Below are the speeches from the BGI Commencement. After two years of intense work, I finally crossed the stage this past Sunday. Thank all of you for all the support. I couldn't have done it without you.
Michael B. Maine
Below is the speech as it was written. I didn't read the speech on the stage, but the time and effort I put into writing it helped me know what I wanted to convey. Feel free to read below if you want to catch the few pieces I left out of the oral version.
As this is business school, I thought it only fitting to prepare this speech in an Excel spreadsheet. If you asked me 2 ½ years ago if I’d be studying business in the woods, I would have said absolutely not. Had it not been for one man named Mitsu Yamasaki who asked me one special question, I’m not sure it would have happened. Mitsu asked me what I thought about business as institution. My response to him was that I see business as one of the most pervasive institutions on the earth. Throughout history, the buying, selling, and trading of services have impacted every aspect of our lives. As such, it has the ability to effect change or not effect change in any way we decide to use it. As a tool, it has the potential to do small things, large things, considered things, and unconsidered things.
I came to BGI because my hope and dream was, and remains
today, to be immersed within a group of people who think about business a
little differently. People who think of business as a means rather than an
ends. In this community, I’ve found so much more. In this community I’ve found
a group of people who ask what’s possible. From you I’ve learned creativity,
trust, and rule number 6. I am grateful for the time shared with such an
inspired group of people. Through knowing, observing, and working with each of
you, my life has been tremendously enriched. If life is truly about the
experiences between life and death, this has been one of the most rewarding
pages in my book of life.
I am forever indebted to each of you for how you have touched my life. I just hope that I’ve been able to enrich yours as well. I firmly believe that one of the best ways to learn about and gain an appreciation for any subject matter is to study something seemingly completely unrelated. Perhaps that’s how I came into BGI as a business consultant to leave as a photographer. After being intimate with Excel for two years, I draw a key set of learnings from Aristotle, Plato, and a fallen tree. Aristotle believed that in all things there are four causes (or reasons for why they exist). The first three explained the physical makeup of something and how that changes. The fourth asks the question, what is the larger purpose? What is the fourth cause of business? I can’t say that I know the answer, but I know we’re not afraid to ask the question.
During orientation, at Channel Rock, I was walking along a trail when I came across a fallen tree. On it, I noticed six small trees growing from it. This was the first time this city boy from Dallas had ever seen that. I thought it was beautiful that in its decay, the tree provided the nutrients and foundation for new trees to grow.
So I ask myself, what can I learn by applying this scene of the fallen tree to business? For me, it serves as a metaphor. And I think that’s what makes BGI and all of the people who make it work so special. In a rapidly changing world, in which we must address new challenges, ask new questions, dispel myths, and connect to ancient wisdom, I find it extremely important that we are able to respectfully and gently put those old ideas to rest. For while those ideas and practices may or may not lose validity over time, they are the foundations for which we are able to grow and cultivate new ideas, new thoughts, new myths. And we too will mature, grow old, and die. How are we preparing ourselves and our institutions now to provide the most nutrient rich materials on which the next generation can grow?
Plato thought that there exists, in a spiritual world, an ideal form of everything, a mold that all living things aspire to become. He believed that our unconscious memory of this form allowed us to identify different types, shapes, colors, sizes of horses, people, trees, etc. as a horse, a person, a tree, etc. I think he was partially correct. I think that perfect form exists in each of us already, right here right now. Class of 2013, you are a prime example of how each of you has emerged from a shared experience completely changed, yet completely the same. Congratulations, in each of you perfection already exists.