For most of my life, fear had a chain wrapped around my neck, pulling me everywhere it wished to take me. But here I was, about to conduct a presentation to 15,000 people. As the memories continued to pile up, I couldn’t help but smile. I had been through a lot, but that wasn’t me anymore—and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t wait to conduct my presentation. With that, I approached the microphone again, opened my mouth and began to speak:
“Upon being notified that I’ve been selected to receive this honor, I was absolutely ecstatic. I called my mom, posted my achievement on Facebook and got a ton of likes from people I barely know. It was an exciting five minutes for me. It was the kind of excitement that tops off years of never being quite good enough, of being so close to success yet failing miserably when it mattered most. Kind of like being a Clippers fan.
After those minutes of elation, I managed to settle down a bit. I took a deep breath, picked up the phone and made a call to the College of Business. It was then that I was informed that I’d have to prepare a speech to present in front of approximately 15,000 people. So, let me give you a little background:
All my life, I’ve been deathly afraid of two things. Public speaking—and spiders. The idea of public speaking horrified me to such an extent that if a professor ever gave one of my classes the option of jumping into a pool filled with venomous water spiders in place of giving a speech, I’d be the first one with my swimming trunks on. But somewhere along the way, I realized something. I realized I couldn’t continue to allow this fear to consume me. I started researching presentation techniques such as looking just above the eye line of the spectators, deep breathing exercises and imagining that the entire audience is naked. I won’t tell you which strategy I’m using today, but I will say that you all look REALLY good out there.
In a matter of two months, I went from sweating like a madman upon addressing a group of 20 students to conducting persuasive speeches to city councils throughout LA, to…this. From that moment on, I realized fear is nothing more than a glass barrier waiting to be shattered because it’s fear that sets limitations, that makes us complacent, that justifies excuses, that does not allow us to be extraordinary.
Once you’ve shattered that barrier, there is NOTHING that can stop you. Even though I appear before you today with sweaty palms, perhaps a slight tremor in my discourse, I assure you there’s no way I’d take a pool of spiders over this.
Today, we acquire the piece of paper that tells us we are intelligent enough to become professionals. A few of you already have your professions all figured out but for those of you who do not, let me break it to you. You are about to embark on the most exciting yet incredibly stressful journey to date. I’m talking about getting a job. But if there’s something I’ve learned from securing eight internships throughout my college career, which by the way has established me as one of the finest coffee makers and toilet seat sanitizers in all of Los Angeles, this is it: There is always going to be someone smarter than you, someone with more knowledge, with better work experience, with a more prestigious educational background.
Three months ago, I applied for a job at Fox Sports in the Music Licensing department. I didn’t know much about the business, didn’t know anyone in the business and I definitely didn’t know anything about licensing. I knew it was a long shot and that hundreds of candidates were better qualified.
Long story short, I got the job. I beat out every single candidate that I went up against. And who am I? I’m no better or more deserving than anyone here. But I embraced the mentality that regardless of other factors, there is not a SINGLE person on this planet that will work harder than me, that will be a better all-around asset to the workplace, that will have my passion. It wasn’t until I adopted this mentality that things finally started looking clearer for me.
Graduates; realize that there is NOBODY out there that will outwork you, that there is not a single person that will have your passion, your determination, your cojones. If you take on this mentality and use everything you learned at Cal Poly, there is absolutely nothing that can stop you.
I want to dedicate this award to my mother who taught me there is no such thing as impossible—rather, it is an excuse for those not willing to put in the extra effort. To my father, for teaching me that this diploma, those paychecks and the professional accomplishments we will surmount does not signify success, it’s the number of lives we better and our impact on humanity that will determine true achievement. I also want to dedicate this moment to my second mother and the most loving woman I have ever known, Marie Rupay, whom I know is proudly watching from the heavens with a big smile on her face.
Graduates; don’t be the person that is always complaining about their job, about their boss, about not having enough pay. Be the person about whom your coworkers have nothing but great things to say, who manages their responsibilities with passion and care and strives to become an expert at everything he or she does, even if it’s just answering phones or maintaining a schedule. Be the person who leaves this graduation ceremony today and goes on to become something so great that 20 years from now, high school students throughout the world will want to come to this university because on June 15th, 2013, one of the most successful and influential individuals graduated from here. Be THAT person.
And the next time fear comes knocking on your door, don’t cower. You open that door, look fear directly in the eye, and say, “get the hell off my property.”