Thursday, June 11, 2015

Commencement Address

This June, I realize I will likely never have the opportunity to address a graduating class. Should such an opportunity present itself, this is what I'd say:

"Superintendent Bulgebottom, Principal Grindstone, Faculty, Honored Guests, Parents, Families, and Friends: Thank you for inviting me and thank you for all you have done to make this moment possible. I know it has not been easy. Your efforts need to be recognized.

That said, I am not here to speak to you but to the graduating class of 2015.

Class of 2015, Congratulations!

You did it! You are about to graduate. You may be justifiably proud of your accomplishment.

With the conferring of diplomas you pass from school life to real life.

Tonight you begin the transition from student to adult. From this night forward, you are expected more and more to act as responsible and productive adult members of society.

You have every right to be excited and a little bit frightened over what comes next.

Fifty-two years ago, I was you. Fifty-two years ago, I was sitting in the uncomfortable chair, blowing the tassel on my cap to and fro, enduring the speeches, waiting for the the diploma to be conferred and impatiently anticipating the all-night party. I know you are too.

Fear not. I'll not keep you long.

This evening, once you receive your diplomas, you will all be equal. From the valedictorian at the top of the class to the anchor person at the bottom, you will each be entitled to exercise the responsibilities and reap the rewards of being a high school graduate.

This evening you will all be equal. From this evening forward you will become more and more different. From this evening forward, what you make of your life will more and more be up to you. You have been given a foundation. It is up to you to decide what you will build on it.

At this moment, each of you carries within yourself a dream, a picture of a hoped-for future according to you. For some, the dream involves further study, for others trade school, military service, or immediate employment. Some of you aren't sure and will take time to decide what comes next. Some of you will plan your life some of you will drift into and through it.

However you choose to proceed, I urge you, always have a dream. Always carry in your mind a clear vision of the future according to you. Always act to achieve that vision and make your dream a reality.

I urge you, make it a dream worthy of your efforts! Dream a great dream. Dream a magnificent dream, and then, set out to live it.

Know that as you go through life, your dream may change. What is important now may become less important or totally unimportant in the future. Life is like that.

Know that you will almost certainly experience setbacks and disappointments. When that happens, remember setbacks and changes keep life from becoming boring. Without them life would be a colorless existence. With them, life is a never ending adventure. Great dreams are worthy of great efforts. When faced with setbacks, great people regroup, alter course and move on.

On your way to living your dream I want you to remember four words.

The first two words are "Marketable Skills".

I know. "Marketable skills"


But, even if you are independently wealthy, the day will come when you will be forced to pay your own way. That day may come immediately. It may come later, but it will come. When it comes, you will need to be able to do something that someone is willing to pay you for doing. Whether it be making things, repairing things, selling things, writing things, inventing things, testing things, or performing some act of service, you need to do something to pay the freight.

Skills are developed by practice. Practice takes time. You will not be perfect when you start. Neither will you start at the top. Your parents did not start at the top either. But, if you persist, you can become world class. If exercising a skill is part of your dream, so much the better. And if not, your skills will at least provide a way finance the journey.

The second two words I want you to remember are "Work Ethic".

Work Ethic.

Again, BORING, but necessary.

Work Ethic combines dedication, commitment, and diligence.

Work ethic means not just showing up and putting in your time, it means committing yourself to showing up on time or early, to working all day every day. Work ethic means dedicating yourself to doing your tasks to the highest standards of excellence. Work ethic means working diligently until your tasks are completed not matter how dirty, disgusting, or boring they are. From experience, I can tell you being dirty won't kill you. Being hot and sweaty won't kill you. Being disgusted won't kill you. Being bored won't kill you.

Work ethic means working through the dirt, disgust and boredom to accomplish something. Work ethic means taking pride in doing your job well, no matter how dirty, disgusting, and boring it may be. Work ethic means seeking and striving to always do a little bit better. Work ethic means expending the time and effort to become a world class performer on your field of dreams.

A wiser man than I once sought the secret to success. Because he looked, for it, he found it. I want to share it with you.

The secret to success is this:

Successful people make it a habit to do things that failures don't like to do.

Work Ethic makes it a habit to do things that unsuccessful people don't like to do in order to be world class.

Say it with me.

Successful people make it a habit to do things that failures don't like to do.

Failures don't like to get up in the morning. Neither do successful people, but they do it anyway.

Failures don't like to show up every day. Successful people don't like it either, but they do it with enthusiasm.

Failures don't like to get started. Successful people realize that you can't finish what you don't start and start whether they want to or not.

Failures don't like spending hours to learn and practice their skills. Successful people take the time, put in the practice, and hone their skills every day. Successful people may not like the hours of practice any better than those who will fail, but they do it anyway.

Failures settle for good enough. Successful people seek to become world class. In a lot of things, it takes as little as 25 hours of practice to be "good enough". We are told it takes about 10,000 hours, roughly five years of work at 40 hours a week, to become world class.

Be world class.

Finally learn to recognize and take advantage of every opportunity you get to learn and do things that move you forward to achieve your dream, things that are new, different and exciting.

In my experience, the greatest opportunities began with the words "By the way" and ended with the words "Is that something you might be interested in?".

"By the way, I was talking to a lady from such and such a company. They have a program that will train you to be a scientific instrument maker and pay for 30 hours of college credit. Would you be interested in something like that?"

"By the way, we have a flight program. You can get your private pilot's license and the Army will send you to flight school. Does that sound like something you'd like to do?"

 Remember, opportunity most often arrives dressed in overalls and looks a lot like work. I did a lot of very good work, very interesting work, and very exciting work taking advantage of my opportunities. None of them were exactly what I wanted but each one pointed in the direction of my dreams. Today, they are part of what I am.

As you leave here tonight to begin your life-long adventure, I urge you to have a magnificent dream, to develop a set of marketable skills, to become known for your work ethic, for your commitment, dedication, and diligence to doing the best job possible what ever that job may be. I urge you to make it a habit and practice doing the things that that make for success, the things that failures don't like to do. Finally, I urge you to learn to recognize and take advantage of every opportunity to move your dream along.

You will not be disappointed.

My hope and wish for each of you is that you become the world-class person you are intended to be.

Welcome to life.

Go forth and do great and wonderful things.

Go out and live your dream.

To infinity, and beyond!"