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30 Bits of Wisdom for the Class of 2013

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It’s graduation season, and that means platitudes are parading out the mouths of notable speakers everywhere. Every year, speakers spew the same old sayings: Never give up! Embrace failure! Be passionate! Here’s a look at speakers who said things a little differently this year.

1. John Green (Author/Host of mental_floss on YouTube): Butler University

“Try not to worry too much about what you are going to do with your life. You are already doing what you are going to do with your life, and judging by the fact that you are wearing a gown, you’re doing pretty well. That’s not a sentence you hear much in life.”

2. Eric Idle (Comedian): Whitman College

“Your life is precious. You've only got one. Don't waste it on bad relationships, on bad marriages, on bad jobs, on bad people. Waste it wisely on what you want to do. But if you're still playing beer pong five years from now, you may be on the wrong track.”

3. Sharyn Alfonsi (Journalist): University of Mississippi, Meek School of Journalism

“Your life will have chapters, complete with crazy characters, villains and a plot you can’t even imagine as you sit here today. It’s a lot like a Scooby Doo episode.”

4. James Carville (Political Commentator): Hobart and William Smith Colleges

“You’re leaving here, and I can sit here and tell you all the vapid bull that comes out of the spring air in Upstate New York about being un-tethered, and drifting out on the sea of life, and plan your work and work your plan and all of that SPAT! You’re getting ready to go get knocked down. That’s what’s going to happen. Everybody wants to be a success but no one wants to stop and understand what it takes to succeed.”

5. Dick Costolo (CEO, Twitter): University of Michigan

“When I was your age, we didn’t have the Internet in our pants. We didn’t have the Internet NOT in our pants. That’s how bad it was.”

6. Steven Colbert (Comedian): University of Virginia, Valediction Ceremonies

“Don’t worry if we don’t approve of your choices. In our benign self-absorption, I believe we have given you a gift. A particular form of independence because you do not owe the previous generation anything. Thanks to us, you owe it to the Chinese.”

7. Anne-Marie Slaughter (Policy Analyst): Lafayette College

“In the end, no matter how much you love your work, your work will not love you back.”

8. Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysicist): Rice University

“Your diploma is really not a ticket to show off what you know. You know what it really is? It’s permission to admit to yourself how much you still have yet to learn.”

9. Robert Kraft (Owner, New England Patriots): Suffolk University

“My advice is: Don’t follow the advice of others. I am not suggesting that you ignore advice, but just don’t let your advisers make decisions for you ... And years from now, or even later today, when someone asks you ‘What advice were you given on your commencement day?’ and you respond, ‘I don't know, I wasn’t listening,’ well then I will know you were paying attention.”

10. Arianna Huffington (President, Huffington Post): Smith College

“I beg you: don’t buy society’s definition of success. Because it’s not working for anyone. It’s not working for women, it's not working for men, it's not working for polar bears, it's not working for the cicadas that are apparently about to emerge and swarm us. It’s only truly working for those who make pharmaceuticals for stress, sleeplessness and high blood pressure.”

11. Steven Chu (Former Secretary of Energy): University of Rochester

“Your biggest failure will happen if you go through life and never fail, because you’ll never know what you could have done.”

12. Annie Lennox (Singer-Songwriter): Berklee College of Music

“It’s important to acknowledge the value and power of unorthodoxy.”

13. Joss Whedon (Writer/Director): Wesleyan University

“If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better.”

14. Steve Wozniak (Co-founder, Apple): University of California, Berkeley

“H = F3: Happiness equals food, fun, and friends ... I said this once at my high school, and the kids started laughing. I had to admit there might be a fourth 'F.’”

15. Jonathan Safran Foer (Author): Middlebury College

“Each step forward in technological communication has made things more convenient. But each step has also made it easier, just a little bit easier, to avoid the emotional work of being present. To write ‘LOL’ rather than to actually laugh out loud; to send a crying emoji rather than actually crying; to convey information rather than humanity. It’s never been easier to say nothing.”

