June 5, 2012 — This time of year our thoughts turn to graduates.
What words of wisdom, direction and encouragement might we give as they graduate high school and leave for college or walk into the workforce with a bachelor’s degree in hand?
So often commencement speakers use phrases meant to inspire but have no concrete value.
For example, students are told in order to be successful they should believe in themselves.
Actually, it is not the belief you can do something that results in success but the skill and talent that supports it.
Yet advice abounds that is beneficial.
I came across some good advice for those studying a particular college major or embarking on a new career. It was in an article in World Magazine titled “Learning by copying.” It was not suggesting people cheat but rather they learn from observing a master.
The author of the article, Kira Clark, described a program that has existed since 1941 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. that invites artists to recreate masterpieces by setting up an easel next to the original painting.
The artists who learn style and technique through imitation are called copyists.
Standing next to the painting, the art student can see what the original artist did to bring the painting to life; using “thick lumps of paint” to give texture or “light and dark” colors to create depth and dimension.
This process allows artists to develop the techniques used by the masters which can be applied to their own creative style. They don’t continue to paint Rembrandts, but are able to create artwork in the same masterful way because they have learned proper technique.
It is similar to the advice I once gleaned from Writer’s Digest Magazine that suggested a writer could learn how to write well by reading the work of great writers.
This same concept is used in apprenticeship programs where a person learns a trade or vocational job by working with a skilled craftsman.
An internship is similar, but for a white-collar profession. Then there are mentors … those who counsel or instruct a student one-on-one.
During the Women Making Pi workshop at Westwood High, one successful graduate in the field of science suggested those attending college look for internships and mentors to gain hands-on experience and hone skills.
The time in which a person trains for a career and enters the job market is of great value and should not be wasted.
College students should take advantage of every opportunity to gain competitive skills in order to succeed. I was reading a column written in December 1999 by W. Frank Walton titled “The Wise Use of Time” in which he stated: “We can waste a dollar, but we can replace it. But if I waste a day, there’s nothing I can ever do to recall it.”
Most people graduate with big dreams, but lack discipline to achieve them. My advice to graduates is to look at the lives of those who have mastered the field they have chosen to determine what they did right, and learn from them.
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