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My name is Earl Horton and I graduated from The University of Missouri-St.
Louis in 1971..... "AD". For those of you with a bachelors of arts degree
know that was a very long time ago. Those of you who graduated with a
bachelors of science or engineering degree know that it was 40 years ago.
The remarkable thing is that I graduated at all. You see I started at the
University of Missouri in Columbia with an academic scholarship in 1967 and
by the end of my first year, I had earned the distinction of being on academic
probation. This was not viewed by the Dean of Students as ideal
performance. I not only lost my scholarship but I was dead broke. For me,
this was my academic "rock bottom".
I turned to my father for advise and council. Keep in mind my father had
never attended college and was about 2 months less broke than I was. I told
him I was considering quitting school knowing he would encourage me to
"suck it up" and "hang in there". Instead he said "son, college is not for
WHAT!!! Whether intentional or not, this remark caused a huge emotional
reaction in me. I wasn't sure college was for everyone but I was sure I was
going to take another crack at it! I badly needed another game plan. My first
challenge was poverty, not the macro-economic kind but the very micro
personal kind. I needed a job where I could earn enough money to live and
attend school. General Motors in St. Louis was the solution to my poverty
problem and with enough night shift overtime and frugal living, I could work
hard for three months in the summer and attend school for 9 months in the
winter. Recognizing that I did not have the maturity and self-discipline to
enjoy campus life and perform academically, I had to find a school more
suited to my personal needs. What about UMSL? It was close to work,
affordable, and my hours would transfer. Unfortunately, so would my GPA.
When I started here I just wanted a degree. I chose business because I
wanted a good job where I could make a good living,.... and not get hot and
dirty. I didn't want to live 2 months ahead of the poverty line. What I got
here was far more than I bargained for and although you probably don't know
it yet, so did you! Today you will receive a diploma and I encourage you to
get it framed and hang it in a prominent place. Not to show off, but to remind
you of the hard work it took to earn. What I learned later, and so will you is
that besides receiving a diploma I received an education.... and by that I
mean knowledge. All of you have learned stuff that you don't know that you
know. This knowledge will almost miraculously resurrect itself as you need it.
You will also learn how much more you need to learn. Fortunately almost all
information is available and at your fingertips (or thumb tips if you are using a
handheld)........ Rest assured, you have a foundation that will support any
career you choose.
You have something I don't have,….. youth and time. I have something you
don't have,……wisdom and experience. One difference is that I can share
mine with you! I have compiled a list of "Earl's keys to accidental success".
I can promise you that if you apply these rules during the next 40 years you
will achieve accidental success beyond your wildest expectation.
Number 1) Find a mentor. Although they are not listed in the yellow pages or
on the Internet, they are available and willing to help you. To attract a
mentor, you need to show interest and be willing to listen and respond. I
experienced my first mentor in the eighth grade, Sister Doreta. One day she
pulled me aside and told me that I could be anything in life that I wanted to
be. That I had the ability. I believed her. She was a nun for God's sake!
Number 2) Show up. Not just physically but mentally. Not just on time, but
early. You'll end up in leadership positions and wonder how you got there.
Number 3) Go with your gut. If someone you trust gives you advice, take it.
Number 4) Only associate with honest people. Anyone who is dishonest will
be dishonest with you.
Number 5) Go back and review leveraging. Learn to apply this practice
financially, socially and politically.
Number 6) Be worth more than you make. Being paid more than your worth
is a very temporary benefit.
Number 7) Humility and quiet confidence will be measured favorably.
Arrogance does not wear well.
Number 8) Volunteer. It's a great learning experience, you have nothing to
loose, everything to gain and it makes you feel good.
Number 9) Be a consensus builder. When you win an argument, you loose
Number 10) Performance is the only measurement of job security.
Number 11) Don't let fear paralyze you. Realize all people fear failure.
Remember a great batter fails two thirds of the time. (for those with a
bachelor of arts degree, that's a 334 batting average). Learn from your
Number 12) Listen more and talk less. You'll be much smarter and less
Number 13) Don't take yourself too seriously. No matter what your station in
life or your accumulation of wealth, always remember.....your not that
And last but not least, live in the present. Don't think about how good life will
be in the future. Don't think about how good life will be after your next
promotion. Don't think about how good life will be after retirement. Life is
good NOW! Enjoy it NOW!
Congratulations and Thank you!