Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journals on June 1, 2021
Each year, as Vice Chairman of Drexel University, I have the honor of addressing the graduates of the University’s College of Medicine. This year, I was also invited to address the graduates of the Drexel Thomas R. Kline School of Law and the Bennett S. LeBow College of Business. Below are excerpts of the updated remarks I shared with graduates of the Kline School of Law on May 19 at their in-person commencement.
Graduates, you have just completed an enormous undertaking. On behalf of the Drexel Board of Trustees, congratulations!
You are dedicating your lives to the practice of law, at a time that could not be more important to furthering racial and environmental justice and protecting our cherished values enshrined in the Constitution. Our democracy is under attack by disinformation, falsehoods and conspiracy theories. We are counting on you to help protect our democracy.
You are starting your careers after more than a year of disruptive change brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Out of disruption, however, comes opportunity. We are not bouncing back, but springing forward with new and improved ways of doing things.
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 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 avoid getting out of your comfort zone, by flying 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 demonstrate resilience and 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,
- and most importantly, your moral compass.
A good friend of mine, Robert A. McDonald, former United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs and former chairman and CEO of the Proctor and Gamble Company, once shared with me a passage from 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 choices, and you definitely will run into these situations. Choosing the right path will help you sleep better at night.
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.
Congratulations fellow Dragons, and our very best wishes to you!
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.