Last week, I had the honor and privilege of speaking at the graduation ceremony of my alma mater, John Dewey High School. I hope to post at least the audio of my speech at some point, but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you the main gist of what I told the graduates.
It almost goes without saying that I wanted to explain to them how to be a success in life. So really, my advice doesn't just apply to 18-year-olds starting out in the world - it applies to anyone looking to be reborn, looking to start a new career, or looking to reinvent themselves in any way.
When you're starting something new, all the unknowns that come with it can be pretty daunting.
I have two rules on attacking the great unknown when you're starting a new phase of life:
1. Embrace the unknown.
"How can I embrace something when I don't even know what it is exactly?" you may be asking. But that's the point - embrace that mystery. Find joy in that unknown.
I've said before that my friend and former Rangers goalie Mike Richter likes to say that when the game is on the line and you have three guys skating over 70 miles an hour towards you, and you know one of them is going to take a slap shot at you, you can’t be scared of not knowing how it’s all going to play out. You have to find joy and fun in that unknown.
And when you think about it, that's your only option.
Because even when you're at the top of your game, or the top of your profession, life is always going to throw some wildcards at you.
The person who can pick up that wildcard without flinching, without fear in their heart, will be in the best position to play it.
If you can't find some fun in not knowing what card is going to pop up next, then life is going to hose you at almost every turn.
2. Outwork everyone.
The particular skills needed to "make it" nowadays are constantly changing. The technology we use is constantly evolving. The companies we work for are themselves always morphing into something new.
The one thing that has remained constant is that outworking everyone is the best way to differentiate yourself.
As a manager, it's nice to have highly-educated, highly-skilled employees. But nobody's perfect, and when they screw up, even highly-skilled workers run the risk of being let go.
On the other hand, a very hard worker is virtually impossible to fire. A manager will always find a way to keep a hard worker around, because that trait is too valuable to let go of. Heck - nowadays, diligence is a skill itself.
That's the main formula for success. Those two things: embrace (be ready for) the unknown, and work your *ss off. They're two simple - if not easy - traits to live by. If you can live by them, you'll keep progressing no matter what you end up doing with your time.
See, there's a reason I call this post "How to be a success" instead of "How to be successful."
Successful is an adjective. Pretty much anyone can be successful once in a while.
But being a success is something else. It's who you are, not something you do.
It's about being consistent - while the circumstances around you change.
Embrace the unknown and outwork everyone around you - that's how to be a success.
PS - In case you missed it, here's an older post on The Best Way to Look for a Job.