Key Note Speech For CalSouthern's Class Of 2016

I'd like to acknowledge CalSouthern's Founder, Dr. Donald Hecht, University President, Dr. Caroll Ryan, Chief Academic Officer, Dr. John Minchin, Dean Grimes, Dean Sampong, Dean McCleod, Dean Herbert and Dean van Heerden, the board of trustees and members of our esteemed faculty.

Welcome proud parents, family and friends and most of all the graduating class of 2016.


I am so honored to be here today. Thank you for inviting me to share in this important moment of your life with you.
What makes this event even more meaningful, is that not too long ago, I was sitting right here where you are today. I graduated with my Psy.D. From CalSouthern's School of Psychology in 2002.

So when Micah Harper asked me to be your keynote speaker, I jumped at the chance to be here with all of you dedicated, special and committed learners.
I know firsthand the time and motivation it took every single one of you to get this degree. The challenge it takes to successfully juggle a job, finances, family, and a personal life with your goals, drive and ambitions.

Well, today you've managed to accomplish all of the above.
This is one of the reasons why speaking in front of you is both exciting, yet daunting.
Although I have spent many years in front of the camera, analyzing the latest stories of the day, public speaking is a completely different skill set.
Part of me always feels a bit surprised when I'm asked to speak in front of an inspiring crowd, because I was always more of a life-long dreamer, happily moving along through life to the beat of my own drummer.
I almost always took the road less traveled.
Perhaps this personal anecdote, will give some more insight about me.


During a taped segment I was doing for Nightline a few months ago, Juju Chang, the reporter I was working with told me she was juggling work and motherhood, like many of us working moms do, on this particular day.

After our segment she was going directly to her son's parent/ teacher conference. I asked her if she was nervous at all about going to this conference, to which she replied quite naturally, "No, not at all".
After she responded, I told her how my mother use to take extra pain killers whenever she had to meet up with my teachers for these types of conferences, during my early years.
Now, I'm not exaggerating! Really, this is a true story.
I'll even give you my mother's email so you can confirm the details with her, later.
Meeting with my teachers was such a painful experience for my mother, Helene that she often had to load up on valium, just to handle the experience.

Juju looked at me in disbelief. There was fortunately no indication during our interview that would ever suggest I was a challenging, rebellious child or student when I was younger. The camera man did find my childhood story a little humorous though, but I don't want to digress.

Now the reason why I'm sharing this story with you today is rather deliberate.
I believe in the power, importance and value of having a little rebellious moxy in your spirit.
There was a study done not too long ago in the Journal of Developmental Psychology which found the behavior of the rebellious, rule-breaking teen was the greatest predictor for those kids growing up to be more successful and earning more than their peers.
It's interesting how a characteristic typically considered negative, has been found to have a positive impact.
I'll expand on this idea in a minute.

When I wrote my latest book, Your Best Age is Now, my goal was equally as deliberate.
It wanted to challenge the negative myths we've been taught to believe about midlife.
The cultural myths that tell us, either overtly or covertly, that midlife is a time of loss and decline.

-A time to give up on yourself,
-To accept that you're losing it,
-That you're over the hill and destined to be invisible now
-Or that there's an expiration date on your dreams.

Fortunately, the current research revealed none of these myths to be true. In fact, it revealed quite the opposite.
Midlife is a time when we're feeling younger longer. In fact, it's taking us all a little longer to grow up.
During midlife

-We feel wiser than ever before
-We tend to see the glass as half full
-And feel better about ourselves than we ever thought we would,
- As well as more confident

One of the central themes in my book is how important it is to tap into your youthful spirit, and for mid-lifers especially, to tap into the positive aspects of their teen energy.
So, what does his mean exactly? It means................
Learning to say, "No" to ideas that no longer serve us well.
To continue to find ways to say, "Yes", to life with a "You Only Live Once" attitude (only with good judgement because we're older and wiser now).
To continually check in with yourself, to ask yourself who you are and who you want and need to be.

We are always in a state of becoming and evolving.
Because we live in a noisy world, that technology and social media has only made noisier, there are lots of different messages being thrown our way.
That's why it's even more important for us to cultivate our ability to:
Develop an inner MOXY.
Reject the status quo,
Develop the power to speak up for what we believe in
And to shake things up a bit, every now and again.

