Recently, ConnectOne Chairman & CEO delivered a commencement speech at Stevens Institute of Technology. He shared some lessons from his career with the 2019 Masters and Ph.D. graduates, highlighting some guideposts that have shaped his journey. You can read more about them below.
This is a special time of year with millions of graduates across the country leaving college life for the real world. It is a time to celebrate and reflect on years of hard work. My advice to this year’s graduates and anyone else starting out their careers comes down to a few guiding principles that have served me well:
Look Past the Idea of Impossible: Don’t be dissuaded by the enormity of a task or dream. If you focus on the tasks at hand – rather than worry that they are hard or where the finish line is – you will be able to achieve what seems like the impossible. Yes, you’ll be challenged and face numerous difficulties, but once you begin, and take one step at a time, your view of what was once impossible will become possible.
Be Curious: Throughout my career, I’ve always kept asking “Why?” followed closely by “But Why?” and then “I really don’t understand, so why?” Whether in construction or banking, I’ve found that innovation is only driven by curiosity and challenging the status quo.
See the Opportunity: Do you see it? It’s all around us. Find it. Grab it. Go for it. Sure, opportunities are often shrouded in risks that most people won’t take, but don’t let that stop you. As Winston Churchill said: “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
Drown Out the Noise: Focus on what you believe and don’t let all the naysayers hinder you. One of my most successful periods in building was during the recession of the early 2000s. Our strongest growth spurt at ConnectOne Bank was during the Great Recession of 2008. Drown out the noise and focus on the facts. Let your clarity of purpose and passion carry you.
Don’t Forget Your Moral Compass: There are lots of smart people in the world, but not all of them put their talents to use for good. The business world is littered with examples of those who fall from grace. Often, those stories begin with a slippery slope. It is important to have a moral compass, to put into focus what you have learned – from your parents, family, friends, and mentors.
These guideposts have helped shaped my career and I hope they help shape yours. We live in an exciting time filled with possibilities. There’s never been a better time to be a graduate. Congratulations to the Class of 2019. Now it’s up to your generation to do what every generation before them has done – build something better.
Watch the full commencement speech below!