It’s that bittersweet time of year again
As we celebrate Commencement at Shenandoah University and the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business, my faculty associates. staff and I bid our grads farewell with a poignant but potent mixture of affection, pride, and hope for your future.
You have become part of us.
You’ve challenged us and inspired us and, yes, occasionally surprised us, and I hope we’ve done the same for you. If so, we’ve done our job.
For you—because you’re graduating and leaving these hallowed halls—it’s a huge milestone in your life, and I’m sure it’s bittersweet for too. You’ll get lots of advice – in commencement speeches, in cards and letters, and in person. You won’t remember much of it, but the advice successful men and women have for young graduates often contains some of the best, life-altering, motivational resources you’ll ever hear.
Advice from a few influencers
A couple of years ago, LinkedIn launched the “LinkedIn Influencers” program with over 250 participants, including Richard Branson, David Dameron, Jeff Immelt, Arianna Huffington, Meg Whitman, and President Barack Obama. Over 90 leaders responded to the question about the ideas they’d like to give or wished they’d received when they were first entering the workforce. Here are a few reported by writer Jacquelyn Smith in an article* on the Forbes website as well as a couple of others I believe are worthy of sharing:
- Richard Branson: You’ll never again be so unburdened; do something bold.
- Elizabeth Warren: Try the unexpected.
- Spencer Rascoff: Work incredibly hard, find a mentor, and know what you don’t know.
- Michelle Obama: “Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious, and hope can take on a life of its own.”
- Maria Shriver: Never lose sight of your core values: who you are and what’s important to you. Always take the high road.
- Joel Peterson: Set goals and aim high. Master the rules and master breaking them.
- Arianna Huffington: Don’t just climb the ladder of success—redefine it.
- Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
- Tom Keene: Passion is overrated. “Move your marginal listening skill forward for future happiness and stock-option success.”
- P. Diddy: “The only way out of the darkness is to become your own light.”
- Jeff Immelt: Embrace volatility and summon determination. Believe in better.
Why does it matter?
Why do we who are older than you feel such an imperative to give you our best, most heartfelt advice and guidance?
Because you are our legacy.
Because you are our future.
Because the older we get, the more we realize our life’s value will be measured much more in how we have helped others—how we have helped you—than any other yardstick.
Go with our love and our prayers, our well wishes and our blessings.
Go with confidence that your years at Shenandoah have given you a firm foundation on which you can build and grow, both personally and professionally. And make no mistake, you will need to grow both personally and professionally to succeed in life, and each will have its challenges and pitfalls.
Yes, you have indeed become a part of us.
Whether you’ve majored or done graduate work in business—or just taken a few classes here at the business school—we want you to take a little part of us with you as you make your mark on the world. We’ll be here for support if you need us, and we’ll be cheering you on.
And never forget what I’ve tried to instill in you since the day you arrived:
Live your dreams, not your fears.
* Smith, Jacquelyn. “The Advice Top Leaders Wish They’d Received At Graduation.” Forbes/Leadership. May 24, 2013.