Speech to Graduands at UCOL

I recently gave a talk to students graduating in Computer Graphic Design at the Universal College of Learning (UCOL) in Whanganui. Here’s the talk I gave.

UCOL Whanganui
UCOL Whanganui

Tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te mihi atu. Mayor Annette Main, Deputy Mayor Hamish McDouall, Councillors, Trevor Goodwin, distinguished guests and especially graduands, I’m very pleased to be asked speak to you at your graduation. I’m proud, as a resident of Whanganui, that such excellence is being produced here.

Every afternoon I get delivered to my inbox a message from “The Inspiration Room”, a creative archive and community site that provides to my desktop the latest creative inspirations from television, print, ambient and interactive advertising, music videos, photography and design.

Scarecrow by Chipotle and Moonbot
Scarecrow by Chipotle and Moonbot – click to visit the website

Being here today reminds me of a recent post from them about a very engaging ad campaign by the American restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill. Chipotle has launched “The Scarecrow“, a mobile game designed to differentiate them from other fast foods chains, which use mass food production techniques. “The Scarecrow” is an arcade-style adventure game for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch which is accompanied by animated short film. Both the film and the game depict a scarecrow’s journey through a dystopian fantasy world to bring wholesome food back to the people by providing an alternative to the processed food that dominates his world. The film’s soundtrack is a creepy re-interpretation of “Pure Imagination,” from the 1970s version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you haven’t seen it, it’s currently available for free download, and well worth a look.

This is an example of how, as new designers about to launch into the world, you’re very important. You’ll be colouring the way we perceive our universe, helping us to make connections between disparate ideas and introducing us to new products. You are the ambassadors of material culture. And the world of social media allows freedoms that were unimagined just a few short years ago. And you’ve made an excellent start on your careers by choosing the Computer Graphic Design course at UCOL in which to be trained.

But in order to be effective in the long term you’re going to have to have to look after yourself. I don’t just mean eating right and getting plenty of rest – I’m sure you all do that now. I actually mean thinking strategically about your career.

Back when I was in school, the ethos of my family was “work hard and you can’t fail”. And maybe for my parent’s generation that was true. But today, working hard isn’t enough. Even “working smarter”, the mantra of the 1990s doesn’t offer us all the tools we need to achieve our goals. Today we need an approach. I’m going to give you five pieces of advice that I wish I had been given when I was 19.

  1. Balance your understanding of both your limitations and your strengths.  People can tend to focus on either one or the other, but being confident in your abilities while managing risks around areas that are challenging means you’ll continue to grow.
  2. Surround yourself with people who are constantly striving and who know more than you. Don’t be afraid to soak up knowledge from those who have something to offer. Find a mentor – those people who have given me advice throughout my career have had a lasting impact.
  3. Take the long view, and be aware that there is a long view. Where do you want to be 20 years from now? It might seem like an insurmountable question at this point, but most people who have done something truly special with their lives have had a dream and followed it.
  4. Have a financial plan as you enter the workforce. Understand the immense power of compound interest. For example, if you put $200 away today and only $200 once a year, the interest you’ll get will give you $35,000 on retirement – for doing essentially nothing.
  5. Finally, you may not get the job of your dreams as soon as you start out. If you do, chances are you’re shooting too low. My experience, though, is that every job has something to offer, and there are many ways to use your talents unexpectedly, if you look for them.

Very best wishes in your future careers, which I’m sure will be bright ones.

Thank you.

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