16. Melinda Gates (Philanthropist): Duke University

“The people who say technology has disconnected you from others are wrong. So are the people who say technology automatically connects you to others. Technology is just a tool. It's a powerful tool, but it's just a tool. Deep human connection is very different. It's not a tool. It's not a means to an end. It is the end.”

17. Julie Andrews (Actress): University of Colorado, Boulder

"Use your knowledge, and your heart, to stand up for those who can't stand, speak for those who can't speak, be a beacon of light for those whose lives have become dark.”

18. Duncan Niederauer (CEO, NYSE Euronext): Colgate University

“My advice to you is be afraid of old ideas, not new ideas.”

19. David McCullough (Historian): Lesley University

“Never underestimate what other people might know. Sometimes people who seem to be the least possible source of interesting information turn out to be the greatest source imaginable.”

20. Toni Morrison (Author/Poet): Vanderbilt University, Senior Day

“Money is the not-so-secret mistress of all our lives, and like all mistresses, you certainly know whether she has or not already seduced you.”

21. Jon Lovett (Television Writer): Pitzer College

“You are smart, talented, educated, conscientious, untainted by the mistakes and conventional wisdom of the past. But you are also very annoying. Because there is a lot that you don't know that you don't know. Your parents are nodding. You've been annoying them for years. Why do you think they paid for college? So that you might finally, at long last, annoy someone else. And now your professors are nodding.”

22. Claude Steele (Social Psychologist): Tufts University

“In setting your life course, put the ‘wants’ of life ahead of the ‘shoulds’ of life.”

23. Martin Sheen (Actor): La Roche College

“We are not asked to do great things, we’re asked to do all things with greater care. Such an ideal is rare in a culture of so compromised values and so much cynicism, a culture that all too often knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

24. Rita Dove (Poet): Emory University

“Some might ask, why do we need books or art or music, and some may just as well ask, why does that bridge have to be beautiful? ... You see, we all have imagination. We use it every day. We relish it. We would languish without our aesthetic desires.”

25. Tenzin Gyatso (Dalai Lama): Tulane University

“I’ve had no modern education, so my knowledge compared to yours amounts to zero, but I have observed that many of the problems we face today are of our own creation. Because we created them, we must also have the ability to reduce or overcome them.”

26. Deepak Chopra (Physician): Hartwick College

“Remember that love without action is meaningless and action without love is irrelevant.”

27. More Jon Lovett at Pitzer

“There are moments when you'll have a different point of view because you're a fresh set of eyes; because you don't care how it's been done before; because you're sharp and creative; because there is another way, a better way. But there will also be moments when you have a different point of view because you're wrong, because you're 23 and you should shut up and listen to somebody who's been around the block.”

28. More John Green from Butler University

“You have probably figured out by now that education is not really about grades or getting a job; it’s primarily about becoming a more aware and engaged observer of the universe. If that ends with college, you’re rather wasting your one and only known chance at consciousness.”

29. Anne Fadiman (Author): College of the Holy Cross

“Don’t confine yourself to the fair weather races, the easy races, the races you know you can win. Get out in gale force winds. Know you will capsize, again and again and again and again.”

30. Judith Viorst (Author): Goucher College

“Becoming a grownup means understanding that when really bad things happen, that the answer to ‘why me?’ is ‘why not me?’”

See Also: 27 Bits of Wisdom from 2012 Commencement Addresses

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5 Tips for Becoming A Morning Person
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You’ve probably heard the term circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that influences your daily routine: when to eat, when to sleep, and when to wake up. Our biological clocks are, to some extent, controlled by genetics. This means that some people are natural morning people while others are night owls by design. However, researchers say the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle, which is good news if you want to train yourself to wake up earlier.

In addition to squeezing more hours out of the day, there are plenty of other good reasons to resist hitting the snooze button, including increased productivity. One survey found that more than half of Americans say they feel at their best between 5 a.m. and noon. These findings support research from biologist Christopher Randler, who determined that earlier risers are happier and more proactive about goals, too.

