Tiffin University celebrated its 130th commencement in May. More than 800 undergraduate and graduate students took away valuable advice from the keynote speaker. Donna Graves, Co-founder and CEO of NCompass International Inc., revealed five lessons to help graduates be successful in their future endeavors.
The first lesson is to convert your passions. Graduates are encouraged to do what they love, but with a twist. “The most successful people in life don’t just think, they do,” Graves said. “Take the actions toward doing your passion and fulfilling your dreams.” During her time at Penn State, Graves knew she wasn’t going to become a professional tennis athlete, so she had to convert her other passion of marketing. She made her way to be the CEO of a marketing company that works with sport teams and entertainment brands.
Graves’ second lesson is that great is not good enough. “You must be exceptional. Good is just not going to cut it in today’s world; great is not going to cut it. You have to go above and beyond.” Going above and beyond could be doing more research, bringing up creative ideas, helping a team member, etc. “My father always told us, ‘You don’t need to talk about yourself. If you do a great job, others will do the talking for you.’”
Her third lesson is to learn something new every day. “Never go to sleep without learning one new thing each day. Put yourself in environments that challenge you.” Graves says this can help indicate whether to stay at a job – if we aren’t learning and growing then it’s time to move on. “Sure, money is important, but are you rewarded? Are you learning?”
The next piece of advice Graves gave to graduates was to embrace fears and rejections. She suggests using these to our advantage as motivation. “Successful people are knocked down time and time again. You have to get up, wipe yourself off and get right back into it. Don’t be afraid of failure, learn from it and believe in yourself.” Acknowledging and embracing these moments will make us stronger and successful. TU’s seal reflects her advice with its motto, ‘Without risk, there is no gain.’
The last lesson is to remember and respect those along the way. Everyone has a story and we will learn more by listening to them. “Be respectful, be courteous, and do the right thing.”
“All is ahead of you,” Graves said. “Celebrate your opportunities and keep your head up.”