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First I would like to ask all of the graduates to stand.
Now, graduates only, please give me a loud round of applause.
That was for all of your mothers on Mother's Day.
Also for you as graduates as you enter an elite group.
U.S. Census data shows fewer than 20% of the U.S. population hold a bachelor's degree - so congratulations!
When I was asked by Dean Womer to be today's speaker my first response was "I am honored. My next response was "Why me?"
He said "You have a great story"
So I will first tell you my story (the shortened Readers Digest version because the shortest speeches get the most applause!)
And then I want to leave you with a message.
So here's my story:
I grew up in South St. Louis - there were 9 of us and 1 bathroom - and with 4 sisters and a mother it was a real treat for me when I got to use that bathroom!
After finishing high school (where I was not a particularly good student….. I think I had undiagnosed ADD), it was off to the Air Force, Germany and to Vietnam.
I went into the Veterinary Corps and my responsibility was medically taking care of sentry dogs.
After the Air Force I came back to St. Louis to begin my college career at UMSL.
Only one problem - I had no money for tuition
The Dean of Admissions felt sorry for me and accepted my IOU for the first semester's tuition (completely against University policy I'm sure)
Like many of you, I worked all during college.
Graduation was soon approaching and I asked myself the question "Now what?"
I had a Finance professor that I really respected, so I went to him for some advice and direction.
I will never forget his advice.
He told me to find a career that I could become passionate about. As Maslow coined the term "self-actualize".
So how, I asked, does one go about finding a career that they could become passionate about?
I made a list of my strengths (pretty short list) and a list of weaknesses (pretty long)
I then made a list of what interested me. So I matched up my strengths with what careers interested me and a pilot, a hospital administrator, and a financial advisor were just a few on my list.
Then I had a great idea - I interviewed successful people in all of these professions and concluded that not only were my strengths suited to becoming a financial advisor but also it was something I felt I could become passionate about. This upfront research proved to be invaluable.
I joined Moneta Group upon graduation, worked incredibly hard with long hours --for success in my career did not come easy. Working late nights calling on prospects who didn't necessarily want to see me and a lot of no's before I got a yes were all part of the price I paid.
But nothing worthwhile comes easy, does it?
I was able to buy the company 10 years later, and fortunately grew it to be one of the largest independent financial planning firms in the country. 32 years later I am as passionate about my career today as I was when I began. I love getting up every morning and going to work.
Because of that passion I have never been satisfied with status quo. As a result constant change and improvement have been a way of life, and I truly believe I have achieved "self-actualization" in my career. So that's my story and here is my message.
Don't take a job - find a career.
The dictionary defines a job as the action of completing a task for income (not too exciting, is it?) A job does not make you want to get in the morning or provide you with fulfillment.
A career, on the other hand, is defined as a vocation or profession that is pursued as a life's work. A career is more than earning income; it is an opportunity to become fulfilled - a pathway for life.
How much money you make in your work should be secondary to finding passion for a career. Now I know that statement may surprise you especially coming from a capitalist financial advisor like myself but having just a job even if you make a lot of money won't make you happy.
On the other hand having a career that you are passionate about even if you don't make a lot of money will make you happy and truly fulfilled.
As you seek out a career that you can be passionate about....recognize that it might involve, in your mind, taking some risk. But the real risk is being miserable for the rest of your life in a job.
I'd like to share a quick story about a friend of mine and client of our firm. His name is Mike Jaudes - and he graduated 21 years ago from University of Missouri - not the good one here in St. Louis but the one in Columbia!
His father was a successful businessman and it was assumed that upon graduation Mike would get a job in a traditional business. But Mike's strengths and interests were elsewhere. He wanted to be involved in personal fitness. But what kind of a career could that create? His father said at that time "What in the world is this? You want to lift weights and eat healthy food for a living?"
Now 21 years later, Mike owns, by far, the largest and most successful personal fitness training company in St. Louis. He currently has 22 trainers on staff, built a new building 18 months ago and is now doubling the size again. By the way, his mom works for him and his dad is one of his clients!
The risk for Mike would have been just taking a job and not pursuing his passion. Mike has self-actualized.
You received your degree so you could do something special. Getting just a job is not it.
If ever in your work you are not passionate about what you do, and don't love getting up in the morning to do it, find something else - the sooner the better. The earlier you do it in your working life, the more time you will have to be successful at it.
Do some research and figure out what you could become passionate about. Talk to successful people in that career and then position yourself to make that your life's work.
Most of you will be working a long time. Make an effort now and you will never regret it.