Not about you?

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I just read a very interesting New York Times Op Ed piece by David Brooks called, It’s Not About You. Given the time of year with graduation speeches he has identified the developmental tasks that are facing young people as they graduate and enter the workforce. His message is that these tasks are contradictory to the preparation received by graduates’ educations as well as the messages sent in graduation speeches.

I found two of his statements very interesting. The first one ends in a very powerful statement (emphasis is mine):

Today’s graduates are also told to find their passion and then pursue their dreams. The implication is that they should find themselves first and then go off and live their quest. But, of course, very few people at age 22 or 24 can take an inward journey and come out having discovered a developed self.

He goes on to say

Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.

I think the developed self is constructed all our lives, from birth forward. It is influenced by our inborn natures as well as the experiences we have. Self-reflection can start early and contribute to better decision making and self-regulation at any age. I do think those graduates could benefit from knowing themselves well in terms of the information personality type models can give them—their core needs, talents, drives, beliefs, how they tend to interact, how they tend to think about things.

My colleague, Dario Nardi, has been teaching undergraduates at UCLA for over 12 years. In the context of the courses he teaches, he introduces them to temperament and the eight Jungian functions and sometimes Interaction Styles. In his courses he gives them group and individual assignments the personality lenses in the context of the specific course. By the time they graduate, they know a lot about themselves as well as the systems in which they operate. The self-reflection he encourages promotes development. I know, I’ve met some of his students and the students know. In a way, he is providing them with the education they need to be more flexible in the unstructured environments they will be entering. And they learn about themselves in the process. More powerful than taking an instrument. No wonder he won UCLA’s Teacher of the Year Award this year.

My message for college graduates would be: It is about you, but not ALL about you. Know yourself and develop a practice of self-reflection. If you don’t already have a sense of passion or a dream to fulfill, do work with that sense of self-reflection so you’ll know when you find it. Some of us get it early, some later.


  1. robert


    "We see ourselves not so well as by reflection"  My paraphrase from one of Shakespeares works.
    In the context to which I comment, the reflection needs to be both upon ourselves – about ourselves and about our selves as reflected by others – including inventories.
    Graduates/Students are indeed told to go out and pursue their passion, but they graduate – for the most part – unaware of how passion is pursued in a world structured to make use of people.  Passion quickly fades as the reality of working to live takes precedence.
    How one changes this, I do not know; but reflection no doubt has a role.

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