The Honorable Doctor

This is the season for commencement addresses, and lucky indeed are the schools that can draw a high profile speaker who is also inventive and succinct.

And then there are the others – places where exhausted and anxious graduates have to endure lengthy speeches from self-important outliers who thrive in the place where science, business and insanity meet.

Text of the Commencement Address by Dr. Larry Kyle, founder of the supermarket Genway, to the graduating class at the Designing Nature Academy (DNA), a Genetic Engineering School.

Hello Graduates,

Looking at all of you waiting to get your B.S.’s from DNA, it makes me think of my most favorite letter of all – I!

When I was in your position, I thought I would get a job in a big scientific laboratory, posing impossible questions and squinting at test tubes all day. I imagined that I would draw a huge paycheck for this work because my mind is nimble and original and I like to think up things that no one has ever thought before.

Little did I know how weak the demand is for unusual thoughts. Unusual thoughts are suspicious and are treated with disdain by the world at large. What the world wants are USUAL thoughts that are guaranteed to make money, but that no one else has ever thought of.

Some of you will manage to convince your clueless employers that you can come up with this kind of magical idea. I hope you’ll be gone with the money before they realize they’ve been hoodwinked.

A very select few will follow my path.

I have found that to do the truly weird, genuinely “out there” work that the world needs but can’t ask for, you must go on a personal crusade with three “I”’s to guide you.

Independence. Ingenuity. And Insanity.

I am that three “I”’d monster! That’s what allowed me to create some of Genway’s most famous genetically engineered produce, like Bumble Grapes, Screaming Pumpkins and Crayfish Kohlrabi!

When people heard about the kind of work I wanted to do, many of them said things like “No”, and “Stop” and “Great scott, your irresponsible ideas will end up destroying life as we know it!”

This was hard to hear, especially since I discovered early on that I am motivated by the approval of others. Yes! And yet true pioneers are seldom lauded by anyone at the beginning. Or ever. That’s why I took steps to ensure that my supply of approval would never run out.

I hired a yes man, and you should too!

The people who are the CEO’S of major corporations are smart, but they’re no smarter than you. The difference? They have yes men (and some yes women) who bolster their confidence and give them the energy to proceed with their crazy ideas. Confidence is what got them where they are, and confidence will keep them there. It all starts with the word YES.

Now, I realize that many of you don’t have the resources to hire a yes man to personally approve all your impulsive whims, and you might have to start being someone else’s yes man. But eventually, the goal should be to surround your self with feckless enablers!

Allow me to get you started. I want you to think of your weirdest, wildest, wackiest idea that does not involve nudity, gunfire, or invading someone else’s personal space.

Got it? OK.
I think it’s brilliant, and you should do it.
As soon as I leave campus.

Thank you very much, and good luck to all of us!

What is the key to success?

77 thoughts on “The Honorable Doctor”

  1. there is a book called strength finders by tom rathi am reading right now that talks about the fact that many people are not fully engaged in their work, they are not doing what they love and are best at. in order to be a success yo need to find out what you are good at and do it. pretty straight forward stuff. looking for an employer is always a trick. i am a great worker but a terrible employee. i can get the job done and do it better than most but yo may not be pleased if you watch me go about it. its a little bit unorthodox. jobs a good way to start but passions and livelyhoods are the goal. find a way to feed yourself menatally physically spiritually and then build it. in the words of winston churchill, never never never give in.

