“Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

May 19, 2016

grad speech quote“As we go forth…”

“Looking forward, let us also look back…”

“Life/success/education is not a destination, but a journey…”

It’s graduation season – when everyone has some kind of advice at the ready for students and keynote speeches are full of the expected clichés, platitudes, and meaningless quotes the speaker found when they googled for “best quotes for graduation speeches.”

Does this sound familiar?

Jimmy Fallon and Dwayne Johnson’s 1989 Commencement Speech

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In the spirit of “graduation season,” I thought I’d share some of the best advice I’ve been given – sort of an “anti-graduation” speech – with the hope that you’ll find some of it as helpful as I have.

Focus on what you can actually control and forget the rest.
This came early on in my career, when I was really frustrated about a project I was leading – in looking to my manager for support, he offered this. It’s really hard, but if you can do it, it’s incredibly freeing!

Ask yourself: Will you care about this or even remember it in 2, 5, or 10 years from now? If not, deal with it and move on. Don’t let it take up more energy than it’s worth.
One of my most insightful mentors asked me this when I was in the midst of an incredibly stressful and very political project at work – it gives you a whole new perspective.

If you never tell them what you want, how will they ever know?
For anyone who knows me, you’re probably laughing at this point because this pretty much sums me up. In my mind, it’s just another way to say “you need to ask for what you want” – in your career AND in life. Which I’ve also decided is the best way to get exactly what I want for my birthday!

While I love these, I decided to ask friends, family, and co-workers for their best words of inspiration – and I got an overwhelming response!

There were so many amazing ones that I decided to share most of them here:

“You’re an installer, figure it out.” It seems harsh on the surface, but it really drove me (still does to this day) to apply my mind to a problem; use critical thinking, problem solve, rely on experience and intuition, or reach out to others who I know have experience.

Think before you speak.

Do something right or don’t do it at all. Or in the immortal words of Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

The moment you stop blaming others for the sh&% going on in your life is the moment you have just empowered yourself to change it.

It’s not about what the piece of paper says you can do, rather, it’s about doing the things you know you can and say you will.

Don’t be afraid to pull out the good china.

No one else cares one $^&* about your career!

Don’t keep score.

Never burn a bridge.

Don’t apologize – it undermines your credibility.

Don’t get so caught up in making a living that you forget to live your life.

It’s better to be kind than right.

Be yourself – everyone else is taken.

No one will manage your personal life for you.

Your job/boss/company do not define your value – you do.

Seek work/life INTEGRATION not work/life BALANCE.

Everyone in the organization is important. Treat ALL coworkers with respect.

What other people think about you is none of your business – be who you are and were always meant to be.

Always shine a light on the team’s accomplishments.

Work is what you do – NOT who you are.

Remember before any presentation – you are ALWAYS the smartest person in the room on your subject matter.

Before a big meeting — always, always go to the bathroom. You will sign up for ANYTHING if you need to leave the room badly enough.

What is some of the best advice you’ve gotten?