Trustee Rick Goings’ Commencement Speech

On Sunday, May 11, Trustee Rick Goings '12H recommended graduates watch four films that teach life lessons.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook) Good morning everyone, President Duncan, thank you.

And President Emerita Bornstein, thank you too.

I love this very special school. We are here in the Winnie Warden Arena. She is not here, but I can see her face at a trustee meeting. All around the campus, there are symbols of the love others have for the school as well, places where alumni have invested their time and their money. The Alfond Inn: paid for by alumni. So while they graduated from Rollins, they never really left.

I hope you will feel the same someday.

Clearly I appreciate President Duncan’s gracious introduction (courtesy of Tupperware Brands’ PR department). The interesting thing about introductions—and résumés for that matter—is that they only include the good stuff about our life, kind of like mall glamour shots or often what is posted on Facebook. Always they are about achievements and honors, and never do they include the failures, the flops, and the face-plants! When, in fact, these are vital in shaping us.

Sure, I have had my share of successes, and I am thankful for each of them. But I have also had a long list of failures and disappointments along the way. And I know there will be more!

• The company I left college to start in my 20s went bust after a decade.
• Then after a fabulous eight years at Avon in New York City, Europe, and Hong Kong, the CEO decided he didn’t want me to be his successor and encouraged me to leave.
• I have had personal failures as well.
• And the list could go on!

But so it goes, and I’m still here. And still trying to get it right.

You will too—every one of you—and you will, I suspect, make it through just fine, just as you have made it through Rollins.

This morning I am not going to go through the traditional commencement “what I have learned thus far in life” speech. I simply want to recommend three movies for you to watch. It’s okay if you have already seen one or all of them. I want you to watch them again, only this time with a different mindset. I want you to have in mind the road ahead in your own life.

The first movie is Limitless. Here’s the plot:

Bradley Cooper’s character is a down-and-out writer who can’t seem to finish his book.
His girlfriend dumps him; he’s broke. But just when things seem darkest, his ex-brother-in-law gives him an experimental performance enhancement pill. He takes it and whoosh! Everything changes for him.

• He finishes his book in four days.
• He turns a small amount of money into millions in a matter of weeks.
• He is able to learn a new language every few days.

So it goes. He becomes the master of his exciting new life.

I am recommending you watch Limitless for these reasons alone: Because inside each of you is a sleeping giant, as the poet Robert Browning wrote, “the imprisoned splendor may escape.” The tragedy is that most of us go to our grave with that splendor still inside us.

The pill that Cooper’s character took in Limitless does not exist, but there are personal development formulas out there that, if followed, work just like that pill. I have spent a good deal of my adult life studying the subject of personal achievement, and I have distilled it down to a seven-part formula that I use in my life. Also many of our 3 million associates in 100 countries use it.

Does it work? Well, it has for me, and it has for Tupperware Brands. Our company’s financial performance this past decade has been remarkable. Even better are the personal stories of success. Others have noticed too. Tupperware Brands has been selected by Fortune for seven years in a row as a Most Admired Company. And, just recently, and for the second time, as a best company for leaders.

Formulas matter in business and in your personal life as well.

Watch the movie, and think about your own limitless potential, your imprisoned splendor, then find a formula for yourself so you don’t end up freestyling through life. Freestyling is great on the ski slopes. In life? Not so much. Random approaches produce random results.

The next movie I am fairly certain most of you graduates have seen: Avatar.

If you saw the movie, you will recall that it takes place on the fictional planet Pandora, whose atmosphere can’t support human life. In order to mine Pandora’s valuable resources, it becomes necessary to genetically engineer one of Pandora’s inhabitant’s bodies with the mind of a human who is remotely located. The movie is about the transformation of the human into the avatar.

I recommend the movie because in the not-too-distant future, I believe avatars will be used in a wide range of applications, from treating mental illness to personal development.

Imagine if you had an avatar buddy there with you every day, in some ways like an ever-present personal trainer whose job is to bring out the best in you.

About a month ago, I led a four-day leadership development session for 25 of our high-potentials from 11 different countries.

As part of the prework, we asked each of the participants to go to a site that enabled them to create an avatar of their own, designed around their own personal development needs and objectives. During the opening on Sunday evening, each presented their avatar to the others.
That night with that bonding exercise in mind, each began their journey to a better version of themselves.

When we received their feedback at the end of the four-day session, the creation of a personal avatar rated as a nine on a scale of 10.

The final movie I recommend you all watch is called About Time.

The plot goes like this: When male members of the family turn 21, they have the ability to time travel. They can only travel to where they have been before and to do things they have actually done. So in essence, they can have a second chance on past actions. Imagine what a great tool that would be in our own lives. For me, I sometimes don’t have a filter between what I am thinking and what I say. Yikes! I can remember the first thing I said to my wife, Susan, when we first met. My first words? “Gosh, you are pretty!” What a geeky thing to say.

Anyway, throughout the movie, you see the young main character use his special gift, and that’s worth watching. But he soon learns from his father, who can also time travel, that the best use of the gift is to never have to use it.

Let me explain. His father teaches him that for a month or so to live every day twice, the first time with all the natural stresses, unpredictability, frustrations, and disappointments, and the second time with full appreciation for the many small joys, the special moments, and, most importantly, with special attention to the time and interactions with others. What becomes clear is what matters most is our relationships with others.

One of the fatalities of this digital age we find ourselves in is intimacy. I have been speaking often and to many about the intimacy scale. On the bottom are those methods of communication that lack intimacy.

The scale goes like this: Twitter-type communication, texting, email, personal letters, handwritten letters, telephone, and then actual face-to-face communication.

We are so starved for intimacy today.

In fact, in this month’s Men’s Journal magazine, there is an article that deals with loneliness and the lack of intimate relationships for men. They point out 148 studies at Brigham Young that show that loneliness is just as harmful as not exercising, alcoholism, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is twice as bad as being obese.

And a Chinese study on cancer showed that the No. 1 predictor of survival was social well-being.

Sherry Turkle, an MIT technology professor, writes about it in her book, Alone Together. Read it or click on her TED talk.

The real message in the movie About Time is to value relationships and intimacy. Not a digital mile wide and an inch deep, but real relationships.

George Harrison, the quiet Beatle, was known for his intimate relationships, which is so apparent in the Martin Scorsese documentary on George’s life—in particular, where the crew is interviewing Ringo, who speaks about George’s final days. Ringo goes to see him only days before he dies. He is too weak to even sit up. Then after a few hours, Ringo tells him he has to go as his daughter in Boston is sick and has a brain tumor. George’s simple words to Ringo are this: “Do you want me to go with you?”

Fitting that the last words of their last song are simply, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Let me recommend one more movie quickly, Mr. Holland’s Opus, the story of a music teacher who thought he would be a success only if he wrote a great opus. Like Mr. Holland, this incredible Rollins faculty and administration are not here for riches and fame. They have been here for you. What you do after you leave Rollins will be their works of art.