The Power of the Pause Button

Press Pause

I don’t know what it is about the Kennedy’s.  They just seem to have this innate, timeless wisdom.  I mean, how could you not think about “ask not what your country could do for you, ask what you can do for your country” and be inspired?

Well, here we go again.  When I watched this video of Maria Shriver’s commencement address to USC’s Annenberg’s Communications School, I was truly overwhelmed by it’s power.  It is 20 minutes long, but OMG it is so good, it is so thoughtful, it is so deeply insightful, it is well worth it!  There’s also a transcript on the link, if you prefer to scan.

In her speech, Maria Shriver tells graduates to have the courage to “press the pause button”.  Instead of instantly reacting to the barrage of questions that are asked of you and the crazy pace of decisions that are needed from you, it’s important to pause, to reflect, to find out what you love, to make sure you are solving the right problem instead of the one in front of you.  Let all of those internal passions inform your work and your life, instead of external expectations that force you down a path you think you have to follow.

She encourages them to stop, look around, and to check in with themselves.  It sounds so simple, when she asks them to “spend a moment”.  I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t benefit from spending a moment, from sleeping on it, from stepping back to gain some perspective.   And, when I have made larger retreats (quitting jobs, traveling, etc.), they have always enriched my life in ways beyond words.  She also mentioned others who have famously “withdrawn from the outer journey” – Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Buddha.  Seems like good company.  Perhaps they were on to something.

I wish I had Maria Shriver at my commencement address (instead of the Aga Kahn whose message, I’m sure had nothing to do with having a conversation with your heart or of taking the high road, not that I remember any of it).  And I wish that I had the wisdom when I graduated college to understand the power of the pause button.  I look back at all the blind ambition that drove so many of my decisions, and I’m puzzled that no one ever told me this before.  Or maybe they did and I didn’t listen.  Well, I’m listening now….

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