‘You stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before’
This is the Commencement Address to the Bermuda College delivered last week by alumni and partner of Expertise Ltd Doug Soares
Good Afternoon everyone. Congratulations to the Class of 2012 and thank you for allowing me the honour of being part of it.
Earlier this week, when I told a group of work colleagues that I would be out of the office today to deliver the commencement address at Bermuda College, I was asked what I would talk about. I just said “something memorable, I hope”. That comment prompted me to think: I don’t remember a word of advice spoken at my graduation. How embarrassing! Then I thought: I wonder if anyone remembers what the commencement speaker said at their graduation? So I began asking around. Would you believe that not one person could remember the advice they were given by the commencement speaker?! Do you know, not one person could remember! NOT ONE! And these are extraordinarily bright people!
So I figure there are two ways that I can approach my job today. I can either say a few boring things knowing that it’s no big deal because no one will remember a word of it anyway. OR I can be the first commencement speaker in history to say something memorable. It’s a good thing I like a challenge!
Bermuda College graduates of 2012, as you heard in my introduction, in 1989, I was sat where you sit now. So I know the pride and the optimism under those silly caps you are wearing. It feels good, I know, and so it should. One does not achieve your level of success without a significant amount of determination and hard work.
But having sat where you sit, 23 years ago, I also know that lurking in your mind is some degree of fear and insecurity about the future. So when I was preparing my remarks today I thought: when I was graduating from the Bermuda College, what advice might I have benefited from?
Believe me, this was not a difficult speech to prepare. I have lots of scrapes and bruises that I might not have received had I possessed the wisdom that I will share with you today.
So, Bermuda College graduates of 2012, lend me your ears for the next nine minutes and I promise you that the path you take from this campus will be smoother than if you decide to ignore me!
Now, accepting that many of you are probably still leaning towards ignoring me, I have decided not to bombard you with advice. Instead I am going to provide you with just one golden nugget of advice on a just a few topics that of great importance to your future.
So here it goes.
Advice for ensuring that you never stop learning & growing
Ÿ When you are wrong or screw up, admit it. To do so builds your credibility. It also guarantees an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. The alternative, denial, condemns you to a miserable life of delusion and blame. And no one takes you seriously.
Advice for dealing with failure
Ÿ When you fail, experience every bit of the feeling. Feel the grief, deeply. Search to understand your failure. Accept responsibility. Make adjustments. But then try again. Follow each these steps EXACTLY and, going forward, you will ALWAYS win more than you lose. But skip a step and you will ALWAYS be gambling with your future.
Advice for dealing with uncertainty
Ÿ When you are uncertain, Google it. Just kidding! When you are uncertain, seek advice. Two or more minds are ALWAYS better than one. But choose your advisers carefully. Approach the most balanced thinkers you know. And no matter what advice you get, always question it.
Advice for dealing with doubts about achieving your goals
Ÿ When you feel like quitting, quit the feeling. Dwelling on failure causes failure. So do the opposite. Dwell on the success you desire. Envision it. Feel it. Make it real in your mind. And then act on your vision. Trust me, it works.
Advice for choosing a future career
Ÿ If you are struggling to make a choice on what career to pursue, relax. Most people retire having never figured it out! Just pursue your interests. Experiment. Explore. And never stop learning. If you end up in a place you don’t want to be, relax! Pursue new interests. Continue experimenting. Explore further. And learn some more. Keep doing this until you retire.
Advice for finding a job in Bermuda in 2012 and beyond
Ÿ If you struggle in your job search, persevere. Understand that the job that you will most likely compete for is NOT one inextricably bound to Bermuda. The job you are likely to compete for is one of millions in the global economy that just happens to be located in Bermuda at the time you’re applying. So your qualifications and track record must be every bit as good as anyone in the world in your field.
Advice for feeling good about your success
Ÿ If you find yourself accomplishing all your goals but not feeling good about your success, you’re using the wrong ruler. Understand that the ruler of success has no markings for the make of your car, the brand of your clothes or the size of your house. In fact, the ruler of success has no markings at all. Like love, success is measured by the heart. So aim to be happy, not wealthy.
Advice for when you begin to realise your academic and career goals
Ÿ When you achieve your goals, be grateful. Recognise everyone who has supported you. As tall as you feel today, remember that the height of your success is NOT measured from where you stand. It is measured from the feet of the individuals in your family who first immigrated to Bermuda, or wherever you are from. You stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before you. So be proud of what you have achieved, but be grateful for the support provided to you by your family. Today is their day too.
That’s it for advice from me, but before I conclude, I wanted to tell you a personal story which emphasises the importance of my last point, the importance of being grateful for those that made your success possible.
As you might have already gathered, I am a Bermudian of Portuguese decent. My grandfather was a fisherman and farmer; my grandmother a homemaker. When my father was a teenager in the late 1940s, there was absolutely no expectation for him to go to college. So he didn’t. But after being in the workforce for a few years my father decided to pursue a career as an accountant. This was a very peculiar decision. Not only was becoming a qualified accountant highly improbable because he did not have a degree, but back in the 1950s, Portuguese people were still classified as a separate race in Bermuda and they did NOT become professionals.
Well, it took him over 10 years, but in 1961, at the age of 30, my father became the first Bermudian of Portuguese decent to earn the Chartered Accountant’s designation. Fast forward to the 1980s, when I and my three brothers were growing up, there was absolutely no questioning of my parent’s expectation that we would all go to college. My father would always say, “Douglas, it does not matter what you want to do for a career; you will go to college to become fully qualified at whatever it is that you choose to do”. He would say, “Education changes everything!”.
Bermuda College Graduates of 2012, if I have one regret about my graduation from this college 23 years ago, it was not fully appreciating the shoulders on which I stood. I ought to have been more grateful. So as proud and excited as you are today about your well-earned achievement, please do not miss this opportunity to reflect on your family history and express gratitude to everyone that has ever supported you.
Thank you and good luck with your onward journey.
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