Campus President Jeff Allbritten, Board of Trustees, Foundation Board members of Edison State College, faculty, staff, family, friends and especially Graduates of the Class of 2011,—congratulations on tonight’s wonderful achievement. You have every right to be pleased and satisfied with your accomplishments.
And I’ve got great news for you – there’s more success to come!
This graduation will be but one of many significant milestones in your lives. Your positive attitude …. your courage …. and your enthusiasm will make for a successful and satisfying life. And that’s what I’d like to speak about today.
Attitude, courage and enthusiasm create the acronym “ACE.” And it’s my belief – and the view of far wiser scholars than me, from Dale Carnegie to Stephen Covey to Abraham Lincoln – that if you keep these qualities foremost in your mind, then you have a fighting chance to “ACE life.”
To accomplish that, you’ve got to start with a positive attitude. It was Henry Ford who once famously said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right!”
What he meant was that success in anything – personal satisfaction, professional achievement, financial security, physical health, or mental well being – is determined to a great extent by our anticipation of the outcome.
What we think will happen, usually does happen. And if you think you can make it, then usually you accomplish just that.
  • This is your attitude.You own it. You control it.

In order to be successful, each of us has our own special abilities to tap into. Many believe that intellectual intelligence is the only measure of ability; that has been thoroughly disproven. It’s simply not true.

Howard Gardner, a distinguished Harvard professor, says that knowing who we are and what we do best is an important part of moving toward success. Professor Gardner identifies several basic types of abilities that each of us may have:
  • Linguistic—involves the ability to use words skillfully to accomplish goals. Writers, speakers, and people who persuade effectively have strong linguistic ability.
  • Logical/mathematical—involves analyzing problems logically. Scientists, mathematicians, engineers are examples.
  • Spatial— means recognizing, creating, and visualizing patterns and objects. This is essential for artists, architects, sculptors, and mechanics.
  • Bodily/Kinesthetic—connects mind and body. This makes for accomplished surgeons, athletes, dancers, and others whose coordination, strength, and balance we admire.
  • Interpersonal—means being able to empathize, understand, and “read” other people. This is a skill commonly associated with teachers, lawyers or salespeople.
  • Musical— means being sensitive to patterns of sounds, which distinguishes musicians, singers and entertainers.
The point is that each of us possesses different skills that a positive attitude can help nurture.
  • Success also requires courage.
Motivational literature is full stories of people overcoming unbelievable odds, including physical, mental and emotional handicaps. The common thread is having the courage to invest the time and harness the energy while staying focused on a goal.
Each of you has demonstrated your own form of “courage” – to keep focused and goal-oriented in order to achieve this important degree.
Few of us are lucky enough to enjoy a straight-line path to success. We all experience setbacks and failures along the way. The key is to have the courage to fight through the adversity and keep going.
  • And along with attitude and courage, the truly successful man or woman displays an enthusiasm about confronting the challenges ahead.
Specifically, each of the logical steps on the road to success should be considered with enthusiasm.
First is making decisions.
Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland that, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
So, identifying what you want in life or what want to accomplish is the first step. That’s where the enthusiasm comes in. Ask yourself:
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What values are important to me?
  • What am I good at doing?
These three questions need answers as you contemplate success in your future.
The second step on the road to success is seeking commitment.
Knowing where you want to go and what you want to do is only the beginning.
Enthusiastically committing to pursue the goal is even more important. Sometimes that means closing a past chapter so that you can open a new one. Or as the CEO of the Herman Miller office furniture company put it, “you have to get rid of the old to make room for the new.” (Of course, he was selling new furniture!)
You can help create your future by publicly sharing your goals, visualizing the change and thinking something good will happen. It’s as exciting as it is daunting. But that’s how you make the future a reality.
Third comes planning.
This entails breaking your overall large goals into smaller interconnected steps.
Having set realistic and measurable goals with priorities leads to definable progress. Each small step or tactic should have a timeline and a metric associated with it. Some may be urgent and others important but not time sensitive. Having a written timeline with specific measures helps maintain focus and place things in an appropriate order.
Fourth, being prepared for any extenuating circumstance.
Preparation ensures that you can conquer any setback. When you meet your first resistance, you want the right physical, mental, emotional, and tangible resources at hand and ready to be used. That means “being prepared” to reinforce confidence and concentrate on the project.
We doctors consider “positive stress” as a beneficial motivator that gives you an overall good feeling. On the other hand, “negative stress” refers to feelings of frustration that stem from not being in control of ourselves or the situation. Being prepared adds to the positive stress side of the equation.
Fifth comes execution.
Execution is where the “rubber meets the road” -- the culmination of all you’ve planned.
If you’ve approached each step with enthusiasm, this execution stage will be nothing but enjoyable. As you savor the fruits of your labor in this stage, the only question in your mind should be, “What’s next?”
Sixth, finally, comes recommitment.
Each time you succeed, there will be other opportunities. Other, even more promising doors will open. It’s a virtuous cycle. In every step of your life —whether in a professional or personal way -- having a positive attitude with the courage to stick with a plan will provide the required enthusiasm to allow you to continue to accomplish great things.
Your wonderful achievement tonight is just the beginning. Congratulations.