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Pierre Lassonde’s Convocation Speech

Pierre Lassonde’s speech at Convocation today is now on our YouTube page.

You can also read the text below.

Pierre Lassonde Speech to York University Convocation 2014

After four or more years of hard work, late nights and bad food the convocation speaker is the last obstacle between you and your diploma.  It makes me a bit nervous, a bit like walking across a bullpen wearing a red cape! I will keep my remarks short.

Let me start with a reality check, and just in case you haven’t noticed, life is not fair.  Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, others are orphans.  Some are really good at sports, a lot of us suck.  Some look like movie stars, others like me, look like their parents.  There is no one to blame, to point a finger at in recrimination.  That’s life, if you want to be successful deal with it and be a PEST!

That’s right, be a PEST.

If you’re going to remember only one thing from my speech it is that I told you to be a PEST. PEST is an acronym for Passion, Experience, Speed and Trust. The term was developed by my son’s business partner to evaluate prospective high-technology start-up management. I got to thinking about your graduation and the fact that you are facing the start-up of your working life, your career and that yes to be a PEST was entirely appropriate advice. 

P is for Passion. Passion for what you do, for the people you love, for the dreams you want to turn into reality.  If you’re passionate about what you do, you will not work a day in your life and you will get paid to have fun. Isn’t that incredible?  Not all jobs are glamorous and you may not even know what you want to do in life. That’s fine too. In that case let me offer you the words of Winston Churchill “ If you can’t do what you love, love what you do.” It’s so British! So keep calm and carry on. But you know what, it’s also so true.

I see it all the time, wherever I go, when I order my favorite drink, a cappuccino. Too many times I end up with a bad latte or worse.  The baristas who love their coffee, their jobs, know exactly the perfect balance between the light, airy foam and the creamy, dark espresso. If by chance your cappuccino is topped by some intricate Latte Art, then you know you’re in the presence of God!…I mean a Master! A great cappuccino brings a smile to my face, every time, no matter how I feel that day.

E is for Experience. How many of you have read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell?  It should be mandatory.  Get it. Read it. The key point Gladwell makes is that to be World Class at anything, be it sports, music, computer programing, whatever it is you want to do, you need 10,000 hours of practice.  Mozart had done his 10,000 hrs by the time he was seven years old.  Bill Gates by the time he was 20, Zuckerman about 22, me about 36.  How about you?  Better start counting now!

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t discovered your passion yet. It can be a lifelong process. The point here is simple, get going! When I was in high school I wanted to be an architect until the third University I applied to told me in no uncertain terms that I had no talent! OK, time to go to Plan B! I switched to engineering thinking I was going to start my own construction company. I ended up building mines and so to speak fell backward into the mine shaft!  The gold world became my passion and I never looked back. My 10,000 hours I did after I graduated. Make a plan, be flexible, and get on with it.

S is for Speed.  Time never stops and it’s limited. We all die.  It’s why time itself is so precious.  And I also know what you’re thinking…why am I wasting 10 min your precious time, right?

You’re young, about to graduate and think you have all the time in the world.  Last week I had lunch with a dear friend. It was her daughter’s 7th wedding anniversary and as she does on every anniversary, she watched her daughter’s wedding video.

Here I was thinking, isn’t that over-the-top sentimental? Isn’t it the same movie every time? My friend went on to say that it was her way of looking at her family and the people that matter the most to her and what they’ve done with their lives as time has passed.  Many had laid down tracks, tried new things and gone places. A few lives, sadly, had not budged with the passage of time. The annual movie watching was a simple gesture but a brilliant idea. 

You know how fast the last four years went and you can point to your accomplishments.  The next five will come and go just as fast. What’s your movie going to look like?  It’s entirely up to you. Get on with it!

T is for Trust. It’s the fundamental building block of a successful life.  Trust is defined as the reliance or confidence in the integrity, strength, ability and surety of a person or an institution. It starts at the family level extends to your work place and goes all the way up to our country’s judicial system, our police, our health care system etc. We are blessed to be living in a country with a capital, Ottawa, which has to be the dullest place on the planet! We like it this way.  Show your partner, your boss, your clients, your bankers, your friends and family that you can be trusted. It’s a gift to yourself that will be key to your success.

Thank you for your kind patience, make sure you celebrate your accomplishment by throwing an appropriate party and be a PEST!


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