July 30‚ 2001 Commencement Speech
Georgia (Jul 30, 2001) — Thank you very much Dr. Siegel for your heart felt introduction and thank you Kennesaw for allowing me the opportunity to be here before you addressing the class of 2001. Congratulations! My name is Jake Sanchez, former Chairman and CEO of Planning Technologies, Inc, I am honored and humbled to be before you.
This not only a tremendous occasion for you but it is also a significant mile marker in your life. It is a special day for your parents (who probably wondered whether or not they would see this day), your family, and friends and of course you.
They are and we are all here to help you celebrate this life changing achievement. Graduating from college is the threshold leading from dependency (parents are glad to hear this @ even though as parents you will always have dependent children- no matter what the age) to taking charge of your own life.
As the bird eventually leaves the nest and the cub leaves his pride, you to must move forward. Not without us, but us behind you as you now take the lead for your life. This can be both scary and invigorating. It is a sense of newfound freedom but with it comes radical responsibility. But after today you will be better armed. You now have your life experiences coupled with a college degree.
Each of you will be facing many changes in the months ahead. Some of you will move on to graduate school and other into the job market.
As I thought about my message to you I wondered whether to keep it light, make it funny, or be very serious. I could have spoken to you about business shifts, technology, social issues of the day, or any issue with some significant, deep meaning. Like should Napster be able to freely distribute music. But instead I chose to make my message very simple. Give you something you may be able to use.
My theme is " If I can make it so can you!"
I say this because I am an average guy. I wasn’t the smartest or the dumbest in my class. I did not accomplish extraordinary things. I didn’t belong to up teen clubs and associations. I did not have a unique skill or gift. My first job was with IBM. I believed they hired me because I was an average guy. IBM’s competitors at the time only hired straight "A" college grads. IBM hired B and C students. The competitor is no longer around.
My life began with great hardship. I was born in the back seat of a borrowed car on the way to the hospital.
My family at the time was very poor. When I was young we had the classic symptoms of a family doomed never to fulfill any of it dreams. My parents were poor and hard working people. Spanish was their first language. What a blessing that turned out to be. (John Nesbit, author of "Megatrends" wrote: " There are three great languages in the world English, Spanish, and computer programming.")
What chance did I have in becoming something?
My father was only 10 years old when in 1941 made his way into Texas. He worked as a laborer in the fields in Texas for $.50 per day.
My mother was on a parallel track. Her family was the classic migrant worker family. This consisted of following crops around different regions of the country depending on the season. Her earliest memories were traveling around the country picking cotton in Texas, onions in Indiana, cherries in Michigan and finally tomatoes and cucumbers in Ohio where she settled. She met my father, was married, and then I came along in 1956.
I thought we had everything in the world. We had basic necessities. We had clean clothes, not a lot of them only what was necessary. We had running water, - you had to run to get it. It was outdoors. The water came from water pump that was located 100 yards away from the house. It took two of us to carry it to the kitchen so we could have drinking water, let alone bath water. Who knew at that time that we could have bottled it and sold it.
We had a bathroom. Again one that was located 50 yards behind the house. During the harsh winters bathroom breaks became very strategic not opportunistic.
We had heat. I guess you can call it central heating and air. The central heating came from a potbelly coal stove. Coal was delivered to a shed in the back where we would have to shovel it in a bucket and move it indoors. Opening the windows provided central air.
This is how my life began. So you see if I can make it so can you!
Our family, unknowingly, was ahead of some of the trends in the country at the time. In the early days we had a two family income. I with my brothers followed the tradition of my parents by also working "the fields". My life started as a migrant farm worker no different than what you see today in many parts of Georgia. But if I can make it starting like this you should have it made!
But there was something different. Unlike my parent’s childhood, they insisted we go to school and do well in school.
My parents instilled into me an understanding that there is a direct correlation between the levels of education you attain and what you can accomplish. They said it over and over again " Get an education so you don’t have to do what I did. You can work in the fields the rest of your life or you can go to school and do something better?" I was the first generation in the history of my family to graduate from high school and college.
