Colleges throughout the land are releasing their graduates into the world, and I couldn’t help but think what it would be like to be starting over again today.
We live in an age when a 26-year-old high school dropout can sell a company missing a vowel — Tumblr — to another whose name requires an exclamation point — Yahoo! — for more than $1 billion.
Easy peasy, right?
Actually, the message at many commencements was much different. While a quick score might sound seductive, success often follows a slower trajectory.
“You can’t have much impact on the world around you if you are constantly on the move,” counseled Robert F. Bruner, the dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, during a recent graduation ceremony. “Therefore, my advice is not ‘move out, move away, move on.’ Rather it is ‘hang on, hang in and make a difference.’ Dive in to the challenges faced in your community. Make an in-depth study of your industry and your company’s products and services. Volunteer to help with anything. And invest deeply in building relationships within your firm — and not just with your bosses or peers; but start with the humblest employee in your space — this could be the person who delivers packages, or picks up trash or serves your coffee.”
Former AOL chief Steve Case also stressed the importance of building relationships. He advised graduates at the University of North Carolina to focus on things they can be passionate about. Even then, perseverance matters, he said. He told how his first start-up, an early online video game company, sputtered.
“As Gameline struggled, most people – including my parents – suggested I put aside my entrepreneurial impulses and passion and get back onto a more normal career path. But I stuck with it, as I believed that someday, somehow, the Internet would change the world.”
At the University of Maryland, baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. said people may be born with talent, but developing it requires that they learn from experience, over time, staying positive in the face of failure.
“Sorry, folks: There are no shortcuts on this one.”
Funny, I get the feeling if I was starting again I’d wind up just where I am.