Duke’s President Offers Actionable Philosophy for Life and Work

Credit: Duke University.

Credit: Duke University.

It was a really pragmatic gift, but maybe tough to appreciate at age 18.

In his welcoming comments to the Class of 2019, Duke University President Richard Brodhead dispensed some wise philosophy.  He encouraged the new students to adopt a set of profound and powerful life and work ideas that are applicable to all of us.

Brodhead’s address, titled Building a Life at Duke, was themed off the massive construction and renovation underway on campus.  It provided an apt metaphor for his message.

I’ve culled and organized Four Key Takeaways.

1.  Expect Change & Embrace Where It Can Take You

If you want to make room for a new, improved version of yourself, you will have to tolerate some disruption— of your personal habits, of your preexisting networks, even of assumptions that once seemed certain. Disruption is not fun, but it is the opener of possibilities.

> I agree about the importance of disruption as a positive change enabler.  Focus on where it will take you.  It may be more fun than you think.

2.  Challenge Directly and Constructively

But if frictions do arise, I hope you will find a more constructive way to engage with differences than recoiling in resentment or withdrawing in defensiveness, human as both impulses powerfully are. Let’s make it be part of your education to learn how to enter into points of view different from your own and open your own point of view to others—and to practice this hard human skill not just on good days but even in times of challenge.

> This is such a critical factor for success, yet so often missing at work, in our community organizations, and our personal lives.  We need more direct, constructive communication, preferably by talking!

iStockphoto.com

iStockphoto.com

3.  Open Your Mind to New People, New Ideas

From Renaissance Florence to today, the places where smart, energetic people have been drawn together have been the places where world-changing ideas are hatched and new human energies released. Today you become a citizen of just such a place. From today, every one of you will contribute to this community, and everyone will get a growth boost from the others here with you.

> Teamwork and collaboration make work, and life, better and more fun.

4.  Get Out of Your Comfort Zone to Grow

If you want to build to your full potential, you’re going to have to seek out and open yourself to this human richness, even if that means venturing outside what’s comfortable.

> Life is too short for “what if.”  And, if you’re smart about it, expanding your comfort zone helps professionally too.


Let me know your thoughts.


Harvey Chimoff is a versatile marketing and business team leader who believes good marketing sells. Contact him at harveychimoff dot com.

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