My Gift to the Class of 2011

I’ve been listening on Facebook about the plethora of High School and College graduates this year, many I’ve known since when you started Middle School 7 years ago. I’m humbled to have seen so many of you grow.


As a recent college graduate (class of 2010!), I want to give you something. Passing on the tradition of my love for reading, I want to pass on to you: two books that helped me, and a handmade journal made by yours truly.

The books are Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller1, and Linchpin by Seth Godin2, and I believe they can help you out too.

Blue Like Jazz
is written like a journal of a journey. Musings about Christianity, not really arguments or essays. More like discoveries made along the way, more soul than just mere facts, more heart than head. In short, I felt like Donald Miller was giving me permission to step outside of my head, and learn to experience Jesus with my heart. And I think we all yearn for that, mainly for those of us who grew up in the church.

 

Here’s a favorite excerpt of mine:

I was watching BET one night, and they were interviewing a man about jazz music. He said jazz music was invented by the first generation out of slavery. I thought that was beautiful because, while it is music, it is very hard to put on paper; it is so much more a language of the soul. It is as if the soul is saying something, something about freedom. I think Christian spirituality is like jazz music. I think loving Jesus is something you feel. I think it is something very difficult to get on paper. But it is no less real, no less meaningful, no less beautiful.

 

The first generation out of slavery invented jazz music. It is a music birthed out of freedom. And that is the closest thing I know to Christian spirituality. A music birthed out of freedom. Everybody sings their song the way they feel it, everybody closes their eyes and lifts up their hands.


Linchpin
is about today’s job market. How do you stand out when you finish college (or high school), when you’re applying for a job? My summary of the book goes something like this: Create remarkable art, and gift them away. Art doesn’t necessarily mean paintings or drawings, but how we do things. Like the difference between a chef and a cook, the carpenter and the woodcutter, the barista and the coffeemaker, a storyteller and a photographer. I worked a summer job in high school with my volleyball coach as a landscaper. “Landscaping” is a fancy word that means to cut people’s lawns, uproot trees, trim bushes, and even water their plants. You’d think it’d sound boring and tedious: being outside in the hot summer sun, getting dirty everyday, cutting the grass of other people’s yard. But my coach told me something I’ll never forget: “Even landscaping can be an art.”

 

Here’s an excerpt, titled “What Would Make You Impossibly Good at Your Job?”

If your organization wanted to replace you with someone far better at your job than you, what would they look for? I think it’s unlikely that they’d seek out someone willing to work more hours, or someone with more industry experience, or someone who could score better on a standardized test.

 

No, the competitive advantage the marketplace demands is someone more human, more connected, and mature. Someone with passion and energy, capable of seeing things as they are and negotating multiple priorities as she makes useful decisions without angst. Flexible in the face of change, resilient in the face of confusion.


I don’t always agree with everything that both these men have to say, yet their ideas inspired me to become a better person, a better friend, a better son. I hope they do the same for you.


Now, let's practice giving gifts. The first three high school or college graduates of 2011 to email me at steamer@writewithoutwords.com, will receive a complimentary copy of both of these books to add to their summer reading list, and a handmade journal. The only requirement I ask of you, is to give away your copies to a friend at the right time. That is, whenever you finish reading it — which could be a month from today, three months, or even a year. Just give it away. Continue the tradition of gift-giving. And ask your friend to do the same!


Leanna loaned me her copy of Blue Like Jazz before the beginning of my second year at UCI, and now I'm giving a copy to you.3


 

 

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1Donald Miller: www.donmilleris.com

2Seth Godin: www.sethgodin.typepad.com

3Fun fact: Leanna and I are also "Associate Producers" for the upcoming movie adaption of Blue Like Jazz, watch the trailer here: www.bluelikejazzthemovie.com.