The 2 things that matter most to people in their 20s

This was my speech to the graduating class of 2016 at the University of California, San Diego, Revelle College. I just wanted to be real with them, and thought a lot about what I would’ve wanted to hear 10 years prior when I was sitting in their position. I’m so grateful for the honor and the opportunity to speak on this special occasion.

Hi. I’m gonna start off by saying, I’m really nervous. So if this goes terribly, yeah, that’s why. Cool.

So first I’d like to say, this is probably the biggest honor of my life thus far, and I met President Obama in 2011, though he didn’t know who I was. So thank you UC San Diego Revelle College for inviting me to speak, and believing I’m qualified to share my thoughts with the fragile minds of early 20 year olds.

I was a VisArts major at Revelle. Lemme repeat that. An Art major, in Revelle. I’m not throwing shade at UCSD or Revelle. In fact, I owe a lot to them. When I applied, Revelle was my 4th choice. AGAIN, that’s not a knock on them. That’s me saying THANK YOU. The 3 other college passed on me, but Revelle took me in with open arms. And exactly 10 yrs ago I sat where you are.

CONGRATS to you guys. You made it through Revelle’s GE’s! Well, maybe you did, you could just be walking. That’s technically what I did. I still had one Social Science course left which I took care of in the summer. Mom and dad weren’t thrilled about that.

Either way, you’re sitting here… and for some reason I’m standing up here. Honestly, if you’re confused who I am, and why I’m giving this speech, I’m with you. Commencement speakers are usually super successful celebrities or people who changed the world, or at least have the life experience of 40/50 some years to share. But I’m not Steve Jobs, or Oprah, or Conan and I’m barely 10 years older. So I’m not even gonna try to pretend like I’m some super wise, successful dude about to drop an awesome quote bomb on you. Some of you might know me as 1/3 of Wong Fu Productions, others might just be like.. “oh, that one Asian guy from YouTube”. And the rest of you, I’m just some guy. But honestly, that’s how I want to talk to you today. As just some guy, who has completed his 20s, and can let you guys know what to expect in these next 10 yrs. The REAL stuff.

I thought a lot about what I could say to inspire you guys, because honestly, you’re gonna be floating around for awhile.. and while all that lofty “grab life by the reins” advice is motivating, you needa know about what’s directly ahead. So I really just wanna talk about 2 things. You see, of all the obstacles and worries ahead in post-grad life, there are 2 subjects that everyone talks about the most through their twenties, and definitely by the time you hit 30, and lets face it, 30 in your guys’ eyes is like “so old”. Perhaps if you know now what will be most important to you in “the end”, it’ll help you along the way, and positively affect the years after (yes there are years after 30)

The first thing that everyone talks about is their job. I think a lot of students think they graduate and must find this one singular job or track that you will love and stay with forever. Truth is, you’re going to have multiple jobs. You’re going to try something for a few years and possibly hate it, and then adjust. You will be constantly questioning, shifting, and building your career.

Now this is where most speeches would go down the route of telling you all to go after your dreams! Pursue your passion! YOU might be the next Steve Jobs! But let me be real with you… while I don’t disagree with these inspirational messages, I also know that there are A LOT of people who go through life and just don’t know what their true passion is. For some it’s still too early. Some were never encouraged to think that way. So I don’t wanna stand up here and make people feel bad or scared like.. HOLY CRAP I’m not actually that passionate about electrical engineering or sociology. What am I going to do with this degree and life?!?

Look, if you already know your passion, then absolutely go for it, don’t be afraid of failure, nothing goes according to plan, persevere, etc etc… you guys live online, you’ve probably seen that Buzzfeed video compilation of famous grad speeches… and it’s 100% true, I know from experience. Listen to those guys because they’re far more experienced and accomplished than me.
But for those who draw a blank or a shrug when someone says “chase your dreams”, it’s ok. It’s ok to not be sure yet. Honestly, I didn’t know my passion was storytelling and directing even when I was sitting where you were. I knew I enjoyed it, I knew I was somewhat good at it. But passion is such a heavy word. And as a 21 year old, how could I really be sure?