If you love the idea of waking up early to get more done, but you just can't seem to will yourself from out under the covers, here are five effective tips that might help you roll out of bed earlier.

1. EASE INTO THE HABIT.

If you’re a die-hard night owl, chances are you’re not going to switch to a morning lark overnight. Old habits are hard to break, but they’re less challenging if you approach them realistically.

“Wake up early in increments,” Kelsey Torgerson, a licensed clinical social worker at Compassionate Counseling in St. Louis suggests. “If you normally wake up at 9:00 a.m., set the alarm to 8:30 a.m. for a week, then 8:00 a.m., then 7:30 a.m.”

Waking up three hours earlier can feel like a complete lifestyle change, but taking it 30 minutes at a time will make it a lot easier to actually stick to the plan. Gradually, you’ll become a true morning person, just don’t try to force it to happen overnight.

2. EXERCISE IN THE MORNING.

Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, so jumping on the treadmill or taking a run around the block is a great way to start the day on a high note. Also, according to the National Sleep Foundation, exercising early in the morning can mean you get a better overall sleep at night:

“In fact, people who work out on a treadmill at 7:00 a.m. sleep longer, experience deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of slumber than those who exercise at later times that day.”

If you don’t have much time in the morning, an afternoon workout is your second best bet. The Sleep Foundation says aerobic afternoon workouts can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often throughout the night. “This may be because exercise raises your body’s temperature for about four to five hours,” they report. After that, your body’s core temperature decreases, which encourages it to switch into sleep mode.

3. MAKE YOUR BEDROOM IDEAL FOR SLEEP.

Whether it’s a noisy street or a bright streetlight, your bedroom environment might be making it difficult for you to sleep throughout the night, which can make waking up early challenging, as you haven’t had enough rest. There are, however, a few changes you can make to optimize your room for a good night’s sleep.

“Keep your bedroom neat and tidy,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, a Los Angeles-based doctor of psychology on staff as an expert in sleep hygiene at Seasons Recovery Centers in Malibu, suggests. “Waking up to clutter and chaos only makes it more tempting to crawl back in bed.”

Depending on what needs to be improved, you might consider investing in some slumber-friendly items that can help you sleep through the night, including foam earplugs (make sure to use a vibrating alarm), black-out drapes, light-blocking window decals, and a cooling pillow

Another simple option? Ditch the obnoxious sound of a loud, buzzing alarm.

“One great way to adapt to rising earlier is to have an alarm that is a pleasing sound to you versus an annoying one,” Dr. Irwin says. “There are many choices now, whether on your smartphone or in a radio or a freestanding apparatus.”

4. TAKE THE TIME TO PROPERLY WIND DOWN.

Getting up early starts the night before, and there are a few things you should do before hitting the sack at night.

“Set an alarm to fall asleep,” Torgerson says. “Having a set bedtime helps you stay responsible to yourself, instead of letting yourself get caught up in a book or Netflix and avoid going to sleep.”

Torgerson adds that practicing yoga or meditation before bed can help relax your mind and body, too. This way, your mind isn’t bouncing from thought to thought in a flurry before you go to bed. If you find yourself feeling anxious before bed, it might help to write in a journal. This way, you can get these nagging thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

Focus on relaxing at night and stay away from not just exercise, but mentally stimulating activities, too. If watching the news gets your blood boiling, for example, you probably want to turn it off an hour or so before bedtime.

5. GET YOUR DAILY DOSE OF LIGHT.

Light has a immense effect on your circadian rhythm—whether it’s the blue light from your phone as you scroll through Instagram, or the bright sunlight of being outdoors on your lunch break. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, scientists compared the sleep quality of 27 subjects who worked in windowless environments with 22 subjects who were exposed to significantly more natural light during the day.

“Workers in windowless environments reported poorer scores than their counterparts on two SF-36 dimensions—role limitation due to physical problems and vitality—as well as poorer overall sleep quality," the study concluded. "Compared to the group without windows, workers with windows at the workplace had more light exposure during the workweek, a trend toward more physical activity, and longer sleep duration as measured by actigraphy.”