Then we need to take this "Moxy" and mix it up with a bit of creative reinvention.
You've probably reinvented yourself many times in your life already. You're reinventing yourself right now from being a student to a new kind of degreed professional.
Sometimes this reinvention happens so naturally, that we don't even realize it's happening, even though it is.

Studies show engaging in this type of creative reinventive living increases our resilience in the face of daily stressors.

My uncle who's a Local TV weatherman in New York City told me during a recent conversation we had about future goals, that at 70 (and he's a very young looking 70) he plans to do the rest of his life creatively.

This statement really resonated with me, because some of the most powerful and impactful people that I know, live their lives passionately, embracing their talents, while they continue to reinvent themselves.
They don't let anything get in their way. If one door closes, they find another door,
or a window
or create a new key for a whole new door altogether.

Reinvention is so important for us psychologically, because reinvention is about growth and growth equals Happiness.
We are ALWAYS happiest when we're growing and on purpose in life.
Fortunately our reinvention can happen at any time and at any age..........all it takes is:
A desire,
An idea
And some action.

It's really important to choose your future and not wait for your future to choose you.
I call this being proactive.

When I interviewed Suzanne Somers for my book, she told me,
"There is no secret to happiness in life. It's what you decide you want and then go after." Then she said, "I believe one has to insist on life happening for them the way they want it."
Creative reinventors, like Suzanne, make time to envision what's possible and then go for it.
Our daydreams and fantasies can give us amazing access and a front-row seat to our ongoing secret desires. They allow us to test out different roles and try on different lifestyles for size.

Our daydreams and fantasies are great for capturing the true spirit of who we want and are meant to be.
Psychologist Rollo May brilliantly described creativity as "the process of bringing something new into being." Through our creative pursuits we allow ourselves to imagine without judgment, to transform the ordinary, to use our bodies and emotions, and desires to continually find new ways of being in the world. Through the creative reinvention process we learn we can give meaning and voice to our truth, values and ideas.

The third Idea I'd like to highlight here, is about the importance of adding some play and fun into your life. I'm a big fan of both! When I was interviewing for colleges, I had an interview with my top choice school. It was an all-women's small liberal arts college in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
I'm not sure what I was thinking at the time, or why I thought this would impress anyone who's trying to get into their first choice school, but when the interviewer asked me, if I could tell her something about myself, I quickly told her, "Well, I like to party."
I'm not really sure what she thought of me after that. Fortunately, I did get in and the admissions director didn't hold my statement against me.
Now looking back at my 18 year old answer with my 50 year old eyes, I can see the value of what I said back then.

Partying in my mind meant having fun. And fun is something I certainly had a lot of in college.
Having fun is something we should never lose sight of.
I came across this interesting TED talk which spoke about the psychological and biological value of playing and having fun.

Neurological studies show that play lights up our brain and helps us to develop our contextual memory.
It also helps us to adapt to the world around us.
We're designed to play and when we're deprived of this kind of fun we get depressed.
Fun play comes out of our curiosity and our desire to explore.
And we're designed to play throughout our entire lifetime.
Did you know as humans we are the most playful of all the creatures on this planet?
There's even a name for it called Neotenous.


In my book, Your Best Age is Now, I advise people not only to ask the question what would my older self advise my younger self? But to ask themselves what would their younger self ask of their older self?
Perhaps this is something you can ask yourself right now?

Author of The Red Rubber Ball, linguist and trainer for the 76ers, Kevin Carroll, came from a very difficult back ground. He had an alcoholic mother, an absent father, lived in an inner city, and had to take care of his younger brother. He credits the discovery of a playground outside his window as what led him to discover the importance of play. He credits the power of play as having a transformative force over his life.

Including play and fun into your life is creating a life where you're in a flow. A flow where you can find pleasure and joy in the present moment.
Before concluding, I'd like to again highlight the 3 powerful themes I'd love you to leave here with today.
The importance of including:
A little moxy, creative reinvention and some play and fun into your life.

Make the commitment to include and prioritize these ideas into your everyday life.
Now is the time to go follow your internal compass and use your unique and special talents, to make your world and the people in your world a smarter, better and more fun place to be.

After all, It's that's what life is all about?

So, good luck!
Get out there and do your thing!
Continue to be the exception to the rule.
I'm rooting for each and every one of you!!

Thank you!