What Do Top Leaders Say About Success?

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I recently had the privilege of addressing inductees into the Dearden Honor Society at my alma mater, Albright College. My hopes were to celebrate and recognize the student’s accomplishments, share a little transparency into my life, and encourage and inspire as the transition from academic achievement to business success is about to occur.

I am going to share the names of 5 successful business leaders. 

Steve Jobs     Walt Disney   Milton Hershey        Henry Ford    Andrew Carnegie

I hold up the lives of these five well-known, successful business leaders to connect with you and me which can lead to a life of success.

1st point – Rise & Grind 

As part of the Andesa Book Club, we have read Shark Tank’s Daymond John’s book “Rise & Grind.”  According to John, there is no shortcut to success.   Hard work, drive, grit, dedication, perseverance and a “Rise & Grind” attitude (a strong work ethic) is the one key common attribute shared by almost every successful individual whom I have encountered.

A tireless work ethic is a common theme among the biographies of Jobs, Disney, Hershey, Ford, and Carnegie.

You are not here today to be inducted and represent a higher standard of business student without demonstrating a solid work ethic.  I listened to your induction bios: athletes, working while in school, internships, clubs, leadership, roles – all the while balancing a strong academic rigor. You have the foundation it takes to be successful in the real world.

The hard part is translating that work ethic into the real world.  It is a rise-and-grind, work-it-out world.  There will be great days and there will be difficult days.  There will be accomplishments, and you will experience setbacks.  But you get up every day and work through it all.

My father was a World War II army sergeant.  He drove a tractor trailer and worked in the coal mines as a laborer for Bethlehem Steel.  My mother was a “stay-at-home” mom, and don’t try and tell me that stay-at-home moms don’t work.  I was one of five children. At least in my family, it was a difficult, demanding strenuous, effort to raise five of us.

I grew up in poverty.  Education was our way out of that cycle.  All my parents ever wanted were for us to be happy and to have a better life than they had.  What I learned from my parents’ tireless work ethic is that good things come to those who work.  Yes, good things come to those who wait as well, but good things do come to those who work. And, as in the example of my parents, perhaps not even for ourselves but for others we love.

Remember – Rise and Grind

2nd point – Stay Curious

Jobs – Disney – Hershey – Ford – Carnegie…not a single one of them graduated from college, some didn’t even finish high school. Yet all were intellectually curious their entire life, constantly experimenting and seeking a better way.

The statistics about your generation are interesting.  It is likely you will hold seventeen different jobs in five or six different industries over the course of your career.  Some of you will likely hold jobs in the future that have not even been invented or created yet.

You already have an advantage. In a few months or a few years, you will complete a college education and receive a diploma. I am here to share that your education doesn’t end the day you walk off that stage at graduation.  You must embrace learning and stay curious your entire life in order to improve your chances for success.

I became CEO of Andesa Services at fifty years of age.  Prior to that I had a dozen different positions, working my way up the corporate ladder, within five different industries: public accounting, acute healthcare, healthcare technology, long-term care/senior living real estate and finally insurance technology with Andesa.  I attribute my growth and success to an insatiable curiosity and love of learning.   Many of the tools and concepts in today’s business world, such as laptops, Excel spreadsheets, cell phones, the internet and social media, were not invented when I walked across the Bollman Center stage in 1983 and picked up my Albright diploma.  I shared that education was my way out of poverty.  But I remain committed to learning and reading – it is one of my personal driving motivations.

So, my advice is stay curious; never stop learning.

Point #3 – Make an impact

You are being recognized today for your academic achievements. But, as I noted earlier, I also know you are making a broader impact on the Albright community.   Your leadership in clubs, on sports teams, with research and work experiences, with community service; you are making your mark on the Albright College story.

Jobs – Disney – Hershey – Ford – Carnegie…each has made a huge impact on the world.  Yet, despite all their success, despite all of their contribution to the world, not a single one of them are alive today.

In comparison to the timeline of human existence, the time you and I spend on this earth is short.  It is a small line segment.  Make the most of your time. Make a difference – make an impact with the time you have.

Six years ago, I lay on an emergency room stretcher.   I had blood clots in my legs and my lungs were 80% blocked with pulmonary embolisms.  Throughout that day, on three separate occasions, a physician leaned over me and shared how lucky I was to be alive. I thought, “God must have some other plan for my time.” As I was being transferred, I realized how serious my situation was. As I recovered in ICU that evening – I was at peace.

We live in a hard, negative world.  The business world can be challenging, politics unbelievably nasty.  Many friends of mine on social media are anxious and depressed.  There is so much negativity in our face every day.

I made a promise to myself that week in the hospital to serve others.   To put more positive energy into the world than I took from the world.  To build people up.  To be grateful for this day and every day.  To be a beacon of light in an otherwise dark world.

In his book Rise & Grind, Daymond John notes. “the key to success is learning to carry the load you have been given – without being crushed by it.   To make it seem like it isn’t a burden but a blessing – to make it your joy.”

When your curiosity and your rise-and-grind align with your spirit – it is pure joy, and you will make an impact and a difference.

I came across a statistic on the internet this week. It was on the internet, so it must be true.  It indicated that the average human has the opportunity to impact 80,000 individuals over the course of their lives. I would argue with the power of networking and social media, one could put that 80,000 on steroids.  What is important to note, however, is that, in regard to size, making an impact doesn’t matter.  Perhaps you will only make a difference to one person; and if you do, don’t stop there.  Make a difference to another.  Perhaps, some day, you will have the opportunity to make an impact on a group of honor students – take advantage of that opportunity.  Perhaps you might be able to impact a group of 150 employees and their families – consider that a privilege and an honor.  Because your impact on one can multiply to impact others.  Whatever the number, make an impact!!

Rise & Grind      Stay Curious      Make an impact

Your induction this evening and your participation in the Dearden Honor Society tells me you are already following that model in leading your life to date.  Your success already follows this recipe:

Rise & Grind      Stay Curious      Make an Impact

My hope for you is continued success on your journey.

Let’s make an impact on our connected world.



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