A good commencement speech (abridged)
Sixteen years back almost to this day. the then Coca Cola CEO – Brian Dyson – had given a wonderful commencement speech at Georgia Tech here in Atlanta. Anybody who wants to read the full text can see it here: http://www.markturner.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Whistle-Brian_Dyson-Georgia_Tech_Commencement_Sept_1991-p3.pdf
I have taken the text and edited out the parts (in ellipsis) that were mostly examples to make his point – if you want to get the gist of his message. There are two core messages – what it takes to succeed and the need for balance. Here it is:
“I think the ingredients for success <…> are: vision, knowing what you want to be when you grow up; confidence, knowing who you are; and luck, or what I would call being in the right place at the right time.
The first ingredient in the secret formula for success is vision — what you would like to be. Because remember that we all live under the same sky, but we do not have the same horizon. A vision is different, I think, from the short-term goals that characterize a young life. These are often set for you by teachers. parents, advisers. They all have, to one degree or another, some stock in your life, and they quite appropriately set goals for you.
There’s no harm in taking advice, but now you will shape your own destiny. Now you need a larger vision.
Another ingredient I mentioned as being important to me is confidence — a basic acceptance of what I am and a realistic understanding of what I am not. It is an understanding of your potential.
To realize this potential, you must be at peace with yourself. You must focus on your strengths and attributes, and you must develop them to the max. I think I was in my twenties when this truth finally dawned on me, because until then I had been thrashing around, trying to be all things to all people. It doesn‘t work that way. Confidence in your potential means you can look anybody in the eye and not be in awe of them. Confidence is seeing an equal, level playing field.
So there you have it, my ingredients for success. Vision, confidence and thirdly, luck. Don‘t think that if you have vision and confidence, luck will come looking for you. Sometimes you have to make your own luck.
Lastly, I would caution you that as intelligent and active participants in a dynamic society like America, you must bring balance into your lives. Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them — work, family, health, friends and spirit — and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls ~ family. health, friends and spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked. nicked. damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.