    The boys of Harrow, his old school; that was the entire text of his speech.
    ADDENDUM: That Churchill spoke only those words and sat down is a commonly reported myth. Here is the entire text of his inspiring speech, delivered October 29, 1941. Notice that the line in question is, never give in, which is quite different from never give up: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
    TEXT of the speech:
    “Almost a year has passed since I came down here at your Head Master’s kind invitation in order to cheer myself and cheer the hearts of a few of my friends by singing some of our own songs.
    “The ten months that have passed have seen very terrible catastrophic events in the world–ups and downs, misfortunes– but can anyone sitting here this afternoon, this October afternoon, not feel deeply thankful for what has happened in the time that has passed and for the very great improvement in the position of our country and of our home?
    “Why, when I was here last time we were quite alone, desperately alone, and we had been so for five or six months. We were poorly armed. We are not so poorly armed today; but then we were very poorly armed. We had the unmeasured menace of the enemy and their air attack still beating upon us, and you yourselves had had experience of this attack; and I expect you are beginning to feel impatient that there has been this long lull with nothing particular turning up!
    “But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough. It is generally said that the British are often better at the last. They do not expect to move from crisis to crisis; they do not always expect that each day will bring up some noble chance of war; but when they very slowly make up their minds that the thing has to be done and the job put through and finished, then, even if it takes months – if it takes years – they do it.
    “Another lesson I think we may take, just throwing our minds back to our meeting here ten months ago and now, is that appearances are often very deceptive, and as Kipling well says, we must “…meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same.”
    “You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination.
    “But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period–I am addressing myself to the School–surely from this period of ten months, this is the lesson:
    “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
    “We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.
    “Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.
    “You sang here a verse of a School Song: you sang that extra verse written in my honor, which I was very greatly complimented by and which you have repeated today. But there is one word in it I want to alter – I wanted to do so last year, but I did not venture to. It is the line: “Not less we praise in darker days.”
    “I have obtained the Head Master’s permission to alter darker to sterner. ‘Not less we praise in sterner days.’
    “Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days–the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”


  2. What can I say to follow Larry Kyle and Winston Churchill?……..

    June is busting out all over. Go forth baboons and enjoy!


  3. Rise and Succeed Baboons!

    I don’t really feel equipped to say much after Winston Churchill’s words. I feel like I should be writing this in very small type.

    All I can think of to answer this is as follows: to succeed in what I am doing now, I had to stop believing that some other people in my life knew what they were doing. They did not. Some people simply create that illusion. Then I had to believe that I knew what I was doing, OR that I could learn the parts I did not know. And I had to come to believe that others would follow me. They have.

    Whadya know?


    1. it is quite a revalation when the understanding that your take on the world is what you need to go with. the athorities and experts are in their own sphere and while not neccessarily totally off base they are certainly not to be followed unquestioned. you lead you and if others follow god bless them. if only you follow that is enough.


  4. Good morning to all:

    Sucess? I think it is mostly associated with getting ahead of others and having a lot of money. That really isn’t a good path and one that usually doesn’t lead in a good direction. If that’s sucess, I think it is better to be unsucessful. Well, having lots of money money and a top position are things that most of us want, but they shouldn’t be our main goal in life.


  5. First, define ‘success’. It can take many forms, and if you try to be successful in a way that’s not compatible with your desires, you’ll never get there.
    Second, define what truly gives you joy, delight, energy, fulfillment, whatever, and try to incorporate that into your everyday life. If you are paid for that activity, so much the better.
    Third, remember that life is tough and unfair. Nothing is guaranteed. Lazy bums win the lottery, hard-working, smart, talented people end up homeless and bankrupt, or die early or unfairly. Take nothing for granted. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
    Fourth, find someone to share your successes with. He/she can be a friend, lover, spouse, soulmate, whomever. Enjoying tiumphs loses its luster fast if you’re the only one celebrating.
    Finally, leave a legacy. Something positive that the world or someone in the world will remember you by. Be able to say on your death bed, “I made the world a better place with my tiny contribution.”

    That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head this morning. 🙂

    Chris in Owatonna


  6. If, by success, you mean being happy, I think it takes making sure that what you are working for is something you truly want, not what other people think you should want. Luck and help from other people can’t hurt, either. I also think it is important to view oneself as part of a community. Today it is sunny and I believe we will finish planting the garden. My supervisor is in the office today. She lives in Bismarck and had to evacuate her home and move to an apartment due to the floods there. I won’t expect too much humor from her, so I had better watch myself. I tend to joke and tease more than she apprecieates at times.


  7. Good morning everyone.

    Thanks, tim, for posting that entire Churchill speech. What an extraordinary mind.

    The key to success? I’m not sure that I know, but I think I know what it’s not. As someone who has spent a lot of time trying to live up to other people’s expectations, I’ve learned that the reward for doing so didn’t feel like success to me. I had the idea that success would feel good, and it didn’t, so that was no success. As a society, I think we often define success in terms of money. How much do you earn, how much have you accumulated? Trouble is, some people never get enough. I quit a relatively high paying job in 1992 because I was miserable. Couldn’t stand my boss, hated the paperwork I was responsible for, and couldn’t sleep at night. In fact, I didn’t even enjoy the company’s parties that my husband and I were expected to attend. I was spending my life doing something I didn’t consider worthwhile. One of those sleepless nights I had an epiphany! Quit. My next thought was, they’ll just offer you more money to stay, how much would it take? That’s when the epiphany occurred: This was NOT about money. NO amount of money was worth spending my life in misery.

