Congratulations! You’ve now joined the ranks of college graduates everywhere! Wow! Isn’t it fantastic? Exciting? A relief? Well, I’m guessing it’s all of those, and even more.
There is much in front of you — most of your life and your entire career. So whether you want to start a business right out of the gate, try on corporate life for a while, or take some time to explore and think about what you want to do with the rest of your life, I’d like to share some advice. You can take it or leave it. Mine comes from living 55 years on this planet and spending 35 years in the corporate world. My desire is to help you. There is much that I will share with you in this vein over the coming weeks and months, but for now, let’s keep it simple and stick to three. Most people can remember three things. Oh, and then I’ll tack on a bonus — the key ingredient to make it all worthwhile. Here we go:
No risk, no reward
Surely you’ve heard the phrase. It’s true, in the financial world and in life in general. You won’t always make the right calls or decisions at work and in life, but you will never know what could have been unless you take some chances. As my former colleague and Board member north of the border, Marc Ciara, used to say, “Be bold, daring, and different.” I’m not condemning those that want to live their lives differently, more conservatively, but I embraced this notion of being bold, and although that made for some tough times, it also provided for accomplishments along the way that would not have been possible without taking chances. Do you really want to be like the rest of the lemmings, blend in with the crowd, and live a mediocre life? As Lloyd Bridges said in the movie “Cousins” back in 1989, “you’ve got only one life to live, you can either make it chicken shit or chicken salad.”
Develop your communication skills
Have I mentioned before that these are literally the most important skills you can have regardless of what you do in life? One of my undergraduate engineering professors, Kevin McDermott, told me 35 years ago, “Learn to communicate well, both in writing and the spoken word, and you will do well no matter what vocation you choose in life.” For me, this was literally the best advice I’ve ever been given. I joined a club called the Speakers Bureau at my first company, and that along with lots of practice, allowed me to grow into being a comfortable, confident public speaker. I’m also a voracious reader. This, along with a couple of effective writing classes, taught me how to communicate the written word. Think about it. Aren’t you dazzled by a great public speaker? Aren’t you riveted by the author whose book you literally can’t put down? Both skills serve to inspire and entertain, and who doesn’t love an inspiring entertainer?
Enjoy the ride
Don’t take it lightly. As Ferris Bueller said back in 1986, “Life moves pretty fast, you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I had plenty of “old-timers” tell me the same thing when I was a 21-year old engineer. And here we are, I’m 55 years old, with 35 years of experience. In 35 years you’ll be 55 with 35 years of experience, and God willing, I’ll be 90. It’s great to look forward, but don’t spend so much time hoping and wishing you were more accomplished or for the big promotion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be ambitious and shoot for the stars, just enjoy every day of it in between — the camaraderie, your family, your passions.
Passion – the key ingredient
Are you a true believer? If you are, or if you’ve listened to one before, then you know they literally believe every word they are spewing. Their passion is extraordinary. I am a true believer when it comes to leadership. I’ve developed beliefs and principles over my life and career, practiced them, made adjustments, honed them, and they have now become what my work will be over the foreseeable future. Look, no matter what you choose to do with your life, do it with passion, with vim and vigor, and you will inspire people beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Go for it like there’s no tomorrow. Embrace everything and anything you do, and as my mother told me, “Don’t do anything half-ass.”