Executive Commentary
Commencement for the Rest of Us
Jim Jenkins
Jim Jenkins
CEO, Universities East,
Sodexo North America

This week I had the privilege of speaking to graduates of Florida State University. (No, not as a sports commentator, but I had a great time acting like one.) As a commencement speaker. I’m an odd choice for a commencement speaker for many reasons, including that I don’t like to sit through commencement speeches. 

But as I thought about what I wanted to say to these graduates, it occurred to me that there are a few points of reflection we might all benefit from, no matter how many years in the real world. With that in mind, here’s a quick (you’re welcome) version of my commencement speech for the rest of us:

Be proud. Not Just of Yourself.  

Success is not easy. Every successful person has shown perseverance and that’s worth celebrating. But no one achieves great things alone.

I’ve worked on a lot of college campuses and if there’s one thing every single student has in common it’s that they each have a team of supporters. Success comes as much from an individual’s hard work as it does from the work and sacrifices of his or her team. Make sure to thank those supporters – today and tomorrow and everyday.

Give Back

Honor those supporters by becoming part of someone else’s team … Mentor, lend a hand, join a cause that helps others. When you have something to give back do it. Today, tomorrow and every day.

Keep Your New Friends Close and Your Old Friends Closer

Make sure that your focus on your career never edges out your focus on the people around you. Whatever your passion, the fruits of your labors will be much sweeter when they are shared with people you care about and those who care about you.

Make a bucket list to keep learning. 

No matter where you are in life, there are things you have not yet learned that will make your path smoother and a heck of a lot more interesting. Such as …

  • Learn to read a wine list
  • Learn a new language
  • Learn to tell a few really funny stories … (make at least one about yourself)
  • Befriend a person from a totally different culture
  • Sleep out under the stars
  • *Pretend you’re a sports commentator

(*Might have been included only so the author could check it off. See very cool photo above.)

Keep adding to the list as you go. But don’t just add. Check them off. If you end up with a long unchecked list, you did it wrong.

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