    I share the views of CiO and Renee, unfortunately I had to learn it the hard way.


      1. I did volunteer work. That eventually led to a full time job that was much more satisfying, at least for the first five. Initially the job was grant writing and fun(d) raising, then evolved into personnel manager and finally director of administration. By the time i retired 14 years later, I had gotten myself back into the same people-managing business that I knew I didn’t like. Some people just never learn!


      2. at least you tried. good for you. its hard to lose the people leading mojo if you are capable. most people look for someont to tell them how high to jump and if you can do that in a way that lets them know if they have failed or succeded you have a place in that world that others can’t imagine themselves doing. well welcome to our band of merry bloggers and away we go off to solve the problems of the world via our internet connections. i enjoy you as an addition to the group.


  8. Excellent thoughts all – I will add this: happiness and contentment are not the same thing. Do not chase happiness when want you need is contentment. Contentment comes from a place of enjoying who you are, who you are with, and what you are doing. It comes from taking time to say, “today, right now, this is good.” A high paying job (as MotWS has so astutely pointed out) may not bring contentment, nor can a big house, a fancy car, etc. I am preaching to the choir on this, I’m sure. To expect gleeful happiness out of every day is perhaps expecting too much – these are peaks. Most of life is not those peaks, but a level-set of overall contentment smooths the lows out and makes the high points that much sweeter.

    (Also, getting back to tim’s Strength Finders reference – and it is an intriguing book and an interesting exercise in figuring out how to use your strengths to make work a more enjoyable thing – my top five strengths are Learner, Input, Maximizer, Positivity, and Intellection. Or as my bestest pal summarized: I like to think productive pink bubble gum thoughts. My current employer is good at using these to help you find a “best fit” for how you work and what you do.)


    1. good for best buy, they seem to try to do this more than the average employeer and are to be applauded for it. glad they figured out how to put a bubble gum thought person to the proper use, ill bet they are too


    2. Agreed, Anna. One of my favorite quits (Spanish proverb):
      There is no happiness – only moments of happiness.


  9. As mentioned several times above, success requires that you “Know Thyself”, what you love and excel at, and then staying on that path, not being distracted by every shiny object that comes along. Hmmm, going to think on this some more.

    It might also be fun to, as Dr. Kyle asked: think of your weirdest, wildest, wackiest idea that does not involve nudity, gunfire, or invading someone else’s personal space. Mine would be, as I’ve said before, chucking the pastoral life as we know it and jumping in an RV for several months…


    1. If I am following Dr. Kyle’s advice, I would add a room onto the house just for me, work part time (I like what I’m doing too much to give it up totally), and spend the balance of my days writing.


  10. It’s the Middle Road I Regret

    Regrets do come with advancing age,
    You often wish you could turn back the page,
    To the time when you had to choose,
    Not that this life you would willing lose.

    But how many branches in my way
    Were very obvious on that day?
    How many were subtle and small,
    And I did not see them clearly, if at all.

    Frost says that some time in the past
    He chose one way, the die was cast.
    But I think the big choices are often three,
    That has been all the difference to ME.

    For I chose the middle road, the safe one,
    Not that I regret much of what I have done.
    But what if my choices had been bolder,
    If I had chosen more of life to shoulder.

    If I had been more saint or sinner,
    If I had eaten more or less at dinner,
    Meaning not the meal to feed the beast,
    But life’s big banquet, God’s great feast.

    If I chose to be really rich or intentionally poor,
    And not fight the bills falling at my door.
    That is the one I wonder about the most,
    Would I have had more time to serve the Host?

    Too often my life has been driven by others,
    This is another of my larger drothers.
    To left or right might have been better,
    Than to take the way of the middle-class debter.

    When I chose to teach I wrote in sand.
    What finally results is not of my hand.
    My students will succeed or they will fail,
    Who knows what part I played in their tale.

    On any branch there would have been strife,
    Only would THINGS claimed so much of my time,
    If I had lived by reason and rhyme,
    Not by hearing the modern American chime?

    But I got to here with children and wife,
    That has been the best of this life.
    God, they say, will take me to rest,
    He may tell me this was mostly a jest.


      1. This one is more polished than most I post. I first wrote this 3-4 years ago and have slowly worked on it. Most things I post I did right then and then later rework.


