24 Sep We Should All Write an Acceptance Speech


Walter Rhoddy Receives honorary degree from Humber

I was recently awarded an Honorary degree from Humber College and was asked to speak to the graduating class to offer words of wisdom and encouragement. It was a real pleasure and with any good exchange of ideas, I think I learned as much in writing it as the graduates did in hearing it. It made me realize just how fortunate I have been in my career and life. We should all write an acceptance speech as a way to take stock of our achievements and acknowledge all the good fortune and opportunity we’ve enjoyed.

I thought I would share my speech with the hope that it offers some inspiration to my network;

I think back to my last day of high school, and I recall feeling lost, without any idea of what I wanted to do for a living. I had no plans for college or university. I had no job. I simply couldn’t think of any “career” that interested me. I had interests of course but I it seemed my own passions couldn’t translate into careers I knew about – traditional careers like Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant – And there was no way I was going into any of those.

So, the day after school ended, I just went back into my parent’s garage to the projects I was already working on – designing and building vehicles, temporary architecture and furniture – I really enjoyed coming up with my own concepts and ideas, sketching them up, working out the details and finding ways to build them. I made enough money at it for a little while to sustain a modest lifestyle of beer and pizza, which is all I needed at the time, but I felt that ultimately this might not be going anywhere.

Apparently my father had the same opinion, because one day he walked in and tossed a book at me. It was the Humber Program Guide. He simply said, PICK ONE. So, I begrudgingly leafed through it, and a short way in I came across a program called, Industrial Design. The course description read like an outline of all my interests and passions. It was an epiphany. I couldn’t believe there was actually a way to make a living, doing the things I enjoyed doing already. That’s exactly what I’ve done over the last 20 years. Literally from each project to starting my own agency. I’ve been very fortunate to build a career, a life that perfect for me.

So, if I can offer my first piece of advice it is to follow your passions. In fact, be obsessed with them. If you’re not obsessed, then stop what you’re doing and find whatever does obsess you. Don’t pursue something because your parents or society approve of it, or ever worse, because it’s well paid. Pursue something because it fascinates you, because the pursuit itself engages and drives you. There is no guideline, no blueprint for success. Don’t look to imitate your role models. What has worked for someone else, probably won’t work for you. If your dream job doesn’t exist, create it. Do that and I promise you, the money will follow.

Know that you’ll have work very hard to get what you want, so if the work itself doesn’t drive you, you will burn out and be unhappy. I have learned, if you want something and you don’t get it, you either didn’t want it enough or weren’t willing to pay the price to get it.

Finally, don’t fear failure — or if you do, move forward anyway. You will experience failure – if you don’t you’re simply not trying hard enough. What I’ve learned is that when you fail in ways that other people are not willing to fail, you will learn things that other people never will learn. This is how you discover your own character, see things from new angles and unlock new ideas and insights.

A lot of people will give you a lot of advice, as I am now, and most of it will be bad, and some of it will be good but it won’t apply to you because you’ll have your own unique passions, perspectives and goals. Don’t let the noise of other’s advice drown out you own voice.

So, if you forget or ignore everything I’ve told you today, as I did when I sat through my commencement, remember this; Learn who you are, what drives you, and above all else, pursue it with conviction.

Thank you very much and congratulations!

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