Excerpted from a speech to business school graduates at Trent University
I’d like to share some unconventional advice, drawing from my own life experiences.
1. Don’t get a job. Consider starting your own business.
Some work experience in a large organization is valuable. But the turning point in my professional life was when I left the executive track at Bell-Northern Research to become an entrepreneur. Today, more and more people will make this choice, leveraging the internet and emerging technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence. Many will fail, as I did (several times). But for many more, the experience will be worth it.
2. Don’t seek work-life balance. Do what you love.
Your day should not be divided between work and having a life. Find or make work that is meaningful and enjoyable. And when off work, spend some time doing productive activities. At Bell-Northern Research, we looked forward to our work every day. We were passionate about it, and I remain excited by what I’m doing every day. During a one-day session with the management of a Fortune 20 company, I brought in a panel of new employees. One executive asked them, “What could we do to make our company more attractive to your generation?” Without missing a beat, one new employee said, “Make this place more fun. It’s just not fun to work here.” By fun, she meant collaborative, integrated with learning, solving meaningful problems. You can be the generation to transform the nature of work.
3. Don’t be a good manager. Be a great leader.
You’ve all studied the discipline of management. As Peter Drucker said years ago, stable times require excellence and good managers. As we transition to a new age, our organizations need more than management; they need leadership. Rather than manage the status quo, lead the change. Think of yourself primarily as a leader, as we did at Bell-Northern Research. These times don’t require organizational tinkering; they require deep innovation and transformation.
4. Don’t ever graduate. Be a lifelong learner.
Develop a strategy for learning as an innovator, a leader, a professor, a parent and a citizen. Society needs informed participants. Knowledge is exploding around you, and so you need to commit to reinventing your knowledge base multiple times throughout your life time. Consider getting a graduate degree, as a BA today is like a high school education decades ago. As you leave here, remember, it’s not only what you know that counts – it’s also your ability to think critically, research, solve problems and collaborate on solutions that matters.
5. Don’t seek happiness. Live a purposeful life.
This is a tough one. We all want to be happy, but in my experience, happiness has been a by-product of living a purposeful life, rich with meaningful relationships. In the decades ahead, you will see staggering changes in the world. You will be more fulfilled if you participate fully in these transformations rather than stand on the sidelines.
6. Don’t wish for luck. Be ready for your big break.
For me, good fortune has always come at the intersection of preparation and opportunity. My university degrees prepared me, and I was open to opportunity when it came knocking. You are similarly prepared, and I have no doubt that each of you will fund your own path to prosperity. What an amazing time to graduate! Business is undergoing great transformation, and as many opportunities await you as you can create for yourselves.
7. Don’t build shareholder value. Cultivate all stakeholders.
The best way to create value for shareholders is to build it for customers, employees and the communities in which your business operates. As a business person and as a citizen, you will face growing challenges, such as the crises of climate change and the legitimacy of democracy. Trade wars are looming. Leaders of institutions everywhere have lost the public trust. Massive corporations are capturing our data and undermining our privacy while they enrich themselves. The global economy is unstable, and the world is deeply divided. Business can’t succeed in a world that’s failing.
Your generation will need to find new solutions for our connected world, and each of you will have a role to play. As you enter the work force, you will have the best tools for innovating and building new businesses. You can participate in changing your workplace, your community and your country as a global citizen. You must teach your children well. And you must exercise your right to vote – something precious and rare in the world today.
Wherever you are, design your life. Live the values of your generation. Continue your university experience with a full life that is purposeful, transformational and consequential.
Don Tapscott is co-author of Blockchain Revolution and chancellor of Trent University.