20 Years Ago…
Yesterday while cleaning out the garage, I came across these notes. They relate to a keynote I gave 20 years ago at a Rotary event to about 140 high school seniors and guests. I learned afterwards that many didn’t know what the future held in store for them, and that these concepts gave them a compass to follow and hope.
In today’s COVID19 world, I feel like many entrepreneurs and small business owners may be experiencing the same feeling of uncertainty as these high school seniors did two decades ago. Much of what I talked about back then applies today. For that reason, I want to share these ideas and talking points with you today.
Most of the approaches and quotes were taken from books I read or people I talked to. I’m not claiming to be the original author of these ideas. I do embrace these concepts and try to use them on a daily basis. I’m also glad to have had the opportunity to share them with the students then, and with you today.
Also please keep in mind this keynote was given long before people recognized the names of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. These truths are timeless. Put them to use.
Having a passion for what you do is everything. What kind of passion am I talking about? You know, that excitement you see and hear from your dog when you walk in the front door at the end of the day.
Now that’s real passion. It’s excited to see you and passionate about sharing that excitement with you.
Embrace this emotion. Embrace love, hope and joy. There’s nothing more positive, enjoyable and energizing than having passion.
But while having passion is important, attitude, skills and action are also required. Passion, all by itself, is like running in the dark. You might get to where you want to go but, you may never know it or worse, you might trip over something and get injured along the way. Keep your eyes open and consistently take focused action fueled by daily passion.
Decisions and Actions
It’s not who your parents are that matters. It’s who you are and what you do that matters.
When I gave my talk, my research showed that 52% of the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies were from lower middle class or poor families. Furthermore, 80% of the millionaires in America were first generation millionaires.
Along those same lines, opportunity is alive and well for those willing to take action. About 75% of the 300 world-class leaders were raised in poverty, abused as children, or had a serious physical disability.
“Men and women are limited not by the place of their birth, not by the color of their skin, but by the size of their hope.” -John Johnson
In case you don’t know who Johnson was, by his own account, he was a great grandson of slaves who grew up shy, insecure, inarticulate and bowlegged. He wore homemade clothes and was constantly subject to ridicule and insults. Despite these challenges, Johnson grew up to become one of the wealthiest people in America.
The key to decisions, actions, success and greatness is understanding the above and the following: You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.