If it's June, it's graduation season, one that keeps Howard Tullman busy. Here's his address to the graduating class of the Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago

I'm honored to be here and to help share your celebration. It's a little depressing to be a graduation speaker because on each occasion you're at least a year older and all the graduates are, of course, the same age. But it's not that bad because at least the speaker gets to talk and everyone else has to at least pretend to be listening.

And so, speaking of listening, I wanted to start my remarks today with a couple of important rules.

Rule Number 1 - PAY ATTENTION. Focus your energies and your attention on what matters. It's way too easy to fool yourself into thinking that you can do many things at the same time. Reading, listening to music, watching videos, and texting as well. But I'm here to tell you that multi-tasking is a lie. You can try to juggle a lot of things, but you end up doing each one of them poorly. So, slow down, take a deep breath, focus on the job that's in front of you. Think about what you need to accomplish, pay attention to the details and to what you're doing, and do the very best job you can on the task at hand before you move on to the next. Do it right the first time. People don't remember how quickly you did the job (especially if it's wrong), but they always remember how well the job was done.

Rule Number 2-- PAY YOUR DUES. Put in the time and the work it takes to be special --to stand out; to make something you're proud of; to be the first one chosen for the task or the team. You want to be the one who takes care of business, the one who can be counted on, the one people turn to in a pinch. As boring as it may sound, having a reputation for reliability and dependability and getting stuff done is the best thing that people in the real world can say about you.

Regardless of what you may have heard, there are no "shortcuts" to success or "tricks of the trade." Good things take time and they don't happen overnight. Building real strengths and important skills takes years. They're the product of an iterative, over and over, process. You've got to get ready to be successful. It doesn't happen to you or for you-- it's something you make happen and it's how you make a life. You try, you fail, you advance a little bit, then you try again. The trick is to get up one time more than you fall down.

Rule Number 3-- PAY IT FORWARD AND BACK. President Clinton used to tell me a story about seeing turtles sitting on top of fence posts in Texas. He'd say you never knew why they were there, but the one thing that you knew for sure is that they didn't get there by themselves. And that's a lesson for today as well. Today, no one succeeds by themselves at anything. Teamwork is critical - working with others is crucial - but having people who have helped you, supported you, and who have had your back and always been there for you is the most important consideration of all.

Now's a good time not just to say, "thank you", but to do something more for those folks in your lives who made today possible for you - to return the favor - to show them that you appreciate the sacrifices they made and the time and care and love that they devoted to you.

One of the best ways to pay it back is to show them that their investment in you was a smart one that will pay dividends far into the future. You do this by making yourself not just a success, but also a shining example of the right way to do things. And you do the kind of things that make a difference-- not just to you or simply in your life -- but in the lives of those around you as well. When you get out of school and start working, you'll quickly see that it's not just about making a living (although that's important), it's about making a life that's complete and meaningful.

And it's also important to pay it forward. Everything , even today, isn't simply about you. It's about what you can do to help others-- to give more to the world than you expect to get -- to leave something behind each time you advance. And to help those who will come after you. You want to set a great example and set the bar high and you want to shoot for the stars. It's not the easiest way to go, but it's the one that's the most important and the most worthwhile in the long run.

Now let's talk a little bit about the entrepreneurs, who are the rock stars of today. Although I've been the president of two different colleges and the CEO of a dozen businesses, I think of myself mainly as an entrepreneur. My mother used to say that being an entrepreneur wasn't a profession; it was a condition. And I myself think of it as a passionate disease.

People become entrepreneurs, not because they want to, but because they have to. They fall in love with the idea of making something new and important. They're basically agents of change who discover things that need to be made better and they set out to transform their wild dreams and crazy ideas into concrete realities. Entrepreneurs are creating the new jobs and roles that will define the digital and global economy of the future.

And while each of you won't necessarily have that job title in the future, every one of you will need to be entrepreneurial-- to have the attitudes, the tools, and the skills that every successful entrepreneur quickly develops and then spends a lifetime of hard work sharpening.

Entrepreneurs have many skills, but the most important one is how they manage the highs and lows in their journey and handle the constant tension between their dreams and their fears. You're about to enter a new world, a place that can be exciting and scary at the same time, and a place where everyone worries. It's probably something they add to the drinking water. But worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair and furiously rocking back and forth. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.

Here's what the best entrepreneurs do when they face major problems or challenges: instead of worrying, they get busy. They put their heads down; they buckle up; they work twice as hard as before; and they roll right over the obstacles. Obstacles are just those ugly little things that you see when you take your eye off the ball. Action always conquers even the most paralyzing fears. And in the end, your faith, especially in yourself, needs to be stronger than your fear.

And the other thing that great entrepreneurs do is make the right choices. Not all the time, but a lot more than most folks do. Education is about learning to focus on a few important things and forgetting about the rest. You'll learn that the most important and impactful choices you make are the things you say "no" to.

It's easy to say "yes" and be part of the crowd; but your education and your future isn't a popularity contest - it's your life in the making. Ultimately, our lives are determined by the sum of all the choices we make. Make good ones; make them by and for yourself; and make them about what's right for you.

So that's my story. We have great confidence in you. We believe in you. And, most importantly, we know that you will all make us proud.

God bless each and every one of you.

Published on: Jun 20, 2017
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