Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and new graduates of Curtin University. Let me say first of all that I am very excited to be here this evening because this is a very special night. An amazing night really! For many of you this is a once in a lifetime experience so I think it is worthwhile at this point to just stop. To take moment to look around – to soak up the atmosphere and to absorb the night. Because it is an amazing night!
Everyone here tonight is so excited, so happy, so proud. It is an amazing night.
Look at your colleagues – How many times have you seen your friends looking like this. How many nights in a year could you get away with wearing these clothes? It is an amazing night.
You look fantastic but if you wear that gear through Northbridge tomorrow you’ll be in a lot of trouble. I am no better – I up here giving a public speech wearing hot pink with a golden tassle. This is an amazing night.
Look around you – beautiful marquees, wonderful scenery, tasteful stage, good looking fellow on the big screen, perfect weather – This is an amazing night.
Look at your parents over there. Beaming! This is one of the proudest nights of their lives. I have a 6 year old son and I get excited when he ties is shoelaces so I cannot imagine how it must feel to for you, the parents, right now – to have taken these people from [this big] to university graduates. To have given so much of yourself to the development of these people – to see them now succeed in this way must be amazing. And those parents who have come from other countries, who have endured long absences from their child – what a feeling this must be for you. This is an amazing night.
And you the graduates – what a night this is for you. The night you join an exclusive and prestigious club. A club whose membership comprises CEO’s, CFO’s, Managing Directors, business owners, Managing Partners. And now you are part of it – part of the exclusive Curtin alumni Club. And for some of you tonight is the celebration of even higher achievements – Ph.d’s, honours, Masters, This is an amazing night.
An amazing night – and yet in 15 years you probably won’t remember it. You won’t remember me or what I say here tonight, you won’t remember the stage or the scenery or the weather.
And that’s because the next 10-15 years are going to be the most exciting, transformational experience of your lives. It is the period where your potential is finally realised.
For most of you it is the period where you go from novice to expert, the period where you go from student to leader, the period in which you go from complaining about the boss to being the boss, and for some of you the period in which you go from living with parents to being parents. It is the period where you go from someone who dreams of a better world to someone who changes the world.
You won’t forget tonight because it is unimportant to you or because we didn’t put on a good show. – you will forget it because you will have so many other, more significant achievements to take its place.
The opportunities ahead of you are enormous but these opportunities shouldn’t be taken for granted. Despite your achievements you need to continue to work very hard and most importantly continue to learn if you are to fully realise your potential.
The occasional speech is normally delivered by eminent people at the end of their career and I am not one of those people. I don’t have all the answers but I have made a lot of mistakes and I have learned some important lessons from these. One of these lessons is when you don’t have all the answers – ask a lot of questions – no one will be able to tell the difference.
I am therefore going to ask you three questions and I want you to consider your responses. These questions seem simple but they are difficult to answer, but the answers may determine how successful you are in the next phase of your journey.
1. Who are you
2. Do you believe in yourself
3. How important are people
Who are you?
It is not your name. That just tells me what to call you. But who are you really. What is it you contribute? How do you make the world a better place?
Are you someone who says ‘I don’t have time’, ‘sorry no time’, or are you someone who makes time. In other words are you someone who makes excuses or someone makes things happen. Over the next decade your obligations and commitments will increase significantly as you take on greater levels of responsibility so it is very important you set goals for yourself and use your time in ways that will enable you to achieve those goals.
There are many distractions in life – be it tv, Xbox or facebook, myspace, Twitter, Youtube but with limited time think whether the ways in which you spend your time are the most effective.
The best example of this I can provide is a friend of mine, and CBS graduate, who had an idea for a business but never the time to make it happen because she watched an enormous amount of TV. She gave her TV away. She hasn’t owned a television for five years but what she does now own is 19 houses and an apartment in New York.
You might look around and say, ‘well, everyone else does watches Gossip Girl or everyone else spends lots of time on Facebook’ but that is exactly why you shouldn’t – you are not everybody else. You are graduates of the best business school in Western Australia and one of the best universities in the region – you have talents that most don’t have so don’t waste them – be different and take pride in that difference.
Do you believe in yourself?
The second question is do you believe in yourself? I don’t mean bravado or false confidence I mean a real, core inner belief in yourself and your ability. An inner confidence that gives you the conviction to hold your ground and argue your position when all around you believe you are wrong. An inner conviction that enables you to do the right thing when all around you are not. We all want to change the world but let me tell you change is hard work. It is why so few people do it. When you come up with an idea for change trumpets will not sound, angels won’t sing and your colleagues will not lift you on their shoulders and carry you around the office. Quite the opposite. It will be a long, tough journey to make your ideas a reality, a long tough journey to do good – and to get to that point you need to have a lot of self belief to withstand the critics. Doing good and creating change requires self belief and conviction – do you have it?
How important are people?
The final question is how important are people. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said ‘Its all about me’. And that attitude is quite pervasive. We hear the mantra all the time – ‘Work hard’, ‘get results’, ‘don’t worry about anybody else’, ‘keep your eye on the ball’ ‘winning is everything’. But in a world where we are so interlinked and reliant on other people, it is not an attitude that will get you very far. Without a focus on people, you can work very hard, do great things but ultimately still lose.
President Obama blamed his falling popularity on the fact he was so busy working to develop policy for the good of the American people that he forgot to talk to them. He forgot to take them with him. I, along with most people, have made that mistake throughout my life.
I have had some wonderful mentors in recent years who have shown me how far you can get when you make people feel valued. I have no idea how the world will look in 2020 or 2030 but I am positive that people will still want to be listened to, will want to be respected and will want to feel valued. In an ever changing world, people are the one constant. It takes a lot longer but it is critical to listen to colleagues, to communicate what you are doing and make them feel part of the journey.
Tonight is an amazing night but it is the beginning of a more amazing journey. It is not however a journey you take alone. Certainly you have your family to support you but you also have a much larger family to help and guide you and that is the people around you now, your fellow graduates and the university – people who have shared the Curtin experience with you.
Our two futures are inextricably linked. Our reputation is built on the quality of our graduates but in-turn the standing of your qualification and training is influenced by our reputation. We therefore have a strong, mutual interest in supporting one another, in helping each other grow and in helping each other succeed. We are not a suburban high school. Curtin Business School has an exceptional local and international business network and I encourage you to stay connected, to utilise our networks and to help nurture the next wave of CBS graduates. And if you want to know how, please contact me.
I said at the beginning you will not remember my speech and you won’t but try to remember the questions I posed to you earlier and take some time to reflect on your answers:
1. Who are you
2. Do you believe in yourself
3. How important are people
Thank you and Good Luck.