Everybody knows the four seasons of the year, right? Winter, Summer, Spring and Fall. Easy enough. But let’s face it, we all think of the seasons of the year in many other ways, right?
There’s basketball season, football season, baseball season, hunting season, the holiday season... and any number of other unofficial seasons we mark with each turn of the calendar.
We’ve just entered perhaps the most important season of the year. High school graduations began last week at East Wake Academy in Zebulon and continue this week with graduations at Garner High School on Monday and Cleveland on Friday.
Somehow, my invitations from all of those schools to serve as commencement speaker must have gotten lost in the mail. It’s a shame, too, because I wrote a doozy of a speech for this year’s graduates. It seemed a shame to waste it, so I’ve reprinted it here for everyone to ponder.
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“Congratulations to you – the members of the Class of 2015.
“You are the next crop of young people ready to go out and change the world. In just a few years, I’m fully certain most of you will be heading up multi-billion dollar international corporations, enjoying the perks of the corner office and commanding two or three people to make sure your coffee is just the right temperature and that your starched shirts are picked up from the laundry.
“OK, I know. Unless your Mama or Daddy owns that multi-billion dollar international corporation, none of y’all will have risen to that level yet. The truth is, whether you enter the world of work tomorrow or four years from now after you’ve finished college, you’ll get to start where most everyone starts – at the bottom. The good news, is you’ll have the chance to work your way up. That’ll take a certain mix of grunt work, skill, personality and political acumen.
“Don’t underestimate the importance of any of those factors. Good leaders make good managers. And good leaders are always willing to jump in and do the same work they expect of those who report to them. Managers who roll up their sleeves and get in the mud earn a heaping helping of respect from those who work for them. And a manager whose employees are willing to do anything for their manager will almost always make that manager look good.
“Practice your craft. Do it over and over and over. Each time you’ll get a little bit better at whatever that task is. The better you get at it, the better you look to people who can lift you higher on the totem pole.
“Be nice. A good personality always endears you to others, whether they work for you, whether they are your co-workers or whether they are your boss. Let’s face it. We’d all rather be around nice people. And the people at the top – who select their successors, want to surround themselves with people they like being around. If you’ve got to complain, go home and complain to your dog. He’s the only one who will really care. And you don’t want to build a reputation as a whiny-butt.
“Develop your political acumen. Know who the decision-makers are in your company (or at your college or university) and get to know them and their likes and dislikes. Surround yourself with people who can help you – whether that’s in the workplace, in your future classroom or in your neighborhood or church. Hold your friends close. Hold your enemies closer.
“So, maybe that CEO dream needs to be deferred for just a little while. That’s OK. Because right now, we celebrate the awesomeness of you. Your potential to occupy the corner office is there for the filling. It’ll be there tomorrow. Today, let’s party.”