What a business grad looks like.

I wasn’t selected to be a commencement speaker for my undergrad business school’s ceremony, but that won’t stop me from sharing an encouragement to my fellow graduates.

Today is a great day to be at school.

I know that many of us here today might have not said that with full confidence during our time here, but I certainly hope that all of us are able to confidently say that today.

Why?

Because we’ve graduated and now we’ve come to school today not to go to class, or to stress out and find parking so we can get to that class, but to celebrate the fact that we’re part of a graduating class from the California State University!

We are now part of the 3,000,000+ people who have graduated from the fantastic Cal State system, but even more importantly, we are part of the 55,000+ people who’ve graduated from the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.

Many of the people who took the same walk we just took are now utilizing their education and extra-circular experience in their workplaces, continually showing their employers and people around them the quality of a business grad from CSUF.

Today was made for a celebration not just for the college, but ultimately for us who strived to get a diploma and were molded into the image of that business grad.

But what exactly does a business grad look like?

I finished my classes this past December and since then, I’ve taken some time to really think about that and that will be the subject of my time with you all today.

In my time thinking and researching what to say, I also took the time to watch videos and read transcripts of previous commencement speeches (especially from our school) and all of them had one thing in common — telling you what you already know.

You are here today to get your diploma and that diploma means that you’re smart; smart enough to realize that hard work, good work ethics, and a “can do” attitude to any task given to you are what got you here and what will get you farther after school. No doubt I acknowledge that wholeheartedly, but I feel a commencement speaker should celebrate and challenge.

So that’s what I’ll do for you. I’m not going to lecture you or tell you things you already know. Instead, I’ll stay away from the normal commencement pep talks and remind you of what a business graduate looks like in hopes that you find success in keeping your integrity as one.

There are 3 main traits that mark a business graduate.

1) You have an strong desire to create something meaningful

I started my own business back in high school and now DisneyExaminer is an online magazine that has readership in 176 out of the 196 countries there are in the world.

My passion for Disney ultimately created something meaningful for the world.

Even at such a young age, I had that desire to turn nothing into something, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a business, nor does it have to affect the world.

For you, it might mean something different and that’s great!

Whether you’re an artist looking to create a piece to feature in a national gallery, a line cook wanting to give the world a whole new flavor in your regional restaurant, or even just volunteering in your own community, your output should always mean something.

Graduating college has now made us morally obligated and morally right citizens and we should all be using ourselves to better this world, not make it worse.

Make sure that you first have a desire for that one something and rest assured both your simple and complex contributions to the world will be meaningful.

Like me, people will notice.

2) You have the ability to discipline yourself like no other

A lot of people I know cringe when they hear the word “discipline”.

Yes, the word was used a lot when we did the wrong things growing up, but I’ve come to define the word in a different light now that I’m grown up.

Webster’s dictionary would define the word as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior.”

I’ve come to admire many people both famous and just in my own circle of friends that have personal discipline, from the photographer who wants to finish an Iron Man competition to the girl who wakes up at 4 AM every morning to get a workout in before she heads into the office.

Much like athletes, our bodies aren’t inherently trained to do these things. But much like accomplished athletes, many of them have trained (or disciplined) their bodies to do these extraordinary things. In the same way, we graduates ought to train ourselves for success.

Make sure you’re training yourself, whether that be waking up at 4 AM to start a day with a workout or just making sure you’re challenged and delivering on those challenges at work or at play.

Like athletes, people will notice.

3) You have humility to say you don’t know everything

I’m the product of many mentors. I look up to people, but not necessarily because they have the public status of greatness or have even done things that have received recognition.

My parents are certainly early mentors who’ve brought me up and gave me a foundation and an example to live by.

Some pastors and friends have also been there for me to help guide me when I had questions or when life was tough.

Professionally, there are many business leaders who I’ve seen conduct themselves properly and their businesses successfully. One of those leaders is Tom Staggs.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tom multiple times during my time with DisneyExaminer and one such instance is when he graciously gave some time to meet with me in his office to discuss myself and my development.

Though we discussed a lot, there was one thing that stuck in my mind. It was something he also shared with his alma mater when he gave a commencement speech to them. It was a simple piece of advice — stay humble.

You may not have heard of him, but he currently serves as Disney’s Chief Operating Officer and prior to that, he was Disney’s chairman for its parks and resorts division and prior to that was Disney’s Chief Financial Officer. How does one accomplish so much in a relatively short tenure at one of the most beloved companies on earth?

He stayed humble.

He reminded himself constantly of the tasks he had in front of him and disciplined himself to do great work in creating value wherever he was. He always wanted to “learn” first and “do” second because that’s how great things get done, as old-fashioned as it seems.

Make sure that you recall the old-fashioned things we learned in grade school and remember to stay humble and at the same time hungry for greatness.

Like Tom, people will notice.


After hearing the description of the business graduate, you might be thinking that you aren’t one. There are going to be days where we won’t live up to its particular “job description” and we won’t have the same responsibilities or positions of the 55,000+ other people who’ve graduated before us.

Still, we must not forget who we are.

Every business graduate looks different, speaks a different language, and has a different interpretation of what “business casual” dress means. I’m not the smartest person out there, nor will I follow the career path you choose, but every successful business graduate will act and perform in way worthy of their profession.

For us Mihaylo business grads, it’s really easy for us to remember who we are because we lived through it for the 4+ years it took to for us to graduate.

In class, we created something meaningful through the projects and exams we did and the relationships we formed.

In class, we disciplined ourselves by making sure those projects were completed on-time and to the quality that deserved positive attention from our professors.

In class, we were humbled with letter grades that were lower than expected and as a result, pushed even more to recover and get a better grade next time.

Today, let’s remind ourselves that those things we’ve done shouldn’t be forgotten, but should be a part of us after we leave this campus today.

In life (not just your career), create something meaningful.

In life (not just your career), discipline yourself like no other.

In life (not just your career), remind yourself of humility or expect humiliation.

Why?

Because we just spent $14,000+ to go to school and we better make a good return on our and our parent’s investment of money and time. Well, that’s the business answer.

My answer (a more human answer) is simply because we graduated and we’re now called to do this.

Mihaylo College’s motto is “Ready to work, ready to lead” and ready or not, here life comes. When life starts to feel like a sunk cost or a poor investment, remember today and remember the person that you have become this day — a business graduate.

And a mindful business graduate makes a successful businessperson (especially from CSUF); One who can confidently say that today and everyday was a great day to be at school.