Nobody asked me to give a commencement address. Nobody said, “Sam, you’re the BizProphet and we think our graduates—the promising young professionals of tomorrow—need to hear a fresh perspective on the future, something besides tired platitudes, from someone besides old-economy top dogs.”
So, even though I haven’t been invited, I decided to give a commencement address anyway.
This is for any graduate you know—your daughter or son or niece or nephew or your next door neighbor’s grandchild or the kid with the purple hair busing tables at the restaurant last night who just might be writing your paycheck one day. It’s for high school graduates and college graduates.
And it won’t hurt the rest of us—including top dogs and new hires—who are smart enough to remember that we’re in life’s classroom everyday and we never graduate.
If you’re a member of the Class of 2011, I’m supposed to congratulate you and say something nice about how hard you’ve worked because your parents are in the audience and it’s good to give them a moment or two to be proud of you. I’ll be in one of those audiences myself this year and as a parent I wouldn’t mind having my head patted. But that’s water cooler talk and the world you’re heading into doesn’t have a lot of time for water cooler talk.
Here’s what graduates need to be on today: You, Inc.
You, Inc. That’s Sam, Inc., and Jamal, Inc., and Molly, Inc., and Miguel, Inc.—every single one of you sitting out there today in those handsome caps and gowns needs to hear this: You are a valuable asset. The world needs your gifts and talents and fresh ideas and energy. The marketplace needs you. But the marketplace will likely not come clamoring after you and it will not fit itself to you and it will not be a safe haven for your self-esteem.
The world is in a state of turbulence and disequilibrium. You’ve probably already figured out that open positions are hard to find. But do not allow economic uncertainty to undervalue your unique contribution to the marketplace. Define your own value. Leverage You, Inc.
How do you make yourself relevant to a marketplace that can’t slow down for your transition from academic life to real life? How do you capitalize on the opportunity in front of you after you toss your cap in the air and finish the celebration? I have five pieces of gold for you. Use them to capitalize your launch into the marketplace.
Look for opportunity between the cracks. There’s a lot of brokenness out there right now. Don’t mistake that brokenness for limited opportunity. Don’t resist the change and disruption implied by the brokenness. Those who flow with the changes in our world will find opportunities to leverage and ways to be of value, whether as the employee of an existing enterprise or as the visionary behind new concepts, new enterprises. There has never been a more exciting time to be alive!
Claim empowerment, not entitlement. The world owes you nothing. If you’ve been oppressed, the world owes you nothing. If you’ve experienced great loss, the world owes you nothing. If you’ve been shut out of opportunities, the world owes you nothing. In today’s electronic information age, you’ve been provisioned with all the knowledge in the world, with access to the wisdom of the ages, with access to the same platforms Apple and Microsoft use to innovate and collaborate and tell their stories to the world. You are empowered like never before. Unshackling from entitlements liberates opportunity. Get with it!
Put the power of multiples to work for You, Inc. Physical health multiplies your energy. Time well-invested multiplies your efficiency and effectiveness. Relationship quality multiplies your access to opportunities and resources. Healthy beliefs multiply your imagination and possibilities.
Avoid hubris; embrace humility. Or, as my mom used to say, don’t get too big for your britches. That’s what happened to the people who brought down our economy in 2008. They thought they were so smart and so powerful they could get away with outrageous levels of greed. You do have power. Because of information and communication technology and access to resources, you have more power than any graduating class in history. The whole world is at your fingertips. Just don’t make the mistake of believing this power makes you the smartest kid on the block. Used well, the brain power at your disposal becomes creativity and innovation and collaborative thinking. Misused, it becomes hubris, the first step in the direction of a downfall.
Propagate wealth. You grew up in a consumer-driven society. We’re still in such a society. That society believes the money we earn is for spending and that we need everything that’s new and shiny. A successful You, Inc., learns that money earned is best used to develop the asset that earns the money, in order to propagate wealth. Money that makes more money is an asset, and that eventually creates freedom. Money that buys stuff is just gone.
Recently, I met a young man, a senior in the High School of Business and Finance at Garinger. We met at a business luncheon, which he was attending with some of his classmates, his principal and one of the teachers in their program. I was privileged to share a table with this group of remarkable young people. When it was over, I’m sure I was more impressed with them than they were with me. But afterward, one of the young men came up and asked me to be his mentor.
The things I’ve told you today reflect everything I’d hope to teach this young man and his classmates at Garinger.
One final thing—I offer you my blessing. Too many people never embrace their potential. As the old gray fox whose experience has taught him things he never suspected when he was your age, I want you to know that you are more valuable than you know, gifted in ways that are unique to you. The world needs you and is waiting for you.
Congratulations, You, Inc. You are a valuable asset. Go change the world.
Content contributed by Sam Frowine, founder and owner of The Performance Group, working with business owners to build the value of their business asset for over 16 years. Find more messages from Sam at www.ThePerformanceGroupUSA.com or on his blog at www.Sam-Inc.com, or on Facebook/Journey with Sam Frowine.