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Martha Stewart

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The Key Ingredient in the Recipe for Success

Posted: 07/02/2012 11:14 am

This blog post is adapted from Martha Stewart's commencement speech at the University of Phoenix on June 29, 2012.

A few years ago, on my TV show, we spotlighted "30 Things Everyone Should Know" -- basic things like how to make a bed, how to iron a shirt and how to mix a margarita. A word of advice: make the bed and iron the shirt before mixing the margarita. You'll get much better results.

Today, I would like to share with you the "Seven Things Every Newly Minted College Graduate Should Know."

The first is very important: Everyone Should Know How to Make an Omelet. An omelet is easy to prepare, requiring just four ingredients: eggs, butter, salt and pepper -- a sprig of parsley for garnish if you want to get fancy.

And as the French proverb goes, you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. To create an egg dish or a business success you must make sacrifices. I'm sure that those of you who are graduating today have sacrificed a lot as you worked toward your degree -- you have sacrificed time with family and friends, sleep, and episodes of Modern Family. But now you have this perfect omelet or, more accurately, a degree that will make a difference for you, your family and your future.

Like many of you, I had to work very hard to realize my dream of earning a college degree. I started modeling as a teenager to pay for college.

I was fortunate to get a scholarship to Barnard College. My scholarship didn't cover everything. My freshman year, I lived in the apartment of two elderly widows for whom I cooked five days a week in return for room and board. As a sophomore, I shared college housing with five young women: Six small rooms with a kitchen cost $7 per week back then. That doesn't sound like much but some weeks I had little to spend on food if I didn't have a modeling assignment or baby-sitting job. I did not feel deprived, or poor, or unhappy. It was the way things were and I knew, once I graduated and was working regularly, all would be well.

I tell you this because I learned early on the value of hard work. That is the second thing that everyone should know. You must be willing to work hard. It's a lesson you have learned over the past years as you worked toward your degree. And, diploma in hand, it's a lesson that you must continue to apply.

People often ask me, "What is your recipe for success?" There is no single recipe for success, but there is one essential ingredient: passion. This is the third thing you should know. If you want to be a success, you must love what you do. How else will you be able to give it the time, energy and hard work it requires?

I had always loved cooking and baking and entertaining; after my husband, daughter and I moved to Connecticut, I decided to start a catering business.

My first job was an outdoor wedding for more than 300 people. It was sweltering August afternoon. The wedding cake nearly melted in the heat but I loved the whole experience. When work is based in passion, it does not feel like work -- it feels fulfilling and empowering.

It is my passion for teaching and for easing the challenges of the homemaker's everyday life that helped me turn my homegrown catering business into a successful omnimedia company reaching approximately 66 million consumers across all media platforms each month and with more than 8,500 products in thousands of retail locations.

Today we hear a lot about young entrepreneurs and tech tycoons like Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Google's Sergey Brin and Larry Page. These men created something new and valuable at an early age. But not everybody discovers their passion -- and manages to successfully tap it while still in their twenties.

I was 40-years-old when I wrote my first book, Entertaining and I was 50-years-old when I launched my first magazine, Martha Stewart Living. That is the fourth thing you should know. It's never too late to achieve.

Our culture often celebrates the achievements of the young but I stand here before you today a proud late bloomer. When you reach the age of 40, you're at an ideal point in life to build on your career or start a new one because you know who you are, what you want, what your passions are, and you have a sense of urgency about your life and career.

As a gardener, I can also tell you that late bloomers tend to be stronger, healthier and more long lived than their early blooming counterparts.

At this point, I should tell you that every newly minted college graduate should know how to make lemonade.

Pour 3 cups of fresh lemon juice (from about 20 lemons) through a sieve into a pitcher. Combine 2 cups of superfine sugar, 4 cups of water, some ice and then add... a willingness to look at those lemons in a new light and a generous amount of perseverance.

That's how you turn lemons into lemonade.

I know this from personal experience. The idea for Martha Stewart Living magazine didn't spring fully formed from my head. I had approached my publisher about doing a series of beautiful "how to" lifestyle books. They thought it was a terrible idea, a real lemon. I was very disappointed until it occurred to me that a magazine about beautiful living would actually be even better.

Out of my disappointment came one of the best ideas I ever had.

Have I mentioned that lemon is my favorite flavor?

So you may feel that, diploma in hand, you're done with your education, but you must never stop building your fund of knowledge. What you have learned in college is much greater than the sum total of your classwork, and papers and exams. You have learned how to learn. And if you remember only one thing I say today, remember this, the sixth thing you should know: stay curious and keep learning.

And finally there is one more thing that every newly minted graduate should know: take the time to savor your success and celebrate it with your family and friends.

Make the most of today and each and every day. You deserve it.

Congratulations!

Martha Stewart is the Founder and Non-Executive Chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.

 
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