Last Wednesday will go down as one of the best days of my life. My son D, my baby boy who I gave birth to 22 years ago this week, graduated from college. Yes, he did. He did it and he did it well. While some on either side of me dozed off during the ceremonies at NYC's Radio City Music Hall, I kept my eyes wide open. I loved the pomp and circumstance from beginning to end. I listened to every word that each speaker had to say.
"Will my son D heed these words of wisdom as he begins his finance career this week in the big city?" I thought as I reflected on my own personal journey over the past 30+ years. Have I practiced, and do I continue to practice, what these wise speakers preach?
"Follow your passion," said Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which includes some of the country's most highly acclaimed and popular restaurants including Union Square Cafe, Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, Maialino and more. He spoke after being honored with a Doctor of Humane Letters. (Since my son spent most of his food dollars at Shake Shack during his last two years at Pace University, I felt a special affinity for Danny. D promises to take me out for a Shake Shack burger when he earns his first paycheck. Can't wait.)
"Use your time well," added Danny. "Everyone gets time equally. It doesn't matter how much money you make." (Ooh, I always wish I had more time. That's likely why I spend so little time sleeping. There aren't enough hours in the day to do all that I want to do. I need not forget menopausal moments and hot flashes that are equal contributors to my sleepless nights.)
Danny talked about "HQ," also known as the hospitality quotient, asking the graduates to consider how they make people feel during a transaction... about any transaction, not just at a restaurant meal. (I so agree with Danny. Emotional skills are very important in life and I have definitely tried to make every colleague, client, friend, family member and partner feel good during my work and non-work transactions.)
Danny used words like kind, curiosity, work ethic, empathy, self-awareness and integrity as he shared his secrets of success. (Love these words, don't you? I am definitely becoming more self-aware during my life after 50 and intend to keep learning something new each day.)
Danny closed by urging the graduates to "be humble." "Life is a series of waves to be embraced and overcome," he said. (Ah yes, those waves keep coming, even after more than three decades in the work world. Sometimes the waves are small and I glide easily to shore, while other times they are huge and I end up crashing or doing a belly flop just to stay afloat.)
Pace President Friedman shared his four "C's" for a winning career during his address. "Compete, contribute, create and have courage to take risks and do new things," he said. "Think of your life as an oak tree. Walk out on each branch. If you just stay in the center of the trunk you'll miss some great opportunities." (I do hope my son D takes more risks than I did. I know he will. He has already shown me how fearless he can be. I am so proud of him, so proud of his accomplishments, especially during these past four years.)
I hope D pursues his passions like Danny said. I hope he walks out on the tallest and narrowest oak tree branches and tries lots of new experiences like President Friedman said. I hope he learns from his worst failures and takes pride in each and every triumph.
Go out there D and conquer the world. Yes, you will likely fall down sometimes, it will hurt and I may not always be there to help pick you up. You'll need to do that yourself and then climb the next branch on your own. No, I won't be there to catch you... because I, yes I, your mama J, will be climbing a taller oak tree branch right beside you. It's time for me to take some new risks in my life.
Here I go-go-go watch out below-low-low!