Australians have a cultural habit known as the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. In this country anyone who achieves great success in their career, in business or social service is exposed to constant and wide-spread ridicule. Sporting success is of course an exception to the general rule.
Some attribute this to the nation’s convict past and the resulting distrust of authority and of highflyers in general; others see here a tyranny of mediocrity brought about by Australia’s isolation from the mother country. Whatever the source, this “Tall Poppy Syndrome” makes it easy to understand the scorn heaped on Steve Jobs in some quarters for his graduation speech recently delivered at Stanford.
He is an easy figure to knock – incredibly wealthy, phenomenally successful (or “lucky” as his detractors say), vain, arrogant, grasping, and so on and so on.
But what he had to say in his speech to those students , heading out into the world, was very good. “Don’t be afraid to fail”. Excellent advice. “Stay foolish. Stay hungry.” Excellent advice. I don’t know if this is exactly what he had in mind, but anyone who fosters a daring approach to the world, who advocates “thinking outside the box” and who asks people to not get complacent, but who always hope for more, is OK in my books.
I wish that someone had said those things to me. I can’t remember any useful advice in the speeches I heard at the three graduations I have been to. Can you?
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Tags: graduation, life, speech, Stanford, steve jobs, tall poppies, valedictory