My daughter Katy and I had the extraordinary opportunity to be in the presence of excellence last week, when we attended and I delivered the keynote speech for the SEBA Baccalaureate Celebration for Saint Mary’s College of California. My role was to give these students a glimpse of what lies ahead, offer them strategies about how to persevere, and inspire them to continue to strive for excellence.
My speech was entitled An Ordinary Life of Extraordinary Experiences, and it chronicled my journey as an entrepreneur, detailing my successes and my failures. I was transparent about the challenges and the emotional and physical costs associated with those challenges. My message was simple: every person in the room had the opportunity to achieve their goals irrespective of their socioeconomic status, gender, religious or political beliefs, or where they live. Each person in that room could (and should) accomplish amazing things – even beyond their wildest dreams. My caution was that it would not be easy. It would take courage, perseverance, preparation, support, and a lot of hard work. I provided examples of people from all walks of life who have embraced the opportunities before them to achieve greatness and make global change; affect policies and the direction of nations; improve their communities, schools, companies, and industries; and most importantly, change lives for the better. I explained that the key was to define a meaningful purpose and then expect failures along the way. In fact, plan for failure and also plan to fail as fast as possible. And most importantly, never, never give up!
It was a humbling experience, knowing I was among the best and brightest students in one of the top 10 regional universities in the West. I’m not sure who got more from that event: me, or the students in the audience. It was inspiring and wonderful to have had the opportunity and to provide the opportunity to my daughter. A big thank you (and a huge hug) goes out to the always elegant and sophisticated Dr. Larisa Genin, the Associate Dean, School of Economics and Business Administration at Saint Mary’s College of California, who honored me with the invitation to speak.