Stephen Lundin to MCAD grads: ‘If work isn’t satisfying to your human spirit, it’s too big a price to pay’

It’s not often that you see a keynote commencement speaker abandon the podium during his address. But that’s just what happened recently at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Stephen C. Lundin, author of workplace motivational books, including the best-seller “Fish!,” walked the stage on May 15 while making his points — or, as he explained, his late daughter’s points.

Beth Ann Lundin, a member of MCAD’s class of 1993, became a set designer in Los Angeles before losing her life in an automobile accident. The Lundin family established a memorial scholarship fund in her name.

“The first thing she’d like to say to you is, as you go out into the world, people talk to you about work/life balance as if there’s some magic balance out there,” said Lundin, who taught MBA students as a former adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas.

You’ll need to watch the video, but Lundin drew laughs when he described the problems of tipping too far one way or the other toward work or life.

“It’s not quite that simple, and one of the fallacies in that metaphor is this: It’s all life — life at work, life outside of work. It’s all life, and you’ll spend most of it at work. And if that work isn’t satisfying to your human spirit, it’s too big a price to pay. I think this is a group of artists and creators that understand that.”

Tending to your well being
The second piece of advice from Beth, who found work “perfect” for her, according to her dad:

“What you do is important, and how you do it is important. But one of the things that will distinguish you as you go out to make your way in the world is an additional factor … and that is, Who are you being while you’re doing what you’re doing? … What kinds of choices are you making along the way? …

“You have a choice of being angry or upbeat,” he said. “The choices are in front of you all the time. And if you’re not aware of those choices, you’re liable to just be going about your work. But even if your work is fabulous and the way you do it is outstanding, if you don’t have that third ingredient, you’re doing yourself a disservice and creating an unnecessary barrier to your well being.”

I don’t want to spoil the ending, except to say it’s very moving and full of important advice not only for the class of 2010 but for all of us.

Here’s the video. MCAD President Jay Coogan introduces Lundin at the beginning of the video.

P.S. I am collecting keynote commencement addresses in various formats. Send yours to cselix[at]minnpost[dot]com.

Correction: This post originally described Stephen Lundin as a former dean of the University of St. Thomas’ graduate school of business. Lundin was an adjunct faculty member at St. Thomas. He has been a business dean at the University of Charleston in Charleston, W. Va.

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