As I thought about my life what was the turning point? I will never forget my first epiphany. I was 5 years old picking tomatoes and I remember looking up from my knees, (I was really small then and I had to drag the hampers because I could not lift them. The hamper was as tall as I was. It was a real challenge to fill them up one after the other day in and day out as long as the season held out. ) We received the prevailing wage of $.10 per hamper) But I remember looking up from my knees and saw the owner of the farm riding on top of his tractor and I said to myself I want to drive the tractor. I want to be in his position.
Last year I sold my company for several million dollars. God bless this country. How after one generation in this country did I go from the son of immigrant farm laborers to a college graduate, worked for one of the best companies in the world, owned and operated my own business and then sell it to publicly traded company? You see if I can do it so can you!
As you enter the job market this is what the environment may look like.
The first is job stability or security. Some would argue this does not exist any more. We have traded job security for career mobility. You will have an opportunity to experience many different environments using many different skills over your life. The first job you take will be a long way from your last. I came along when the tradition of keeping a job for life was changing. I have subscribed to a hybrid model where I have stayed in one field but have changed jobs many times within my field or discipline. This has proven to be invaluable because it allowed me to take advantage of new opportunities in our economy as they happened.
The second change you will experience is the shelf life of your degree. It has a date stamp on it. Your schooling is a required investment for your future. It does not guarantee you anything but an opportunity to enter the job market. Your degree proves you’re trainable over a period of time. It demonstrates your tenacity in being able to stick it out for 4 years or maybe some of you 5,6 years. College is your boot camp. It demonstrates that you have discipline and you have a motivation to learn. But you are not combat or field ready. Today’s environment demands constant learning. The greatest asset you now possess is the ability to know how to learn. Today’s modern business demands that you pick up new skills and knowledge. You must be willing to step outside of your comfort zone or "box" as the need dictates. This is an environment that old dogs do learn new tricks.
Your compensation is affected as a direct result of this need to be constantly learning. Your paycheck is no longer a meal ticket but a report card. You will be paid to perform based on what you know and what you will learn. Seniority is no longer a valuable asset. It can actually hurt you in a technology driven work place where new skills are not dependent on the "old way of doing things". A system that rewards productivity and creativity with results is the new order of the day. It doesn’t matter how long you have been somewhere what matters are your current contributions.
Another significant factor affecting you is the pace of technological advances. Technology will affect your career. You are a generation that has grown up with technology all around you. To put it into prospective I grew up in an age when the shift from industrial to technology-fueled economies was just beginning to happen. VCRs and ATMs were the challenges of our day. The first man on the moon was at the time the greatest technological achievement mankind had mastered. This has been surpassed over and over again in the last 20 years. I remember working pre-PC era. Imagine that! No Internet, Napster, AOL, or eBay. How did we get along?
Medical technology is another issue that will test your morality and ethics as we enter the world of genomes. You may see the chance for people to harvest organs, predetermine genetic codes and possibly live forever. With the prospect of living forever doesn’t mean you should sit around and take your time getting things done.
If this wasn’t enough to worry about let me throw another log on the fire @ a possible recession just as you are trying to find a job.
As you enter the work force what can you do? How do we put a wrap of protection around you so you can go through life successfully? Some of you may want patented advice on how to succeed in the future. All I can offer today is some words of advice based on what has worked for me.
Create a vision for yourself @ literally see yourself in your mind’s eye where you want to be. When I was still in high school I decided at that time I would retire at 40. That seemed to be a good time. I had figured I would be 20 when I graduated from college. I would work for 20 years and then retire. I mean how many years did it take. Shouldn’t 20 be enough? I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish this. I did not know what I would be doing to make me all this money. For that matter I didn’t know anything except that was what I was going to do. Well it didn’t quite work out that way. I was 45 when I retired this past February.
