‘I Wish You Bad Luck’

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts gave the commencement address at his son’s middle school graduation on June 3rd. While his wisdom was directed to the ninth graders graduating from Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire, it could just as easily apply to everyone in the business world—particularly those in leadership positions.

What can they learn from the Justice’s wise counsel?

It’s good to be treated unfairly, to be lonely, to have bad luck, and to fail.

Here is an excerpt of Chief Justice Robert’s wise counsel:

“Commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why.

From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”

Read the entire address here. Read it a few times, as I did. Then begin to see the messages in your misfortunes. Become a better person and a better leader for having experienced and learned from them.


Commenting area

  1. The best way to get through tough times is to learn from someone who made it through tough times – and that person may be your younger self.
    (Yet another reason to read biographies about people like Churchill.)
    Of course, tough times are more valuable than good luck, but good luck is much easier to take.

  2. Rita Scanio July 20, 2017 at 8:39 am · · Reply

    Thanks for sharing this insightful message, Steve. I was so taken by what Chief Justice Roberts said in that excerpt that I was compelled to read his complete commencement address. I love his sense of humor and the entire message he shared with the graduates. As you said, it could apply to everyone in the business world and to take it a step further – it applies to all of us as humans beings.

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