Three Joys You Can Count On
Given by Scott
E. Carson, Senior Vice President, The Boeing Company, President, Connexion by
Boeing, Senior Vice President, The Boeing Company, 2001 Commencement, College
of Business and Economics & College of Education, Washington State University,
Pullman, Washington, May 12, 2001.
When President Rawlins invited me
to give this address, I was highly flattered, or at least I was until he explained
the reasons for my selection.
"Scott," he told me, "you are a loyal alum
and you have sent three daughters to WSU. After reviewing all of your transcripts,
I can tell that each of these daughters is smarter than you are. So I think I
can trust you to be modest."
"More than that," the President continued,
"I couldnt help but notice that you were able to complete a four-year program
here at WSU in less than two years. Seeing as how you are the kind of maniac who
goes through college in half the normal time, you should be capable of cutting
a 20-minute commencement speech down to ten. Make that part of your flight plan,
as you people at Boeing might say."
Roger, Mr. President! Ladies and gentlemen,
members of the faculty, and this years graduates at the College of Business and
Economics and the College of Education, I promise to speak not just with cougar
 pride . . . but with cougar speed.
I only hope that I can emulate a
few of the other attributes of that noble creature. I think of the curiosity,
courage, intelligence, and adaptability of this great cat. The cougar ranges over
mountains, forests and deserts. It stalks prey from moose to mice. During the
big earthquake in Seattle a few weeks ago, I was given an unexpected reminder
of the power of the cougar.
Pictures fell off the walls in my office;
model airplanes crashed to the ground; chairs and tables were knocked over. But
there was one undisturbed element or creature in the room. That was my wooden
cougar. He remained poised upon his pedestal, surefooted as ever, looking calm
and imperturbable, alert and resourceful, proud and undaunted. Hows that for
being true to your school!
This morning, I want to talk two kinds of fear
and three kinds of joy. There is one kind of fear that acts as a powerful shock
and another kind of fear that is much more insidious and debilitating. I know
both of these fears very well. Lets look at them first.
At one point during
World War II, General George Patton lamented, "Too late, too late, always too
late." Thats exactly how I felt when I was the same age as most of you who are
graduating today. It seemed to me that opportunity had been there for the taking,
and I had somehow missed it.
Being an indifferent student, I had gone into
the Air Force straight from high school. This was during the Vietnam War, and
I saw plenty of action as an air commando. My wartime experiences filled me with
a profound sense of regret. I could not believe the waste of life, the waste
of talent, the waste of all precious resources of all kinds.
years in the Air Force, I spent a couple years at Boeing as a technician. I had
already turned 24 when I joined the freshman class at Washington State University.
I realized: If I go through at the normal pace, I will be almost 30 years old
when I graduate. That scared the hell out me. It was the shock of my life.
Though my adviser told me I was crazy, I decided to cram four years into
one and half, mainly by carrying twice the usual number of courses. I had two
great assets in my favor. The first was my wife Linda who being perfect in
every way is also a cougar. Without her wholehearted support, I could not have
coped with the insane urgency of the schedule I had set for myself. The second
was this school . . . this wonderful school in the Palouse. I dont know another
school where you would find teachers and advisers who are prepared to do so much
In case you are wondering, I graduated with a B average. That
is, indeed, below the standard for Lindas and my children, but it represented
my first real success in school.
Upon entering the business world, I began
to learn something about the other kind of fear. I am talking now about fear
of the unknown, fear of the unfamiliar and fear of change. These fears are the
grown-up version of the childs fear of the dark. Nevertheless, they can have
a crippling effect upon a persons development. Ive seen it happen to many bright
and talented people.
The fact is, you must be willing to stretch, to take
chances, to move beyond your comfort zone, or you will be continually disappointed
with what life has to offer.
What is the opposite of fear of the unknown,
or fear of change?