But here’s the thing… I didn’t chase my passion, but I became passionate about what I chased. And you should do the same whether it’s your job or a hobby. Because what’s more important than just having a dream, is having the ambition to reach them. Be ambitious and enthusiastic in whatever you do. Always strive for more in and outside of your career. You’ll be surprised at where that might lead you. Even strong enthusiasm toward something is a challenge for some, but can transform you life. It did mine, and brought me here.

Whether it be real estate, or comics, dentistry, or fitness.. explore with vigor, and zeal, and I assure you that when you reach the end of your 20s your life will be better because you did so. Don’t be too afraid, or in many cases, too cool to “try”. The worst thing you could do is live these next few years passively. So if you already know what your purpose is and what you love, understand that knowing is a gift! Don’t waste anytime being timid, and get to work towards it. And if you don’t know yet, consider it your duty, a high priority, to actively figure out what it is at some point in the years ahead.

So that is the FIRST thing everyone talks about at the end of their 20s. The SECOND thing? The 2nd thing is love and relationships.

Now, I know this is very unconventional to talk about in a commencement speech, but honestly, I think people are actually more concerned with finding love than “chasing dreams”, kinda funny huh? How much love dictates our lives. Look, it’s uncomfortable, it’s cheesy, but seriously, no matter how accomplished you become, or how many friends envy your life, if you aren’t happy in your heart, nothing else matters. So bear with me, I just wanna share 3 quick thoughts about love. It’s gonna get awkward for a sec.

First, Love Yourself.

Your journey to find love is going to be challenging. And many of you will experience extreme pain when a relationship is taken away, or when you regret a massive mistake, or when you’re just really really lonely. It’s gonna suck, but please, never ever feel like it’s the end of the world. Never ever feel like another person was what defined you or made you whole. YOU need to make sure you love yourself. Work on yourself, believe in yourself, and yes, treat yourself. Discover your own worth and make sure the person you’re with will push you and challenge you to be even greater.

Next, Love honestly.

I think we grow up thinking “love” is something that happens to us, like magic. But it’s not. Attraction is, but making a relationship work takes choice. Constant choice. And you must be honest with yourself when it comes to the person you choose to be in a relationship with. This means understanding your emotions. Feelings are what give our lives texture, even sad feelings, so embrace the entire spectrum of emotions and learn from each experience. Learn what you qualities are important to you, and what angers you, and how to communicate better. Learn the difference between a relationship needing work and a relationship that won’t work. And most importantly, learn to forgive… others and yourself. This will be the most challenging lesson, but the one you might need the most. Hurting people and getting hurt is part of the journey, so be thankful for those who don’t harbor grudges or guilt, I definitely am.

Finally, Love your family.

The 20s is when you will begin to really humanize your parents. It’s in this time that many of them met, or even had you (there’s a fun image for graduation). You’re gonna reach that same age and finally realize what your parents have gone through. They weren’t always just “Grown up”. They were young, lost, and scared just like you, they were human! and you can start to empathize with them, because being human also means they won’t always be around. So spend time with them, try not to be annoyed, tell them thank you, I love you, ask them questions about their lives past and present. They have so much to share.

I hope this brought your idea of the next few years into a better perspective. It’ll be natural to feel self conscious for awhile. Worried if you made the right choices in your major, job, life. Embarrassed that compared to your friends you don’t seem as successful or know what you’re doing. But guess what? No one here really knows what they’re doing. I promise you. Even those who have a sweet internship or grad school lined up. Even I don’t!! When I graduated, I would often doubt myself for pursuing something as “silly” and unstable as the arts. I thought all my friends were doing the right thing in their lives and jobs.  But what kept me going, was good friends. Luckily I got to live this sensitive period of my life with Wes and Ted who co-founded WFP with me. We were lost, but at least we were lost together. So surround yourself with positive people. People that will push and support you as you discover your sense of passion, and people that will be there for you when your love life sucks.

Take your time, but don’t waste your time. There’s a difference. And finding that balance will make your experience these next 10 years really awesome.

Thank you!

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8 thoughts on “The 2 things that matter most to people in their 20s

  1. Your thoughts Phil really struck me. To be honest, I always envisioned you as that funny guy on WFP, but I’ve learned a few things in the past few years that judging people takes you no where.

