Archive for October, 2012

29
Oct
12

Berks Technical Institute Commencement Speech

Good evening graduating class of Berks Technical Institute. Thank you to President Reichard for allowing me to share this evening’s remarks. I want to welcome the family, friends and other supporters who are here to celebrate the remarkable achievement of these graduates.  Growing up, my father always taught me the importance of a continuing education and embracing a lifetime of learning. You see, he grew up in the Depression and only made it through the 8th grade. He used to tell me that whenever he graduated from anything it wasn’t magna cum laude, it was laude how cum.

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” You are now about to put to use the innate talents you were born with and the learned skills you have acquired as you embark on the literal journey of a lifetime; the quest to find out why you were born.

And as you enter the workforce I have these words of encouragement for you. Yes, encouragement. Don’t fixate on the doom and gloom about the economy. Yes, this nation has a tough economic road ahead of it, but for workers who are not just able, but willing to give a job their all, the future will always be bright. The greatest employers hire for attitude and train for aptitude because you can’t teach someone responsibility, accountability, and integrity. By this stage in life, you either have it or you don’t.

The beauty of this graduating class is that you obviously have the aptitude, as evidenced by the technical classes you completed, as well as the certifications you earned. You are able. Now as you enter the work force of life, the key will be whether you are willing. Never, ever forget that your “I can” is infinitely more important than your IQ.

Back in 2006 I was approached about a project management position running a very large and diverse operations service contract on a classified facility in the Midwest. The problem was I did not possess the particular two years of contracting experience outlined in the job description.  But if there is one thing I had learned in working in four major,  yet very different, industries, it’s that the keys to success fit all doors regardless of the industry, so I applied.

I was brought into an interim position as a subcontracts manager and told to begin working on that two year requirement. I dug in with a vengeance. As I suspected, the acronyms were different, but the requirement for outstanding customer service, efficient use of resources, and ability to interact with a top-notch team was the same as when I served in the Air Force as well as the semiconductor field.

Six weeks into the job, the top government contracting officer called me in their office and said I was approved to fill the position as the project manager. When I asked about the two year requirement they said that due to my demonstrated energy and enthusiasm to get the job done, they felt comfortable waiving it. It was then I learned firsthand the power of enthusiasm and a “can do” attitude in the workplace.

The second lesson I want to share with you is that the people who do what needs to be done without being told draw the most wages. You determine your worth in the work place. In each of the jobs for which I was selected, no one inside the organization was willing to step up. Sure, some were able, but they were not willing. If you are willing to do the things that the majority of people do not want to do, I can guarantee your continued professional success. In fact, the common denominator of success is that a success does the things that failures don’t like to do. That’s it. It’s that simple. You don’t have to be a visionary, or a genius. You just have to be committed to getting the job done because so few people are. Elbert Hubbard said, “Do your work with all your heart and you will succeed—there’s so little competition.”

My father used to call these types of people thumb-suckers and he told me to steer clear of them. In fact he told me, “Hang around great people and you’ll be a greater person; hang around givers and you’ll be a better giver; hang around a bunch of thumb-sucking, complaining, griping, boneheads and you’ll be a better thumb-sucking, complaining, griping bonehead!”

When you enter the workforce you will function as a thermometer or a thermostat. A thermometer is stationary and only reflects what is happening around it. A thermostat, on the other hand, measures what the temperature is and then responds by changing the temperature to the conditions it desires. Some people are like a thermometer. If their environment is negative, they are negative. If bad things happen, they are sad. If good things happen, they are happy. Successful people, on the other hand, are more like a thermostat. Even if their environment is negative, they choose to be positive. In fact, these people are the ones that end up setting the atmosphere for the entire organization.

And lastly, I want to encourage you to make mistakes. A young accountant and recent graduate of Berks Technical Institute asked his seasoned CEO how he got so successful. The CEO replied, “Good judgment”. The young accountant then asked the CEO how he got good judgment, to which the CEO replied, “Experience”. The young accountant pressed on asking the CEO how he got experience, to which the CEO replied, “Poor Judgment”.

We are all born with an empty psychological key ring. Every experience, good, bad or ugly, gives us a key with which to open future doors. The more exposure to experience, the more keys we get to unlock life’s vast array of doors.

There is no greater teacher than adversity. And if you are stepping up to the plate while others are content to sit in the dugout, there is a chance you will strike out. But at least you made it to the plate and took a swing. My father told me that the secret to success is to cram 50 years of failure into 15. He was right. We learn from our mistakes, so don’t be afraid to make them.

And I wouldn’t be a publisher worth my salt if I didn’t bring you some tremendous reading material as a graduation gift. These two little pamphlets are the most powerful booklets I have ever read. If you can commit to the actions in these two books, I can guarantee you will live life at the 99th percentile.  The first, is Message to Garcia, the fourth most read writing in the history of mankind. It will take you ten minutes to read. The second, The New Common Denominator of Success, contains the principle we covered earlier that in order to be a success, you simply have to do the things that failures don’t like to do.

