More than 2,500 Missouri State University students last Friday said hello to the real world and goodbye to academia. I was there specifically for two students graduating from the College of Business Administration – one in the honors college and another among the growing number of Chinese students diversifying Springfield in their pursuit of education.
Of the degrees conferred, a large number of students are qualified to enter the fields of accounting, management, marketing and finance – seemingly the most popular areas of study. Commencement speaker John C. Holstein offered these and all of the COBA students a few words of professional wisdom, gleaned in business during his years since graduating from Missouri State in 1967.
Admitting that as he sat in their shoes in McDonald Arena some 45 years ago, “exactly what we were commenced we did not know,” said Holstein, a former Missouri Supreme Court chief justice and current shareholder at Polsinelli Shughart PC in Springfield. So he boiled it down to eight points of advice, each a handy reminder to businesspeople no matter the career stage:
- “Don’t get discouraged by your first obstacles.” Like Winston Churchill said, “Never give in.”
- “Each day, make a list of tasks to accomplish and prioritize them.” Mona Lisa was not painted in one day, of course.
- “Listen more than you talk.” I shouldn’t say more.
- “Communicate clearly without qualifiers.” Namely, he suggests avoiding the use of excessive adjectives to get to the facts.
- “Do something unpractical and totally useless.” What? Are these the words of a 27-year judge and lifetime attorney? Yes. He recommends crossword puzzles, tap dancing and playing instruments, but the students can surely use their imaginations.
- “Be on time.” Holstein tells the story of an interview by a Missouri chief justice who scheduled two candidates – Holstein being one – at the same time. Holstein arrived first and the chief justice said, “Being on time is 70 points on my test.” Holstein got the job.
- “Read.” He suggests reading more older books than newer books, reading the Bible all the way through and “for your sanity, read the newspapers only once a week.”
- “Be grateful.” He reminds the students – and us – that nobody got where they are by themselves.