    I do find your words about love inspirational and true. Except it’s a lot easier said than done. I’ve been trying to work on that for a very very long time and I always find trying to find love takes over the career path.

    Keep doing what you’re doing and thank you.

  2. I’ve always been a fan of WongFu. Especially you Phil. I even asked my friend to buy me stuff from Wongfu! 😂😂😂 Anyway, I just want to thank you for inspiring people all over the world. You may not know what someone is going through but with your short stories, realizations and ideas, you may give them a whole new perspective and hope. How I wish I can meet you guys someday! Keep up the good work!🙂 THANK YOU.

  3. Just found out that you have a WordPress blog after so many years omgg, love ya Phil❤ a big big fan of ya. You have inspire so much of us and thank you for everything and your team as well. My A-Level is coming to an end and thank you for the advices. Have a good day🙂

  4. Hi Phil,

    I loved your speech. It is exactly what we all needed to hear at that age. When life hits us, we wished someone had told us it was going to be that hard. So many times we always hear the better version or censored version of what relationships are like & we plunge head long following our emotions & doing what we thought was right at that time. So I wished I had a Philip back then to tell me to prepare myself for what’s to come and that is OK to fail, to not know what we are doing, to be hurt, to hurt, to forgive and be forgiven,
    What I’ve learnt is that in every failed relationship, I learnt something about myself. Even if I was the one to be hurt, I don’t regret going through the process because of the lessons I learnt from my partner.

    Someone asked me recently what I live for. At 34, I thought I would be settled with a partner and have my own family. But life isn’t always going to take you in that direction. We may ask ourselves why am I still in this situation? We might question whether there is something wrong with us, we might mull over the things we did and wonder what we could have done differently. It is good to self-reflect & owe up to our mistakes but I wanna echo what you said. We need to learn the difference when a relationship needs work and when a relationship isn’t working. So don’t beat ourselves up over a failed relationship and don’t give up on love. Just know that a relationship shouldn’t be about what you/I want, but what we want as a partner.

    So how did I answer the question, what do I live for? For hope, love & family.

  5. Thought You Should Know

    Hi, I have just watched your recent short “Untouchable” lets just say it hit a nerve.
    Many a times when I watch one of your shorts somehow it seems to fit in exactly with what I feel at the time or a similar scenario im going through. And Untouchable has just about come out with a new page im about to turn.
    Not entirely sure what purpose of this email is but I guess its just to say you really do portray feelings very well that are hard to explain.
    The way you put perspective into a bad situation. I got rid of photos of us thought that would help with letting go of some memories but no matter how much our other half may have hurt  us, you are right those memories the untouchable ones will be there. And thats all thats left memories of what was not what could have been.
    This all probably doesnt make any sense.
    Look forward to your new vids🙂
    Take care .
    R

  6. Hi Phil!

    I’m a big fan not only of your work w WFP, but also of just you as a person.🙂 I’ve been following you since I was in high school and as I’m reaching my mid-twenties, I can relate 100% to your speech. Finding passion in work and a lover to share life with are the 2 things that have been/still are circling my brain and a constant factor in ~finding my true self~ as an adult haha. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and also for creating/sharing your art w the rest of the world. All of your videos, blogs, convos in Lunch Break, random snippets of writing on your insta/twitter, etc always resonate w me because I can relate and I think I just get you man! Or, you get me! I also love how you’re the type of person that understands the importance of feeling all of the negative/tough feelings (like sadness, etc) honestly and openly is just part of the beauty of being human. Feelings all the feels and then having the positive perspective of being able to forgive and move on in life is so important and from what I can see from your online presence (since it’s not like we actually KNOW each other), I think we think the same way. Or at least v similarly. I hope I can find a guy soon that shares the same PHILosophy as you ;D haha lame joke/pick up line, srry.

    lol but in all honesty, I’m just so envious of your talent and hard work ethic, but more so just thankful that you create such honest and relatable content of things that we all feel and go through, but might not know how to put into words/motion picture. Haha ok enough fan-girling, right? Hopefully this rant also serves as an encouragement to you to keep doing what you’re doing.🙂 Congrats on Single by 30, btw and the billboards! So cool!! The entire WFP team deserves all of this success😀

    Sincerely,
    June

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