You’re going to be reading and studying material to teach you the know how for years to come. But don’t ever forget to read things that teach you the know why. Knowing how to do something let’s you drive it; Knowing why you are doing something lets it drive you. The greatest communicators, whether they are in the home, church, or work place, know how to speak not just to your ears, but to your heart as well.

In closing, I hope and pray for wisdom and strength for this graduating class to meet and surpass the challenges that will come its way. Always remember, life happens just outside your comfort zone so if things are scary and seem, at times, chaotic, you’re doing it right. Thank you for listening to my comments and for allowing me to share in this amazing milestone in your lives.

11
Oct
12

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

There are times in everyone’s life when we cannot get to the end goal we desire despite how much effort, hope, or prayer we apply. One of the keys to a successful life, not only for you but for those underneath your influence or command, is to know when to step aside. This is a great reflection of true leadership but it is too often unrecognized.

Let’s face it. We all are endowed with specific gifts and abilities that no two have alike. That means that you will do certain things better than others and others will do certain things more effectively than you. This should not threaten a leader who is focused on the end goal. It’s the old cliché, “It’s amazing what you can get done when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

On the news, I recently heard someone in a position of great authority reply, in response to a question, “We are doing the best we can.” While we certainly encourage this type of language among children to encourage them to truly do their personal best and to develop self esteem, this verbiage has no place in a leader’s vocabulary.

When I attended the Air Force Academy in the mid-80s, first-year cadets were allowed only five basic responses when asked a question by an upperclassman. They were “Yes, sir/ma’am”; “No, sir/ma’am”; “No excuse, sir/ma’am”; “Sir/Ma’am, I do not know”; “Sir, Ma’am, I will find out”. That’s it! No more, no less. This first year of only answering with these responses stick with me to this day. It’s probably why, when someone answers me with an excuse, I feel a tremendous urge to tell them to drop and give me twenty! The service academies are first and foremost leadership academies. After all, you cannot defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic, if you are not a leader. And that is the primary job of a leader, to take care of those under their care.

Had I ever answered “I’m doing my best” as a cadet, I’m sure I would have been drummed out of the corps, and rightly so. Had I ever answered “I’m doing my best” to a Fortune 500 customer when they asked why their five-million-dollar piece of equipment wasn’t ready, I’m sure I would have been fired, and rightly so. If, when running a classified project, I replied “I’m doing my best” when asked why there were documented security violations, I’m sure I would have been escorted off base, and should have been.

If you have truly done your best and still cannot get the job done, do not let your ego sink all the good things you’ve accomplished. Realize it is time to move on to the next area requiring your particular set of talents and let the next team come in. That’s why we have succession plans and it’s why no one, no matter how smart or how powerful, is ever indispensible. Do not ever say, “I’m doing the best I can” because that is never an answer that serves any purpose other than making an excuse for yourself and alienating or infuriating the questioner.

04
Oct
12

Work ethic or wish ethic?

Two construction workers sat down to eat their lunches one day. One worker opened his lunch box, took out the sandwich, and exclaimed, “Oh no, not peanut-butter sandwiches!!” The next day the same scenario was repeated. This went on for several more days before his co-worker finally said, “Joe, if you don’t like peanut-butter sandwiches, just tell you wife not to pack them anymore!” His friend immediately fired back, “You leave my wife out of this! I pack my own lunch!!”

Which is stronger: your work ethic or your wish ethic? One of the great universal and constant truths is the role of hard work in living your life to its fullest potential. Yet somehow, despite the plethora of stories we hear about how our parents and predecessors worked so hard, many feel that it is somehow beneath them to struggle for success today. They’ll use all kinds of excuses such as the opportunities are not there (where’d they go?), life’s not fair (who said it was?), and cast stones at those who have what they do not in an attempt to tear them down (the blame game).

My grandfather had five children within five years in the heart of the Depression, but no job. That didn’t stop him from working. There are countless studies about the impact of having meaningful work and how it affects your self esteem. If you have a work ethic, you will find work because it’s in your blood. I am constantly looking for people who are able to bring a strong sense of accountability and commitment to our organization. I can and always will have a place for them.

How badly do you really want to succeed? Enough to ignite an internal revival? Or are you content to languish in the mode of survival? Life will always be one continuous, glorious pageant of struggles. That’s the nature of it. It’s like the Samuel Goldwyn quote, “The harder I work, the luckier I get”. Wishing is child’s play. What do we wish upon? A falling star? A birthday candle? It’s a tradition, but it doesn’t actually mean anything.

Never forget, those at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there. Even if you are born with certain privileges, if you don’t work to keep them they won’t always be there.  Money can’t buy a work ethic. It is something you develop internally.  The government can’t subsidize one for you; quite the contrary: any help received that does not help you to develop your work ethic is injurious. As my father, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say, “It takes a lot of learning to figure out how to help somebody more by hindering them less. Imagine what will happen if Congress ever figures that out.”

It reminds me of the classic Blues Brothers song, “Rubber Biscuit”:

“Have you ever heard of a wish sandwich? A wish sandwich is the kind of a sandwich where you have two slices of bread and you wish you had some meat…”

So what are you packing in your lunchbox? Are you wishing for something? Or are you working to get some prime cuts into the bread box of your life?




Tremendous Tracey


CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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