As I was trying to conjure something inspirational to say, I was reminded of something former President George W. Bush said during a commencement speech at Yale. “To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.”
This comment always makes me giggle in its self-deprecating honesty, and in reading between the lines of his joke, Bush makes a great point – anything is possible. Check that: Anything is possible if you work hard enough for it.
Recently, I was reading the backgrounds of some of America’s most famous business people, celebrities, and politicians. Each one of them had one common characteristic – work ethic.
American founding father Benjamin Franklin had only two years of formal education. The author, inventor, philosopher, and statesmen forged his way to greatness as a voracious reader.
Ray Croc, the man behind the McDonald’s empire, began his career as a traveling milkshake salesman before purchasing a small restaurant franchise in California and turning it into a global powerhouse. He once said, “Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
Sam Walton grew up on a farm in Oklahoma. A leader among his peers in school, Walton excelled in the classroom, and in the eighth grade, he became the state’s youngest Eagle Scout. Walton even paid his way through college by working odd jobs – working as newspaper delivery boy, lifeguard, and waiter. In 1961, he opened his first five and dime store. From then until 1991, Walton became the largest retailer in the world.
Oprah Winfrey grew up poor. However, she excelled in school and won a scholarship to Tennessee State University. She even worked at a local television station while she was in high school – cementing her longtime dream to become a news anchor. After college, she began working as a news anchor in Baltimore, finally moving to Chicago to host a morning show. She would soon make that morning show the highest rated show in the Chicago market. Today, Winfrey is a media icon, with wild success in television, publishing, and movie making.
Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, started out as a single mother working in sales for a home goods supplier. After being passed over for a promotion in favor of a man she trained, Ash was determined to form a company that would give women a hand up in the business world. At her death in 2001, her company had annual sales of over $200 million. In 2010, sales were reported to be $2.5 billion.
To those graduating seniors, I urge you to dream big. Anything is possible, but you must be willing to do what it takes to make that dream happen.
Winston Churchill said, “Sometimes our best is simply not enough…. We have to do what is required.”
What is required for you to be everything you imagined?