Berks Technical Institute Commencement Speech
Posted on 29 October 2012
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” You are now about to put to use the innate talents you were born with and the learned skills you have acquired as you embark on the literal journey of a lifetime; the quest to find out why you were born.
And as you enter the workforce I have these words of encouragement for you. Yes, encouragement. Don’t fixate on the doom and gloom about the economy. Yes, this nation has a tough economic road ahead of it, but for workers who are not just able, but willing to give a job their all, the future will always be bright. The greatest employers hire for attitude and train for aptitude because you can’t teach someone responsibility, accountability, and integrity. By this stage in life, you either have it or you don’t.
The beauty of this graduating class is that you obviously have the aptitude, as evidenced by the technical classes you completed, as well as the certifications you earned. You are able. Now as you enter the work force of life, the key will be whether you are willing. Never, ever forget that your “I can” is infinitely more important than your IQ.
Back in 2006 I was approached about a project management position running a very large and diverse operations service contract on a classified facility in the Midwest. The problem was I did not possess the particular two years of contracting experience outlined in the job description. But if there is one thing I had learned in working in four major, yet very different, industries, it’s that the keys to success fit all doors regardless of the industry, so I applied.
I was brought into an interim position as a subcontracts manager and told to begin working on that two year requirement. I dug in with a vengeance. As I suspected, the acronyms were different, but the requirement for outstanding customer service, efficient use of resources, and ability to interact with a top-notch team was the same as when I served in the Air Force as well as the semiconductor field.
Six weeks into the job, the top government contracting officer called me in their office and said I was approved to fill the position as the project manager. When I asked about the two year requirement they said that due to my demonstrated energy and enthusiasm to get the job done, they felt comfortable waiving it. It was then I learned firsthand the power of enthusiasm and a “can do” attitude in the workplace.
The second lesson I want to share with you is that the people who do what needs to be done without being told draw the most wages. You determine your worth in the work place. In each of the jobs for which I was selected, no one inside the organization was willing to step up. Sure, some were able, but they were not willing. If you are willing to do the things that the majority of people do not want to do, I can guarantee your continued professional success. In fact, the common denominator of success is that a success does the things that failures don’t like to do. That’s it. It’s that simple. You don’t have to be a visionary, or a genius. You just have to be committed to getting the job done because so few people are. Elbert Hubbard said, “Do your work with all your heart and you will succeed—there’s so little competition.”
My father used to call these types of people thumb-suckers and he told me to steer clear of them. In fact he told me, “Hang around great people and you’ll be a greater person; hang around givers and you’ll be a better giver; hang around a bunch of thumb-sucking, complaining, griping, boneheads and you’ll be a better thumb-sucking, complaining, griping bonehead!”
When you enter the workforce you will function as a thermometer or a thermostat. A thermometer is stationary and only reflects what is happening around it. A thermostat, on the other hand, measures what the temperature is and then responds by changing the temperature to the conditions it desires. Some people are like a thermometer. If their environment is negative, they are negative. If bad things happen, they are sad. If good things happen, they are happy. Successful people, on the other hand, are more like a thermostat. Even if their environment is negative, they choose to be positive. In fact, these people are the ones that end up setting the atmosphere for the entire organization.
And lastly, I want to encourage you to make mistakes. A young accountant and recent graduate of Berks Technical Institute asked his seasoned CEO how he got so successful. The CEO replied, “Good judgment”. The young accountant then asked the CEO how he got good judgment, to which the CEO replied, “Experience”. The young accountant pressed on asking the CEO how he got experience, to which the CEO replied, “Poor Judgment”.
We are all born with an empty psychological key ring. Every experience, good, bad or ugly, gives us a key with which to open future doors. The more exposure to experience, the more keys we get to unlock life’s vast array of doors.
There is no greater teacher than adversity. And if you are stepping up to the plate while others are content to sit in the dugout, there is a chance you will strike out. But at least you made it to the plate and took a swing. My father told me that the secret to success is to cram 50 years of failure into 15. He was right. We learn from our mistakes, so don’t be afraid to make them.
And I wouldn’t be a publisher worth my salt if I didn’t bring you some tremendous reading material as a graduation gift. These two little pamphlets are the most powerful booklets I have ever read. If you can commit to the actions in these two books, I can guarantee you will live life at the 99th percentile. The first, is Message to Garcia, the fourth most read writing in the history of mankind. It will take you ten minutes to read. The second, The New Common Denominator of Success, contains the principle we covered earlier that in order to be a success, you simply have to do the things that failures don’t like to do.
You’re going to be reading and studying material to teach you the know how for years to come. But don’t ever forget to read things that teach you the know why. Knowing how to do something let’s you drive it; Knowing why you are doing something lets it drive you. The greatest communicators, whether they are in the home, church, or work place, know how to speak not just to your ears, but to your heart as well.
In closing, I hope and pray for wisdom and strength for this graduating class to meet and surpass the challenges that will come its way. Always remember, life happens just outside your comfort zone so if things are scary and seem, at times, chaotic, you’re doing it right. Thank you for listening to my comments and for allowing me to share in this amazing milestone in your lives.