Last weekend sitting watching my daughter Emily graduate from St Joseph’s University in Philadelphia I had many thoughts going through my head but two stayed with me. One came from Dr Elizabeth A. Hagen Under Secretary for Food Safety in the current Obama administration, the Commencement speaker and the other a more general observation. Both thoughts have relevance to the entrepreneurial community.
As Dr. Hagen discussed her journey after graduating from SJU in 1991 she stated something quite profound I believe. She said that one of her early mentors taught her one thing that has helped her throughout her life – always try to learn one thing from everyone you meet. How often do we tune out people in our day-to-day business life? How often do we allow arrogance to switch off our hearing? Listening and learning is an art that requires practice. The two ears and one mouth ratio exists for a reason. How often does the acquiring company assume their systems are better than the target company or that their staff are superior? Can your younger colleague teach you something about Google Analytics? Can we learn something from our friends? Can we learn something from strangers we meet at the trade seminar? We can all learn something from everyone we meet and reviewing Dr. Hagen’s resume printed in the Commencement Brochure tells me it worked pretty well for her.
The other more general thought relates to our belief system and momentum. The students I met who really believed in what they were doing had already formed a plan of action! It may have been to drive forward to achieve that education masters degree, or a year of Jesuit service (Emily’s choice) or a top job with PWC. There was a core belief in many students in what they wanted to achieve and in what they enjoyed. Now I know some of us spend a lifetime searching for our vocation. It just struck me that even at the start of their careers some of these young students had made the connection between believing in something and driving forward with a passion to achieve it.