Concord graduation speech- Class of 2018
So, 10 years ago, I sat in those exact seats you all are sitting in now with my fellow classmates.... the class of 2008. Times were a little different back then...heck, I had a red razor flip phone, texting didn’t even exist, and you actually made phone calls. Myspace and AOL instant messenger were all the rage, and there were no Snapchat or Instagram filters to help out on those rougher days;)
In fact, I stood at this very podium, presenting a speech, on the topic “Saying goodbye.” We were closing this exact chapter, and embarking on the journey of college, careers, and the pursuit of success. my final words that I mustered out were those of my favorite quote, which are still my motto to this day, “BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.” A lot has changed over the last 10 years, and although it may sound like I came from prehistoric times— one thing remains the same.... your future, and your success, lie in your own hands.
I was asked to spend 10-15 minutes talking about what it takes to be successful, but I remembered how hot it gets in this gym, so I figured it would be best to be quick, and outline the three things you need to succeed...GRIT, GUTS and Ownership!
#1: YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO HAVE GRIT. Use that determination to work hard, nothing is given to you, and know that each step in your future or career, is a STEP moving forward. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. If you have career aspirations to become a CEO, business owner, teacher, firefighter chief, world renown musician, or neuro surgeon-it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes grit, and years of incredibly hard work, and dedication. No one will give it to you, and as you grow in your career, it will become more and more competitive.
When I accepted my first job with Stryker (a medical device company, selling product to surgeons in the Neuro and Spine specialty), all I could think of was my life was about to be just like Gray’s Anatomy... Glamorous, exciting, thrilling! But in reality, I was the low man on the totem pole. I worked over 80 hours a week, spent 170 nights a year in a hotel room, and at one stent, worked 9 weeks in a row without single a day off. But because of that, I advanced into the next promotion quicker than expected, got to travel the country and world, watch neurosurgeons literally take out brain tumors, and learn what it meant to earn my stripes. I have learned the importance of having grit, and being absolutely relentless in my pursuit for success.
#2: GUTS. There is no such thing as luck. Luck, is taking advantage of an opportunity that is presented through preparation, strategy and GUTS! You will miss 100% of the shots you DON’T take. What’s the worst they can do, tell you no?!
So, I was in New Orleans for a Neurosurgery conference, and my main goal was to meet with a certain surgeon I had been targeting at a large hospital. I did my homework, and went 100% stalker mode. I knew what he looked like, where he trained, when and where he was speaking at this conference and even downloaded the map of the exhibit hall to make sure I knew when and where I would track him down. So, I am on my way up the escalator to go find him, and as I am halfway up, I notice a man who looked just like the picture, on his way down. I started to go backward down the escalator, but realized how ridiculous it looked in a suit and high heels, and decided that right when he passed me, I would run up the escalator, and back down. So, as I reach the top, I make a quick turn, race down the escalator, without falling (which was a win in and of itself), and do this awkward run/jog/walk thing down the exhibit hall, trying not to look like a crazy person. As he was looking out the window on the left, I’d run parallel on his right side, before finally getting in front of him, ending a fake phone call, and just “happen to run into him.”
I made my pitch, he agreed to meet with me, ended up trying to product, and it was one of the largest deals I closed during my sales career. And although I looked like a total lunatic, and completely uncomfortable, I had the guts to go after it, and make it happen! There are going to be times when you have to use guts, heart and determination to get the deal done. Get comfortable, with being uncomfortable. This is when you grow and become better!
I will be the first to admit, I have always been my own worst enemy, when it comes to having guts and letting fear of failure get in the way of my growth. I have always let my age define me, and limit my ability to go after something because I thought I wasn’t qualified. In reality, age is a number, and although it comes with wisdom, do not think that you are too young to make a difference. Surround yourself with mentors who push you, and lift you up to new heights. That is how I got out of that rut myself! There is a saying that has stuck with me since I was in college, and it still reigns true today. You are the average, of your five closest friends. I am going to repeat that one, because it’s good! You are your average, of your five closest friends. Who you choose to surround yourself with in this next step and chapter, will define your future! So, make sure you pick wisely :)
And last, but not least, #3: Ownership. your future, and your impact on this world is up to YOU! Own it! Don’t complain about your career, or a problem, but step up and fix it! Ask yourself, “If not me, then who. If not now, then when?”
So, this last January, I took a promotion and transitioned from sales to marketing management. I loved sales. I made my own schedule, I did well for myself, won big awards, a Rolex watch, free trips. But Jordan and I moved back to Michigan (after we just built our house in Wisconsin), and I raised my hand for the new challenge because I wanted to make a greater impact on the organization. I wanted to fix the problems I experienced as a sales rep. But Before I put my name in the hat, I had doubts. I thought I was too young, I thought I wasn’t qualified, or wasn’t sure I’d be a good manager of a team, since I hadn’t managed people before. But I went for it, got the job, and now, love what I do. So, raise your hand! Go for opportunities that you feel are out of reach...if they say no, it’s never a no, it’s just not right now.
So, what is your why? What is that burning passion you cannot silence? What are your career and personal aspirations? Write them down. Tell your family, your friends, and hold yourself accountable.
Over the years my goals and priorities have changed, but one thing remains the same—no matter what my dreams are, I go after them as if this were my last day on this earth. Never wait for tomorrow, it’s not guaranteed... you don’t want to have any regrets, or knowing You could have done better.
When you leave here today, don’t let your future be defined by your circumstances, your past, your age or what others tell you, that you are capable of. You are leaving Concord High school today, as the class of 2018, with a clean slate, and nothing but opportunity ahead. You are given a chance to start over, hit the reset button, and choose your own destiny. So, have Grit, demonstrate your Guts... and OWN your future! YOU have to ability to make a difference, and BE THE CHANGE, YOU WHAT TO SEE IN THE WORLD. Thank you!