us takes one thing away: Change is inevitable, but progress is not.
Fight for that which is valuable, but know when you are fighting for your joy and purpose and know when you are fighting for that predictable worn path.
Do not sacrifice that which you value the most for that which makes sense.
Embrace uncertainty by taking the opportunities that come before us rather than pushing down that worn path towards a predicted finish.
As we sit here today, graduates of the University of St. Gallen, we have just completed a program that is the perfect embodiment of the idea that enjoyment and purpose do come together in a powerful package.
Continue to seek out opportunities as unique as what we’ve just shared and
I have no doubt we will all find the greatest success in the most uncertain and unexpected of places.
Now to move ahead with purpose and joy.
Change is inevitable. Progress is not.
It is your solemn duty to learn how to enjoy yourself.
The American Swiss Foundation’s Young Leaders Conference was initiated in 1990 to create person-to-person exchange and foster mutual understanding among the next generation of leaders in Switzerland and the United States.
Held in Switzerland each year, the Conference brings together approximately 50 Americans and Swiss aged 28-40 for a week of intensive discussion and exchange on a broad range of current issues of importance to American-Swiss relations; meetings with high-level diplomatic, government, business, media, and cultural leaders; and excursions to Switzerland’s beautiful mountains and historic landmarks.
The U.S. participants are carefully selected by a Nominating Committee of the Board of Directors based on outstanding achievement and strong personal recommendations of senior leaders. In Switzerland, participants are selected by the Foundation’s Swiss Advisory Council.
It was my pleasure to be nominated and participate in the 2011 Young Leaders Conference thanks to Her Excellency Ambassador Faith Whittlesey. There are great issues facing US / Swiss relations which we must address including the United States’ egregious FATCA (Foreign Asset Tax Compliance Act) which unfairly penalizes the greatest source of offshore wealth and foreign direct investment that the United States has had the privilege of enjoying.
All Photos © Robert Agresta 2011 For Public Release
Tim Ferriss: How to feel like the Incredible Hulk – Smash Fear, Learn Anything by the Author of the 4 Hour Workweek and the 4 Hour Body
Possibly the best graduation speech ever given. Steve Jobs 2005 @ Stanford.
Today, of Americans officially designated as ‘poor’, 99 per cent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 per cent have a television, 88 per cent a telephone, 71 per cent a car and 70 per cent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these.
Congratulations Pingwire! An Agresta Acquisitions affiliate, Aftermath Services Corp. is proud to introduce Pingwire. Pingwire is nearly every photo posted to Twitter in realtime. What are people saying?
PingWire creates a live feed that displays a slow, scrolling wall of thumbnail-size versions of photos being posted to Twitter at the moment, and it is hypnotic to watch.
— Paul Boutin
New York Times
From the mundane to the absurd, the innocent to the naughty, the funny to the disturbing, it’s all there playing out for all the world to see.
— Ivan Penn
St. Petersburg Times
With a new picture added about every second it is like seeing a patchwork quilt of global life being sewn – and a people watcher’s dream.
— Kate Russell
The temptation to check out other people’s photos proved too much to resist.
— Duncan Geere
I am proud to announce the formation of Aftermath Ventures Inc., an affiliate of Agresta Acquisitions LLC. Aftermath Ventures (www.aftermath.vc) builds new web/mobile software products in collaboration with entrepreneurs at startups and established businesses. We are the hybrid of an investment fund and software development services company – designed to reduce risk and gain efficiencies in building and launching new software products. Our business model emphasizes a revenue share structure, leveraging our partnership with Aftermath Services (www.aftermath.sc), a web/mobile development services company with offices in New York and Santiago, Chile.
An error only becomes a mistake when you refuse to correct it.
Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is the Japanese equivalent of the French, raison d’être. In English, these translate respectively as: ‘something important one lives for’, and ‘a reason for being’
The Japanese attribute their longevity and overall quality of life to their desire to find ikigai. Unlike our ancestors, why obsess over what the results of our efforts must be when instead we can love ourselves, steadfast in our purpose, confident in our prospects and prosperous in our experience of life.
Credit for this inspiration belongs to Dr. Jane Goodall.
Everyone, according to the Japanese, has a hidden ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.
In January 2007, Outside magazine interviewed a little-known ultrarunner named Dean Karnazes. Ultrarunning or ultramarathoning, is the practice of running races that are sometimes 4 times longer than a standard 26 mile marathon. Save the math: yes, Dean Karnazes is one of those guys running 100 mile long races. Why should we listen to what a guy who spends more time running in a day than most of us spend with our eyes open? Because of exactly that – the struggle.
Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.
– Dean Karnazes, Outdoor Magazine, January 2007.
We live in what has been coined the Age of Anomie. In other words we live in a time of normlessness, where our free horizon of expectation is maybe just as valuable as that – free. Our lives have been lost to text messaging, microwave dinners, Internet pornography and Amazon.com. Once upon a time society would tell us what was sacred, now we have to make things sacred to ourselves in order for them to garner value unto us.
If you want to experience the fullness of life, you have to be content to feel both satiation and hunger; if you’re always stuffed from having gorged on life’s pleasures, you’ll miss out on a whole other dimension of the human experience.
Brett & Kate McKay, The Art of Manliness, March 2011.
It is the delay, the prolonging of the anticipation, that gives us our value when we are willing to impose it upon ourselves. The sacrifice creates the glory. Every philosopher from Thoreau to Ayn Rand have emphasized the means and the method over the end and the results.
Money will take you where you want to go, but it will not replace you as the driver.
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Be a man, be a king.
At each moment of man’s life he is either a King or a slave. As he surrenders to a wrong appetite, to any human weakness; as he falls prostrate in hopeless subjection to any condition, to any environment, to any failure, he is a slave. As he day by day crushes out human weakness, masters opposing elements within him, and day by day re-creates a new self from the sin and folly of his past,—then he is a King. He is a King ruling with wisdom over himself. Alexander conquered the whole world except,— Alexander. Emperor of the earth, he was the servile slave of his own passions.
Brett & Kate McKay, Manvotional: The Kingship of Self Control, January 3, 2010.