Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on May 31, 2022.
For the past ten years, in my role as Vice Chair of Drexel University, I have had the honor to address the graduates of Drexel’s College of Medicine – MDs, PhDs and those who earned Master of Science degrees. Enjoying the view from the podium at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia is quite an experience, looking out upon the graduates and their proud families, an audience of about 2,500. This is the message I shared at the commencement ceremony on May 13.
If you think this message will help guide a recent family graduate, please share it with them.
Graduates, alumni, families and friends, and members of the College of Medicine and university community, on behalf of the Drexel University board of trustees, welcome to today’s commencement ceremony.
Graduates, you have just completed an enormous undertaking. Congratulations!! You are starting your careers after more than two years of disruptive change brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Out of disruption comes opportunity. We will not bounce back, but spring forward with improved ways of doing things. Whether you practice medicine, do research or enter one of many other health science professions, your skills and training are much needed.
As you pursue your career, the best advice I can share with you is to step out of your comfort zone. Be open to new opportunities that come your way and create your own opportunities. You never know where these opportunities might take you. Embrace change, the only constant in life.
The story of Icarus, a character in Greek mythology, is a great metaphor for how one should pilot their career. According to legend, Icarus flew too high and too close to the sun. The wax holding the wings to his back melted and he crashed into the sea.
So, the question is: Should Icarus have played it safe and flown lower, avoiding the risk posed by the sun? During your career, should you play it safe and stay in your comfort zone, and fly too low?
Seth Godin, the author of “The Icarus Deception,” writes, “It is far more dangerous to fly too low than too high, even though it might feel safer to fly low. By flying too low, you settle for low expectations and small dreams, and guarantee yourself less than what you are capable of achieving. By flying too low, you also shortchange not only yourself, but also those who depend on you, or might benefit from your work.”
During your career, be sure you don’t fly too low. Get out of your comfort zone and fly high, and if you crash, you will pick yourself up and fly again.
The following personal attributes will help you advance in your career:
- Your commitment to yourself and others to always strive for excellence
- How you differentiate yourself by doing new things, and how you proactively implement positive change in everything you do
- Your interpersonal skills and how you treat and lead others
- Your common sense and good critical judgment
There’s a passage in the West Point Cadet Prayer that reads, “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.” Remember this, especially when you run into situations that require difficult ethical decisions, and you definitely will run into these situations. Your credibility, honesty, ethics and integrity determine your reputation, your most cherished personal and professional possession. Once lost, your reputation is very difficult, if not impossible to earn back.
On behalf of the Drexel board of trustees, congratulations and our very best wishes to you! I also want to extend my congratulations to our graduates’ families. Your love, support and sacrifice were very important in helping our graduates succeed, bringing them to this very special day.
Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.