A Message to 2016 Graduates
Last week I was honored with the privilege of speaking at Red & Yellow School of Logic and Management’s graduation ceremony for it’s Springboard programme, a 1 year learnership and National Certificate of Advertising.
A few have asked for a copy of my graduation address:
Good afternoon everyone.
Family members. Loved ones. Friends. Red & Yellow staff. And finally graduates.
It’s a pleasure to stand in front of you today.
I’m privileged to not only be here with you and but to also know these students seated here. I’ve watched them learn, grow and succeed through this programme.
Today I’m not going to take too much time but I want to take you through 3 of my favorite quotations.
I picked these 3 quotes not solely because of who said them, but because I usually don’t a week without reading one of them for motivation and inspiration. They refocus me, realign me and re-energize me to push for success.
It’s said that wise words are powerful forces of nature; that they are nourishment.
I hope today they can be the same for you.
“No smarter than you…”
The first quote, comes from one of my hero’s, Steve Jobs. He needs no introduction. He’s everyone’s go to example for innovation and entrepreneurship. I was luckily enough to meet him when I was a nerdy 12 year old. Unfortunately, upon shaking his hand, I cried.
Nonetheless, Steve had these wise words to share about life:
“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
Everything around us, everything we see and interact with, was created by someone no smarter than you.
Doesn’t matter where you are from. Where you went to school. If you went to school. Who you parents are. Who they aren’t. Everything we interact with, from our phones, to cars, to the pieces that put this very building together. That was all done by some no more brilliant than you.
I won’t give you the cheesy speech about you can be anything you want to be. However, the reality is that the life we live can be influenced. The world we live in can be influenced. It’s not static. Now more than ever, you can improve this world in your own way.
That’s a powerful realization.
When you shake off the belief that you’re just here to live. To just pay bills and die. That life here is just to get a good job. When you shake off all past mistakes. When you shake off past failures. When you shake off all limitations. And you open up to realize, “Wait a minute, I can make my mark on this here world.”
That’s special. That’s beautiful.,
That’s the true purpose of life. I urge you as you go out into this world today with these special pieces of paper in hand, to not merely exist, to not just survive.
But to improve it. To make your mark.
“You’re gonna die”
My second quote, comes from famous internet entrepreneur Gary Vee. Gary Vaynerchuk. While most known for being internet famous he is also an early investor in Twitter, Snapchat & Uber. He primarily runs VaynerMedia, an agency we look up to in this industry, that despite starting only 7 years ago, now makes a yearly revenue of over $60 million.
Asked recently to deliver “3 words to give anyone inspiration on days their feeling down” Gary responded:
“You’re gonna die”
Death is inevitable. “You’re gonna die”
It’s going to happen, to all of us. “You’re going to die”
It can happen at any moment. “YOU are going to die”
I don’t say this to be morbid or put ill will in your life.
I say it because it’s time to do something about it.
The average age here is about between 18–24.
Most would argue that this is the greatest time, the greatest era to be alive.
I guarantee everyone in this room older than you would pay ridiculous sums to be your age again. To have your idealism. Your health. Your flexibility (literally). Your passion. Your lack of any real responsibilities.
So I ask you today, in the face of knowing you’re gonna die, what are you going to to about it?
Stop complaining. You’re here. Right now. Live it
Take your risks now. You’re gonna get more scared and less flexible.
Your success will not be the number in your bank account. The car you drive. How many followers you have on Instagram.
It’s going to be about the impact you made on this planet.
Let’s flip it for a moment: You are alive today.
YOU are alive today.
Because of that mere fact, you literally have infinite potential. To do anything, dream anything, achieve anything.
It’s time to take action in your life.
Every story of every successful person before you, anyone you’ve ever admired or looked up to, is a direct result of someone taking action in their life. Of someone stepping up and owning it.
So today I remind you: You’re gonna die. But you are alive today. Do something about it.
My last quote is probably my favorite. I read this quote almost daily, mostly because it was one of my grandfather’s favorite sayings and I feel closer to him every time I read it.
It’s the Shona proverb that says:
“kumhanya hakuzi kusvika…”
Loosely translated it means, “to run does not mean to arrive…”
As humans, we often measure our success and our growth against what we see others have done. We peg our goals and our picture of success in relation to what others are or have achieved.
We want to race past the current moments and on to the day where we’ve catapulted to the heights we’ve set for ourselves. We ready to be outchea!
We can’t look at the right now and often knock everything down as we run blindly towards the “future me.” We want it so bad too soon.
Just because we run fast doesn’t mean we’re ever going to get there.
It’s about patience. It’s about embracing the journey. It’s just as important to have a clear direction of where you want to be than to just run. Quite often we haven’t spent enough time closely defining what “success” actually looks like.
Imagine Usain Bolt hearing the gun and taking off with his eyes closed… Would that make any sense? Would we expect him to win a race? So why do we do it?
Rather, the fastest man in the world has already envisioned the finish line, he’s already envisioned the experience of crossing it first and most importantly he’s already envisioned the work required to do so. Because we get so caught up with being the fastest one around the track we often fall flat on our faces by just doing too much.
But don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying today, don’t run…
Quite often we are also just as guilty of sitting on our hands for too long, guilty of not taking hold of ideas at the right time, guilty of letting opportunities pass us by.
How many talented individuals have you seen never even get to the starting blocks? A great Nike campaign simply says, “yesterday you said tomorrow.”
How many times have you told yourself I’ll work on me tomorrow? I’ll hit the gym tomorrow? I’ll put some time in on this idea, tomorrow…
Just do it.
A very good friend once said that the opportune time meant to him: “You have to take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime… in the lifetime of that opportunity.”
The window is usually very small.
So today I say to you, run…
Run right now…
But run with a target…
But run, not to get there tomorrow…
And when you’ve run your hardest, then run even harder…
The target will appear in it’s own time… Strive for progress each, not perfection.
Be willing to keep running. Thats the journey of life.
Today I encourage you to make your mark like Steve. I encourage you to hustle right now like GaryVee. I encourage you to run with purpose like our ancestors taught.
I’m incredibly proud of each of you. The marker of my success in life will not be how much I make or what any of my businesses achieve. But it will be on what each of you go out and do. I’ll measure my impact on life, on this planet by how you go out and succeed.
So go out there and continue to make me and everyone gathered here proud.
We’re rooting for you.
Good luck R&Y Springboarders!
What was the best graduation advice you received? Tell me in the comments!
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