You wouldnt be wrong if you said "courage." But I am
going to say "joy." Why joy? It matches up with fear of the unknown in the following
ways: Where one denies, the other affirms; where one inhibits, the other inspires;
where one contains, the other overflows.
Here are the three joys that you
can count on to bring you success in your future endeavors. They will never fail
you or let you down in any way.
The first is joy in work. Whenever I read
about some multimillionaire retiring at the age of 35, I shake my head in disbelief.
Why would anyone in his right mind want to quit working? Work is, or ought
to be, a superior form of play not only useful, but altogether stimulating and
fun. I applaud the attitude of Isaac Asimov, the great science fiction writer,
who had more than 500 books to his credit. "If the doctor told me I had only
six minutes to live," Asimov said, "I wouldnt brood. Id type a little faster."
Next is joy in learning. Regardless of age, learning is always the key
to improvement . . . the key to self-improvement and to the improvement of everything
you touch. As the anthropologist Jacob Bronowski has written, "The most powerful
drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skill. He loves to do what
he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better."
is joy in others, and this is absolutely essential to the other two. For instance,
to experience the joy of learning, you must be open to and strongly interested
in the ideas and thoughts of others. In much the same way, you will find no joy
in work if you cannot communicate and cooperate with others. Nothing is worse
than knowing engineering and only being able to talk with other engineers, or
knowing accounting and only being able to talk with other accountants. To cause
things to happen, you must learn to think and talk in the language of disciplines
and professions other than your own.
In the words of a popular song, Every
new beginning is some other beginnings end. You have spent most of your life
preparing for "the rest of your life," and now, after 16 years or more in school,
the rest of your life is truly beginning! That makes this a momentous occasion.
There may not be another time in your life when you have so many options
open to you . . . or so many important choices to make . . . as you do right now.
Perhaps you already know what you want to do with your life. If so, you are one
of the lucky ones. If not, here is some advice from someone who has spent some
time searching in his own life.
Look for the "thing" or things for which
you have a passion, and in which you find joy. Look for the kind of work you
could happily do 10, 12 or even 14 hours a day, if that were needed.
for the most demanding job you can find because thats the one that will be most
fulfilling. Never accept a job . . . or stay for too long in one . . . that doesnt
excite you. You should always feel that there is a strong connection between
your ability to learn and your ability to contribute. If that isnt there, you
are in a dead-end job, regardless of how much money you may be making.
for work among people you like. If you find the politics or the human factor
at XYZ Corporation oppressive, get out and go somewhere else.
what I have said can be summed up by the admonition written on the sides of temples
in ancient Greece: Be true to yourself! To be authentic is, literally, to be
the author of your own life.
But I do have one final piece of advice: While
being true to yourself, you should act with a sense of urgency. Dont think that
time is on your side just because you are young. Time is never on anyones side
who does not regard it as one of the most precious of all of Gods gifts.
will be times that you are called upon to lead and times that you are called upon
to follow. The two activities are not opposites to my way of thinking. Good
leaders subordinate themselves to their subordinates. And the best followers
practice what I call courageous followership. The leader and the follower are
united by a common sense of purpose and direction. Their opposite number
is the drifter who has neither purpose nor direction.
To drift is to
submit to chaos. As a matter of physics, no one not even the best informed scientist
can predict what will happen to a piece of driftwood as it floats downstream.
That is what chaos theory is about.
I read recently that most of this years
graduates will work for half a dozen or more employers by the time they are 32.
Thats amazing to anyone of my generation. We grew up in a much more structured
and rigid world.
But your life does not have to be chaotic even if you do
live in an era of rapid change. Not at all! The challenge here is similar to the
one of running a rapids in a canoe. To master the rapids, you must move faster
than the current. That means: You paddle like crazy, you learn as you go and you
willingly embrace change. While that sounds daunting, it becomes a whole lot easier
when you learn to substitute joy for fear as the real driver in your mental outlook.
Aim for joy in work, joy in learning and joy in others.
Good luck, Godspeed
 WSU mascot