30 September 2014

You Are Now Totally In Control of the Rest of Your Life

Bruce Plested's Address to the University of Auckland Graduation Ceremony - September 2014

Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Members of Council, Members of the University – you must draw enormous satisfaction at seeing these graduands progress from youthful enthusiasm through to degree status.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to your latest graduands and their families and friends.

Congratulations on gaining your degree.

Congratulations on your diligence in gaining your degree. This is a big occasion and the fact that there are many of you does not diminish the huge effort that most of you had to put in to pass.

It must have been said many times before, but where you are at now is at the end of the beginning.

Do not fear what lies ahead. Mostly working life is less stressful than either school or Uni life – you don’t have homework, you are no longer adolescents, you don’t have to cram for exams, you don’t have to keep drinking until the sun comes up, you don’t have to listen to lecturers you don’t like, or agree with, and you will have your own money to spend.

But what you do from now on gradually becomes critical to where you make your mark in life.

Firstly, some people will already know what they want to do – to work in teaching or engineering or law. Head off first and begin working on what you think you want to do.

Secondly, work on your fitness. Many students neglect fitness through time discipline, or neglect or not realising its importance. If you are going to make it in this world, you are going to need to be physically fit – continuously for long periods for the rest of your life. For my 70th birthday, a group of us from Mainfreight walked up Mt Taranaki – fitness and success are brothers.

Thirdly, look inwardly at what you are good at. Do you get noticed, are you an introvert or extrovert, do you like order or chaos, do you like rules or like breaking them, are you a team player, or more of a loner. Often you will find that what you are good at, you also like. I gave up teaching aged 19 and took up accounting aged 22 and qualified at 29. It totally changed my life.

Fourthly, try to work out what you like. This can be hard if you like something but are not yet naturally good at it. Make the decision, you have lots of time. Set out to find a way of getting good (preferably excellent) at what you like.

If you are good at what you like, and you can create a career from it, you can be said to be never having to go to work.

Fifth, set high standards in everything you do. Life skills of getting up early, learning to cook, cleaning, fixing things that are broken, caring and considering others, being positive at all times. Doing your job whatever it is with excellence. Somehow you have to combine this discipline with a bit of rule breaking. Some rule breaking is always necessary, and with disciplined logic and emotion your rule breaking will create success.

Sixth - Be ever so grateful of the luck of your birth, and the country in which you are born. Live by the maxim – would Mum approve of what I’m doing. Wear rose coloured glasses and see your surroundings and acquaintances in a positive perspective all the time. Most people are honest, and trying to do what they think is their best. Communicate high expectations from those around you – always.

Seventh – recognise crossroads in your life, especially global financial crises, accidents, redundancy, firing, death of someone close to you, a crime, world events. Bad events are fantastic opportunities for making you really think and take strong action– do I want to be here, do I want to die doing this, what if I never see the world? How are we going to benefit from this event? Mainfreight benefits from every crisis.

Eighth – If you start to think “I like this, and I think I’m good at it, better than those already doing it” - have a go. Either apply for that bigger role - or start up on your own and do it. Every single thing in our lives is the result of someone having a go, inventing something or improving on it. From the clock that wakes us up, the bed you get out of, the carpet on the floor, the cereal for breakfast, the car, the road, the traffic lights.

And please, you’re not an entrepreneur because you invent an App – but you’re getting the right idea.

Ninth – Try to wipe the word “I” from your vocabulary. When you can get your sentences to start with: we, have you considered, have you noticed, some people, would you suggest. Always it is about what we want to achieve or do, never what I want. When we can remove “I” from our centre of thinking, we can probably move to number 10, the last recommendation.

Tenth – start thinking about making a difference to your neighbourhood, or community or country or the world at a young age. We can all make a difference and the more of us who do, the better the world will be. Be like the Boy Scouts – seek to do a good turn for someone every day, be courteous when driving, smile at all those you meet every day – understand, part of your job on earth is to make those you come into contact with on any day feel a bit better than before they met you.

Good luck – you are now totally in control of the rest of your life.

Ka Ki te ano
Bruce Plested
September 2014

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