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Lee Armstrong ClearThanks to Dean John Hylton for inviting me to speak to you during this special celebration in the life of you and your families.
(Humor) I realize that I'm standing between you and celebrations, lunches and drinks and I promise not to take more than one hour with my presentation.
I've had two college graduations and I can honestly say that I don't remember anything said by any of the speakers. What I do remember is what I was thinking during the speeches: "This is really boring and I really will be happy when it's over so I can get some refreshments."
So I won't fool myself into thinking that you will remember anything I'm about to say. I figure if you can retain a small portion of what I've said, then I'll be a happy man.
I want to talk to you about two words and concepts that are vastly underrated but can make the difference in whether you fail or succeed in your endeavors.
The two words are: Passion & Tenacity!!
Usually when we hear passion most think about that warm feeling you get for that special person in your love life, but I'm not talking about that this morning. I mean being passionate about your career, your assignment or your job. When you really really love it!
Tenacity is just important. As in being tenacious, not taking no for an answer, but using rejection as a reason to push harder and never giving in. Failure is not an option!
Throughout history passion and tenacity have made the difference in failure and success:
Ralph Waldo Emerson – The famous American philosopher, essayist and lecturer said: "Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose."
Louis Pasteur is a famous French chemist and biologist who discovered micro-organisms. Most people think about the process of pasteurizing milk and they say "that Louis Pasteur was a good chemist." But here's how it all came about: The Emperor Napoleon asked him to investigate why the wine was going bad and the French wine industry was suffering huge economic losses.
So Louie discovered that if he heated the wine for a few minutes at 55 degrees Celsius, it would kill the organisms and keep the wine from going bad!
And so now you know why Louis Pasteur is called the greatest biologist of the 19th century…not because he found a way to preserve the milk but he found a way to save the wine and yes the beer! And we're really grateful for that in St. Louis.
When asked about his success Pasteur said: "Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: My strength lies solely in my tenacity."
Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian spiritual and political leader put it best when he said: The history of the world is full of men who rose to leadership, by sheer force of self-confidence, bravery and tenacity."
It is absolutely clear to me that the key to achieving your goals in life is making a total commitment to succeed, to being passionate and tenacious.
One of my favorite examples of self confidence and tenacity is the story of Fredrick W. Smith from my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.
He's called the Father of the overnight delivery business! Fred was born to a well to do family in 1944, but his Father died when he was four, so he had to rely on this Mother and Uncles for guidance.
He was a good student and was accepted into Yale University. He had what he thought was a great business plan, so he wrote a paper on the need for a reliable overnight delivery service.
His professor found the premise improbable, said it wouldn't work, and he gave Fred a "C" for his effort. But the idea remained with Fredrick Smith.
After graduating from Yale, he joined the United States Marine Corps and served two tours on duty in Vietnam.
While in the Military Lieutenant Smith took special interest in observing the delivery and procurement procedures of the Military, dreaming of one day to put his idea of a network dedicated to overnight delivery.
After the Military he pitched his idea numerous times until he was able to raise $80 million from investors, family members and friends.
In the first two years of operation his company lost $27 million and shortly thereafter the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. He had lost all of his money, his investor's money and his family's money. But as they say when the going gets tough! Again he talked the banks into renegotiating his bank loans and he was able to keep the company afloat.
Unlike many entrepreneurs Fred was a hand's on guy. He had a way of making every employee feel special and he rewarded his people handsomely when the company had a good year.
For this hard work, passion and tenacity Frederick W Smith's company, Federal Express Corporation owns the largest airline in America with almost 600 jets, 40,000 trucks and 200,000 employees. He has a personal fortune of $700 million dollars and today regardless of how you overnight a package or document most people say: FEDEX IT!!!
I stand before you as example, live and in living color of how passion and tenacity works! I grew up in a segregated area in Memphis, Tennessee. My father left when I was four and my poor, uneducated Mother raised seven children alone with only the help of neighbors and family members.
I didn't realize it at the time, but we were poor:
(Jokes) Santa Claus Suicide!
Stockings for Xmas!
When I was 11or 12, I was allowed to spend time with a family member who worked at a local radio station. At that point I was hooked on broadcasting. I used to dream about doing a radio show and being heard by thousands of people. Probably because I grew-up in a house with mostly females and I could never get a word in!
So after high school I joined the United States Navy and ended up operating the ships entertainment radio station.
After discharge from the military I was hired as a DJ and from that point 39 years ago I had traveled from being a DJ to General Manager to Regional Vice President, overseeing 21 radio stations in two states. Along the way I used my GI bill money to earn a Bachelors degree and later a degree. Being the first in my family to finish college.
Recently I received an honor for the third year in a row from Radio Ink Magazine, the Premier Management and Marketing Publication of the radio industry, they recognized me as one of the "35 Most Influential Persons in Radio."
My most successful accomplishment and the other passion in my life is my wife of 35 years, Jeanette.
I've noticed a trait in some of they young people today. They want the great job, they want the stock options, they want the matching 401K, they want the newest sports car. But they are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to obtain them. No commitment, and if they can't get it now, they quit and move on.
You must remember that the people who succeed are the ones that show up early and leave late. They are always dependable. They learn as much about as many things possible. They make themselves valuable. If you go out of your way to learn as many jobs as you can, you increase your chances of staying employed! Don't ever say "That's not my job" always jump at the opportunity to learn something new!
During my career I have worked as a DJ, newsperson, salesperson, sales manager and general manager. My point is, make yourself hard to replace, and that's done by having the right attitude and the right skills.
If a poor little country boy like me from Memphis, Tennessee can accomplish his dreams through preparation, hard work, dedication, passion and tenacity – you can!
In closing, I would like to read you a quote by Leon William:
"Have courage when times may fail. Be not afraid to make a change. Take a chance on the inevitable. Make a difference in everything you do. Be the person who you were meant to be. Success is not born; it is made by those who seek to see the difference in everything, turning the impossible into a possible success."