Thus, exposing yourself to bright light during the day may actually help you sleep better at night, which will go a long way toward helping you wake up refreshed in the morning.

Conversely, too much blue light can actually disturb your sleep schedule at night. This means you probably want to limit your screen time as your bedtime looms closer.

Finally, once you do get into the habit of waking up earlier, stick to that schedule on the weekends as much as possible. The urge to sleep in is strong, but as Torgerson says, “you won't want your body and brain to reacclimate to sleeping in and snoozing.”

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8 Defining Facts About Jane Goodall
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Jane Goodall was still a young woman when her research changed the course of scientific history. Of her discovery that chimpanzees make and use tools—an ability previously believed to belong only to humans—paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey famously said, "Now we must redefine 'tool,' redefine 'man,' or accept chimpanzees as humans."

1. A STUFFED ANIMAL CHANGED HER LIFE.

Jane met her first chimpanzee on her first birthday. From that day forward, the stuffed ape named Jubilee accompanied the little girl on all her adventures, inspiring the love of animals that would one day shift our views on animal intelligence.

Today, Goodall gives talks on animal welfare with the assistance of a stuffed monkey named Mr. H (shown above) and a cow named Cow, both gifts from her fans. "Cow has worked really hard," Goodall told Mosaic. "She has created I don't know how many vegetarians."

2. SHE STARTED HER RESEARCH WITHOUT A DEGREE.

Goodall's first steps into Gombe Stream National Park in 1960 were extraordinary for many reasons. The 26-year-old was only the second researcher to attempt to study chimpanzees in the wild, and she had no one with her aside from her mother and an assistant. She also had no formal scientific training—a fact that likely enabled her many breakthroughs. Unbound by preconceived notions of what animal research should be, the young scientist got close to her subjects, sat down, and paid attention.

3. BUT NOW SHE HAS PLENTY OF DEGREES …

Jane Goodall giving a talk in ceremonial university robes.
Peter Broster, Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY 2.0

Goodall became Dr. Goodall in 1966 when she received her Ph.D. in ethology (animal behavior) from the University of Cambridge. Since then, she's earned more diplomas than most walls could hold, with honorary degrees from nearly 40 universities in 15 different countries.

4. … AMONG OTHER TITLES.

Dr. Goodall is also a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a UN Ambassador for Peace, and the recipient of countless awards and honors for her scientific, humanitarian, and animal welfare work. For a brief period, during her marriage to wildlife photographer Baron Hugo van Lawick, she was also Baroness Jane van Lawick-Goodall.

5. HER WORK RUBBED A LOT OF PEOPLE THE WRONG WAY.

A baby chimpanzee.
Roland, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Historically, the scientific establishment has not taken kindly to upstarts and outsiders. Or women, for that matter. In the beginning, many established researchers held Goodall's unusual approach and lack of university pedigree against her. They found her methods soft and problematic—Goodall named her research subjects instead of giving them ID numbers, which caused a scandal—and some went so far as to suggest that the tool-using chimps had been trained. Over time, her body of research grew so compelling that her supporters outnumbered her detractors.

6. STEVIE NICKS WROTE A SONG ABOUT HER.

"She could look a challenge/right between the eyes …"

7. YOU MIGHT HAVE SEEN HER IN CARTOON FORM.

In the 2001 Wild Thornberrys episode "The Trouble With Darwin," Goodall appeared, as herself, to help Eliza save chimpanzees from greedy poachers.

8. SHE'S STILL WORKING.

Jane Goodall in a crowd.
Daniel Epstein, Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-NC 2.0

Goodall returned from the field in the 1980s, but her life's work had barely begun. For the last three decades, she's been on the road more than 300 days a year, giving talks and leading initiatives to improve the lives of chimpanzees, apes, and all animals in captivity and in the wild. With her urging, in 2015, the National Institutes of Health announced that it would retire the last of its chimpanzee research subjects.

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