Excerpts from one of my speeches to Mohawk’s graduating class of 2015 have been reprinted in today’s Hamilton Spectator. Here’s why failure is very much an option if you want to make your mark.
“To the graduating class of 2015, I wish you many successes and a few failures along the way.
Yes, your college president is telling you to fail.
This may seem like bad advice. After all, you’re graduating today because you didn’t fail. You spent semesters working hard to pass, if not ace, your tests, exams, assignments, projects and presentations.
But now the rules change.
Failure is now very much an option. A willingness to take smart risks and make a few mistakes is essential if you want to do great things as a future ready Mohawk graduate.
It’s been said that mistakes are the tuition we pay for success.
If you never fail then you’re likely not trying hard enough. You’ve set your sights too low. We need you to aim higher. Don’t dial back your dreams.
Know that the odds will not always be in your favour. In fact, the biggest rewards often carry the biggest risks.
Life is far too short to always play it safe. Yet lots of people will. I encourage you not to follow the crowd.
From time to time when you step up to the plate, swing for the fences and don’t worry if you strike out.
If you’re a baseball fan, then you know that Reggie Jackson will forever be known as Mr. October. Reggie led the Oakland As and New York Yankees to four World Series titles. Reggie hit 563 home runs, was named to the all-star team 14 times and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993.
And who holds the record for most strikeouts in the 146-year history of Major League Baseball? None other than Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.
Over his career, Reggie struck out nearly 2,600 times. He had four times as many strike outs as home runs.
Yet Reggie is remembered for his postseason heroics, World Series titles and home runs.
If Reggie had been afraid to strike out, he would have had a forgettable and brief big league career.
We want you to be unforgettable.
You’ll never know how great you are if you don’t go for it. We’ve seen your potential. Don’t waste it waiting for a sure bet that may never come along.
My hope is that you’ll work for an employer that rewards, or at the very least won’t punish you, for missing the mark and making mistakes.
Smart employers know that failure fuels innovation. Beat a path to the door of these organizations. These will be great places to work and they’ll make the most of your gifts.
Many of you came to Mohawk to earn an education that will lead to rewarding careers. Some of you came to Mohawk to create your own job and be your own boss.
So telling you to take risks and not shy away from making mistakes isn’t coming out of left field. You know that many successful inventors and entrepreneurs fail early and often. They just get up faster than the rest of us and try again. They are remarkably resilient.
Their failures become the foundation for building a great business and a remarkable life.
The remarkable Thomas Edison and his team made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts before they invented the incandescent light bulb. A reporter once asked Edison how it felt to fail that many times. “I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” said Edison. “The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
While Edison was an inventor, my father was a serial entrepreneur. There were hits and misses. Some of his ventures were more successful than others and none were without setbacks. Yet in the end, my dad built and grew successful businesses that employed many people, supported his family and inspired his seven children.
My wish is that you will lead a life of boldness and leave a similar legacy.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes. Your mistakes will be forgotten and you’ll be remembered for your successes.
Failure is very much an option from here on out. So aim high. Be bold. Be brilliant. Be brave. Be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.
When others shy away from anything less than a sure bet, step up and take your shot.
And should failure come your way, learn from it. Bounce back and keep going. Missteps will make you stronger and serve you well as a resilient, risk-taking and future-ready Mohawk College graduate.
Congratulations once again to you and the distinguished class of 2015.
Here’s to a great many successes, with a few brilliant failures, along the way.”