01 May 2022

Standing Apart from the Crowd

Edited excerpts from a college commencement address we were honored to give on 8 May 2021.*

Receiving your diploma today makes you different, as only 36% of adults 25 and older have a college degree.1 Yet—there's more. 

The goal is learning to live in community, which includes a sense of belonging while standing apart from the crowd. As has been said, "The person who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before." 2

Simply put, it pays to be different. That means possessing qualities such as integrity and perseverance--both sought-after employee traits.  

(C) Olivet The Magazine
Wisdom literature

From the writings of noted American Quaker and theologian Dr. Elton Trueblood, here are three practices that contribute to being different:

First--"The cultivation of reverence."  This comes from the continuous nurturing of our inner beings. It includes humility and self-discipline.

Second--"A life of service." Which is a healing ministry to individuals and social institutions.  

Third--"Possessing intellectual integrity."  Leadership demands the price of rigorous thinking. To be uninformed (or ill-informed) is to live at the mercy of others. 

Let's summarize

Sameness, like the Dan Ryan, is a congested expressway.   

With an improving job market and similarity of talent, something must separate you from the masses. For example, being trustworthy, listening well, and cooperating with others to get things done.  Even if working from an apartment on Zoom.

An online survey of employers conducted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities found that candidates' demonstrated capacity to (1) think critically, (2) communicate clearly, and (3) solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major. 

Those three proficiencies help define a liberal arts education.

What do positive behaviors mean for your career? Combining personal qualities employers are looking for with the right skills helps a college graduate get off to a perfect start. 

Final thoughts

Another benefit to standing apart--it helps keep bad company from corrupting good character. As the late best-selling author and businessman Charlie "Tremendous" Jones observed: 

"In five years, you will be the same person you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read."

The upside to developing strong moral qualities is to look in the mirror, know the person within, and like what you see.

It pays to be different.


U.S. Census Bureau, March 30, 2020.

Attributed to both Francis Phillip Wernig and Albert Einstein.


© Bredholt & Co.