June 16, 2014, Toronto ON
Honoured Graduates of the Faculties of Psychology and Business of the University of Guelph-Humber, Esteemed Faculty Members, Parents and Distinguished Guests,
I’ve never written a speech in my life. And I’ve certainly never spent years committing to the formal study of advanced anything, like you all obviously have. I’ve got a pretty good imagination, but never did I think I would be in an auditorium of scientists and academics honouring me for my work in spirituality and healing. Given where I’ve been, that this is happening is an example of a fuckin’ miracle, and therefore, I hypothesize (and now that I’m a doctor I can hypothesize): it must be happening for a reason.
I first of all want to congratulate, with all my spirit, the graduates who are sitting here, so ready to go out and take on the world. Well on behalf of that crazy world out there, thank you for the efforts I know you’re about to make. There is a lot of change needed.
What can I leave you with that you might remember when the going gets tough? ‘Cause it will. Two things. Very simple. #1- work your asses off, don’t expect anything from anybody. (Hey, I’m old school) #2- providing you already got #1 in hand, is a concept that will ensure your success. This is not me making a hypothesis, this is science and experience and is making a difference everywhere if we just choose to pay attention. Here is the concept: we are all intricately connected and it’s our relationships that matter for absolutely everything. For our brains to develop well, for us to treat each other with dignity and compassion, for us to create win-win outcomes in business, for us to win Stanley Cups as a team, and for us to heal when shit happens. Relationship. Build a better world no matter what you choose to do by being present, by listening, by tuning in, by sharing with honesty.
After playing some hockey, revealing I’d lived through abuse and working hard to deal with my own issues (hey we never get perfect, we gotta keep working at it), I’m now dedicating my life to helping people to get the help they need. And mental health is a big part of it. This # 2 concept of paying attention in relationships directly applies. It is healthy relationships that remind us not to carry shame, and not to hurt each other to begin with.
When I represent the one in three Canadians who have experienced childhood trauma, I feel like I have a clear purpose. My mission is to allow others to find their own voices through story telling and healing conversations. Surrounding yourself with a strong team, whether that is personal, professional or spiritual, creates a foundation for resilience and structure for the journey. Surround yourselves, consciously, with people who help bring out the best in you, and you in them. Trust me. We’re really strong in our own ways, but better together.
I remember what it’s like to be young, and want everything to happen now. You want everything that you try, to succeed. All the technology we have today, it’s about instant gratification, it’s designed that way. But our spiritual sides know that it’s important to know when to act, and when to wait. Some of this technology is awesome, and keep going with it, but it’s spirituality that will teach you patience and the importance of relationships. There’s no relationship with an app. And there’s no app, at least not yet, for relationships.
I got something to say about inspiration, or more to the point, the relative lack of it. Some of us here might recognize that when we get to be middle-aged we sometimes just seem to be going through the motions. What I’m learning is that when you aren’t finding it somewhere else, and you look for inspiration deep inside of yourself, guess what, it is always there. The deeper you dig, the more you will find. You can always dig deeper, longer, harder; and that extra effort (or call it connection with yourself, or spirituality, or whatever you call it that makes sense to you), that’s what separates greatness from mediocrity. You know you can give yourself your own dopamine hits, just with your own brilliant thoughts! Honestly, who needs drugs?
But seriously, all you graduating today- I bet you have amazing plans and hopes, but who knows where you’ll end up? You know, there were certainly no straight lines on my highway. And this whole career thing, it’s never an arrival, but a journey. It’s not even so important which job or role you fill along the way. As the wise Kim Barthel always says, and I quote, “It’s not really what you do that matters, but how you do it”.
So compete every day to be the best you can be. Work hard and put in the time needed to master your crafts. But if you really want to be successful, and this applies to all areas of your life (believe me), pay attention to and nurture your relationships. This one, will get you anywhere and everywhere.
I want to say a big thank you to the University of Guelph-Humber for granting me this honour today. It means a lot, and I am humbled to be here with you.