I believe if you can see it in your mind’s eye your sub-conscious works in a way to get you there unbeknownst to you. As you make decisions that affect your life your sub-conscious weighs in representing your vision and over time decisions are made to kind of get you there. If you can’t see it you can’t get there.
This may sound like a no brainer to some and like something really dumb to focus on by others. But at the risk of sounding silly the next thing I decided was I wanted to make a lot of money. Doesn’t everybody? Well not really. I don’t think most people know how to go about making a lot of money. I do not have the time today to speak to you about this but I do believe that the decision to want to make a lot of money is critical to getting there. You will spend ‡ of your waking day working for pay. What you are paid will affect every aspect of your life. What schools your children can attend, what neighborhood you will live you, the type of car you drive, The opportunity to have choices in your life are all governed many times by the amount of money you have. The Bible reminds us it is the "Love of money that is the root of all evil". Having it is OK.
Being an entrepreneur. In Thomas Stanley and William Danko’s book "The Millonaire Next Door", 80% of millionaires are first timers. This can be you. You all have a chance if you work hard. They go on to say that 2/3rds of all millionaires are self-employed. And the self-employed make up 20% of the workers in America but account for 67% of the millionaires.
These figures were not available to me when I struck out on my own. I realized early on that whomever I worked for they would be making the money. They were the farmer on the tractor and I was doing the hard labor. If they were a well-established company the early investors had already made the real money. My point here is that if you want to create wealth, figure out a way to become your own boss. It is very difficult to get wealthy working for someone else. This is the hardest thing you will ever do but the rewards are great. I started my first company when I was in college. I started my first technology company before I was 30.
4. It is important to manage and account for all your finances. It will serve you your whole life. No matter what your discipline. Our country encourages a have a high consumptive lifestyle and culture. Mr. Greenspan said this past week that consumer spending is the key to stop us from entering a recession. The economy was and is relying on consumers to spend, spend, and spend to keep our economy afloat. Try not to get caught up in this. Debt enslaves you. You need to derive pleasure from owning appreciating assets rather than displaying a high consumptive lifestyle. Try not to get caught up in the trap of owning stuff.
5. You have to divide before you multiple @ Kinda like you have to give to receive. This is one of my guiding principles. When I founded PTI I owned 100%. I had no clients, no revenue, except a good idea and a whole lot of passion but basically the company value was probably hovering right around zero. When my first partner came on I gave a % of my company to him. We operated the company for 7 years. The company at this point still had a small valuation. It wasn’t until I embraced this principle that the valuation of the company started rising.
When I was seeking investors the first thing I did was give my employees ownership in the company. Everyone from the phone operators to the management had a stake in the company. It seemed the more I gave away the higher the value of the company rose. As I sought out investors I continued to cut out ownership of my company. This in turn provides needed equity to fund and operate the company. After 2 years of dividing the company value multiplied and was sold for several million of dollars. I received a % of this money versus the 100% of nothing I had when I started the company.
The last thing I want to mention is to develop a sold foundation for your life by paying attention to your physical, mental and spiritual needs.
Strong physical presence with a strong body. @ Never underestimate the power of a strong physical presence. When you feel mentally sluggish or when you are ready to give up- stimulate yourself physically to feel the strength necessary to conquer the problem. This is good nourishment for greater self-esteem.
Have a strong mind and develop good thinking skills @ not just a highly trained mind that you receive through challenging yourself academically or through complex task but also develop thinking as a skill. Intelligence can be overshadowed by mental weakness. Do not confuse education with thinking. And intelligence can disguise poor thinking. Edward De Bono in his book "Teach Your Child How to Think" writes, "Intelligence is potential. Thinking is the skill which we use that potential." Having high intelligence does not mean you are a good thinker. How many times have we seen real smart people do really dumb things?
Spiritual Connection - whatever God you worship. I believe it is extremely critical that there is a higher calling, a higher being, or a source of enlightenment that you seek out.
Remember if I can do it so can you! Good luck, God Bless and congratulations.
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.