Class of 2016: The Tips You May Not Hear at Commencement

It's that time of year again. Thousands of graduates will walk the stage at commencement, most wondering what they'll do with their lives. Meanwhile, most of their parents will dream of what they can do with the extra room in the house.

I kid, of course. Many parents dread the "empty nest" syndrome at first. Along the way, many people will tell you to enjoy this time of your life (which you should), and not worry about the future just yet.

But that's not necessarily the best course of action in my opinion. The best advice I can give is simple. Have passion, and plenty of patience, especially if your dream is to be a successful entrepreneur. The truth is, the path to becoming a successful entrepreneur won't be easy. If disciplined and stay with it though, you can literally change the world.

It takes a great deal of patience and hard work. Don't expect anything to be handed to you along the way - that's the first lesson you should learn quickly. If you're willing to buckle down and if you want something bad enough, you can definitely make it happen.

"Opportunity is about seizing what's there," former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, once told the Class of 2014 at the University of Washington. "It's about having a point of's also about patience and determination. Things will not necessarily come to you - poof! - immediately and overnight. You are going to have to be determined and long-term."


Every successful entrepreneur has had his or her fair share of ups and downs, including myself. Many experience crippling failure before finding fortune in what they're truly passionate about. In fact, as I've often noted, eight entrepreneurs out of every 10 fail right out the gate. But as I say to my own children, it's the strong that get up and try again.

Entrepreneurs face tough odds. Most times, the odds are stacked against us. We're told we'll never succeed because of market over-saturation, or that our ideas aren't strong enough, or no one is interested. It can be mind-numbingly frustrating.

But the strong always figure out a way to survive - entrepreneurs don't give in to the pressure of potential failure. They just push forward. Successful people always find a way to get the job done, despite what others may say.

For example, as reported recently, "Herb Kelleher cofounded Southwest Airlines on the crazy notion of using small regional airports and charging rock-bottom fares. Nobody thought he could pull it off. Today its market cap is bigger than United Continental and nearly as big as American and Delta.

"Coffee shops had always been the bottom of the restaurant food chain, so Howard Schultz's bosses at coffee roaster Starbucks balked at his idea for a chain of cafes serving espresso, as was the custom in Italy. So, he took a flying leap, bought the brand and the rest is history."

From my early days as a disc jockey, spinning records for parties, earning extra cash, to my days as a strategic capital and management advisor and investor in a variety of companies, I never expected to be handed anything along the way - and I wasn't.

I knew very well there are no shortcuts to anything in life that's worth having. Success comes from a desire to know where you've been, where you want to go, and your drive needed to get there. Many years of hard work and determination got me to the point where I am today.

We all have something that makes us tick, makes us get out of bed in the morning to prove ourselves. As Elizabeth Holmes, who at 31 and the youngest self-made female billionaire told Pepperdine University in 2015, as quoted by Forbes: "When I first started our company, almost everyone I met told me there was no way I would succeed, and that I should go back to school. And as we began to succeed, the number of people who started attacking and tearing us down grew even greater. When it's hardest is when it matters most. Stay the course. In my own life, I've always believed those moments are inflection points: moments to own and find out who we really are."

Or, as Michael Bloomberg recently told the graduating class at the University of Michigan, "Those who promise you a free lunch will invariably eat you for breakfast..."

Here are some other key pieces of advice I often give to graduates, entrepreneurs, and those looking for new opportunity.

Always be willing to Learn

Continue your education in college, business school, graduate school, or take extra classes to help you excel in the industry of your choosing. The more you know, the better and more marketable you become over time. Once you stop learning, you stop growing. Above all else, education helps you seize opportunities you may have never known to exist.

Know how to deal with failure

For many entrepreneurs, failure comes with the territory. Learn from it.

Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox was quoted as saying, "Don't worry about failure; you only have to be right once."

And Bill Gates once said, "It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure."

Persistence Pays Off

As long as you have a passion for what you want to do, persistence always pays off. You will eventually get to where you want to go. Staying persistent is difficult for some because they are always seeking instant gratification.

Give Yourself a Break

Always remember to give yourself a break. Not everything has to be hard. Live life. Enjoy it.

As professionals in any field, a lot of us spend a considerable amount of time planning, travelling, and working only to realize weeks have gone by without any time for ourselves. For me, working in commercial real estate is an exciting venture. The deals, the global aspect of the business, the amount of money that I see flow through on a daily basis is invigorating. I wouldn't give it up for the world.

But even I know when it's time to just get away. As Entrepreneur Magazine recently pointed out, your brain can become clouded. "When you're buried in the emotional roller coaster that comes with entrepreneurship over long periods of time, it's only natural that a toll is going to be taken on your nerves. The likely result of this typical early stage lifecycle is that your stress levels will progressively elevate, creating tension in your environment that is so thick it could be cut with a knife."

Finally, remember that you are at the beginning of an exciting stage of your life, which is why it's referred to as "commencement." You have much to do and much to accomplish. So, to the graduating Class of 2016, I wish you all the very best. Congratulations on a job very well done. Best wishes on whatever you may choose to do. Go out and seize opportunities and remember that success is rarely instantaneous. Having passion and being patient will be the key to future successes.