  11. I’m having trouble with tim’s buddy, Winston Churchill and his advice. Is the secret to success truly a matter of brute effort, doing what you are doing over and over? When you’ve had your teeth handed to you in the first 499 boxing matches, are you supposed to look forward to the 500th match? Is that gonna bring success? We’ve been warned against naysayers, but here I rise to wag my pointer finger and say, “Nay, nay . . . (or is it neigh, neigh?”)

    I knew a man–the world’s most boring dentist–who was worried about his heart and feeling anxious. He worked harder and harder at his practice and kept having little heart attacks. He sought advice from his doctor. Pay attention, therapists, to a man who had more to say than “So how did that make you feel?”

    The dentist described his concerns and asked the doc what he should do.

    “Well, it’s your choice Ken, but if you stay with dentistry I think you’ll be a dead man within half a year. A year, max. Isn’t there something you would rather do?”

    “Ummm, I always wanted to be a writer.”

    “Then go home and be a writer. It beats the hell out of dying. And while you’re at it, Ken, isn’t that wife of yours the source of a lot of stress?”

    “She sleeps with my friends.”

    “Well, while you’re cleaning house, you probably want to chuck her into the street. And why not this afternoon?”

    I do have a positive point. Often–very often–success requires the proper match of person to situation. If you are the world’s most stressed dentist, success might take the form of becoming writing books about deer hunting; it worked for Ken. If you can’t sell hats, maybe you should take a shot at being President of the USA; it worked for Harry Truman. If you are miserable in your marriage, maybe it is time to realize that refusing to give up is not going to do it for you.

    Success often follows naturally when we can find the right situation in which to struggle. Be prepared to work at any challenge with all your heart, but first try to get yourself in the right place.


      1. “First I was a hippie, then I was a stockbroker, now I am a hippie again…Na na na naaah na” The Bobs (I think)


    1. Hmmm, something to think about! But in Churchill’s case, failure was not an option, persistence and brute force were required. But you do have a point, sometimes tossing in the towel is the wise thing to do.


  12. Re LK’s yes men to the CEO: In 1984 I spent most of a day with the CEO of 3M, who was one of the great CEO’s ever, to whom many management books made reference as a model, who fostered one of the most innovative corporate cultures ever. He had with him a cadre of yes men, ostensible future VP’s I assume. He was thoughtful and human to me, this petty no-entity compared to the world in which he and they moved.
    He enjoyed a long day that to almost all in his position would have been far beneath him. His pack of yes men fawned on him but were rude to me and the rest of my group when they thought he was not watching, making it clear that they resented being there. By the end of the day the CEO had made furniture movers out of them. (They were bringing a large desk to Two Harbors where there is a 3M museum.)
    At the end of the long day he pulled me aside and was very gracious to me and then explained that he was aware of his yes men’s behavior and apologized. He told me that small men could not feel large roles, which these group had not learned.


  13. I think we are all in agreement about rejecting wealth and fame as a measures of personnel success. The more dificult area is how to succeed as a citizen. How to successfully confront the many bad things we face the world today is really a very big problem.


  14. Afternoon all. Car issues and then meetings have kept me away so far. But I’m feeling very successful. Last night I picked up the phone and it was the teenager telling me that she’d just had a flat tire on 94 eastbound between Mpls and St. Paul. No panic, no hysteria, just a calm “what should I do”. I had her pull out her AAA card and give them a call and then before AAA showed up, MNDoT showed up and put the spare on for her. She even had the presence of mind to call AAA back and tell them she was fine. Smart, strong, calm teenager. I couldn’t have done anything better with my life if I had tried!


      1. VS; Goodness, I hope you don’t take that in a negative way! I didn’t mean it that way… Yes, good on both of you for handling it well and then isn’t it neat how MNDoT arrived before AAA?


      2. Nope – I didn’t take it that way at all. In fact, I feel a little sheepish taking credit for the teenager. She is so amazing to me, it seems like a miracle that she’s mine!


  15. wait til you find out she popped the tire running over a road hazard she would have seen had she not been texting while driving and with the radio blasting tunes too loud


    1. No rain on this parade. I already knew the tire was going to have to be replaced sometime this summer… it had a nasty bulge and was making the car shake a little at higher speeds. It just beat me to the punch!


  16. I think any success I have had probably involved saying “I meant to do that” and somehow managing to sound convincing.


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