2006 Commencement Speech Proposal
Five Themes of Success:
Straight from the mouths of entrepreneurs
This past year I went on a mission to interview as many entrepreneurs as I could to find some important answers. I wanted to learn what these individuals had that so many of us want to emulate. I was looking for the secret answer or the magic formula that they followed to achieve their own success. After almost 100 interviews, I learned what I already knew deep down inside, that no secret answer or magic formula exists. However, I did find some common characteristics that kept re-emerging from these entrepreneurs, many of whom had completely different backgrounds.
I am going to take the next few moments to share five important themes of their success and why each one of them applies to us as we graduate today.
1. Be a Doer.
Too often people think about what they want to do or wish they could accomplish, but more often than not they don’t follow through for one reason or another. Successful people are those that take steps to follow their dreams from day one. Always strive for action.
2. Don't be afraid of mistakes.
Of course, as future lawyers we always have to be on the top of our game, but too often, striving for perfection and neatness can slow you down. I say this because successful people always try to work above their comfort zone to constantly grow. And with growth, you are going to make mistakes because you are always learning new things. One of the biggest factors of success is being able to overcome these mistakes by learning from them. As one entrepreneur put it, you have to make mistakes and try to "turn them into gold."
3. Never forget the importance of networking.
This applies on so many levels. All of these entrepreneurs network all of the time to get where they are today. Even if you work for a large firm, don’t be passive in the office. You must seek out the right experienced lawyer to be your mentor and guide you through the process. Outside the office, these entrepreneurs joined many organizations to connect with other like minded individuals. As lawyers, we must all network inside and outside from day one. It is a competitive world out there, and as people say, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” So in your first month as a new lawyer, attend a networking event....don’t wait!
4. Don't Listen to the Negativity of Nay-Sayers.
99% of the entrepreneurs I interviewed had people tell them that their idea or company would never work. These people would say things like, “there is too much competition” or that “the idea is not original enough.” And if they had listened to them, they would have proved these nay-sayers correct. Nobody will believe in you more then you can believe in yourself. When you have an important decision to make in the future, whether it is taking a new job, going off on your own, or taking on a tough client......follow your own convictions first. I look at it as a right of passage that all successful people must overcome the negativity from others, and you should too.
5. Help Out Others Without Wanting Anything in Return
Most of these entrepreneurs always looked for ways they could help others succeed. Many times I saw it first hand when entrepreneurs connected me with others that have benefited my business, such as designing my website for free, or have giving me invaluable advice. When you help out others, you will not only feel better about yourself, but these people will look to you as a resource. Kindness to others is not forgotten, especially when it comes to business. So help out others anyway you can.......as the old saying goes, “what goes around, comes around.”
I have met some great people at New York Law School and look forward to working with many of you on the outside. I hope you will take a little of what I have shared with you on your road to success. Congratulations to the class of 2006.