Florida State University
Greed — greed will kill you. In this life I’ve learned, to be greedy, you’re destined to fail. In the business world, leave a little on the table; don’t be greedy. In your personal relationships, don’t be greedy. … In the business world, everybody treats the presidents and the vice presidents with respect and dignity. But how do you treat the secretary? The guy who parks your car? The little lady that pours water into the plants? How do you treat those people? That’s the true test of the character of a human being. In coaching, everybody treats the first team great, but you’re judged, in my mind, on how you treat the people that don’t play. How you treat those guys that don’t play is the secret. … What I’ve learned about building a team: You surround yourself with good people. You win with character, not characters — and there’s a helluva difference in that “s.”
CBS Sports chairman
Notre Dame of Maryland University
A saying that you often hear in commencement speeches is, Step out of your comfort zone. Well, I have some news for you: Whether you want to or not, you’re going to be forced out of your comfort zone a lot in the coming years. Whether it’s in your job, your relationships, your finances, your housing or your lifestyle — trust me, you don’t need to strive to get out of your comfort zone; that zone will desert you often and without warning.
I love being out of my comfort zone because it makes you adapt, be creative and even take risks. But if you’re not prepared for it, it can really sidetrack you. It sounds counter-intuitive, but prepare to and expect to be out of your comfort zone and be ready to use that to your advantage. Because my dad was Jim McKay, legendary sports announcer, I knew from the age of 10 that I wanted to make my living in the world of sports television, and through some good fortune and a lot of hard work I was elevated regularly to positions where I was constantly out of my comfort zone. I was made vice president of programming at NBC Sports when I was 27 and was scared out of my mind for the better part of a year, but I don’t think anyone really knew it. …
You live in the greatest country in the world, and yes we are facing enormous challenges and what sometimes seem like insurmountable problems. Please don’t lose sight of those challenges, but also take the time to enjoy your friends, your family, your freedom, the outdoors, whatever you find pleasure and peace in. And keep your perspective. Believe me, things are never as bad or as good as they seem. Have a good laugh, play a practical joke on someone, have two desserts tonight or play the radio really loud in your car — but not when you’re filling up at a gas station, because that’s actually pretty annoying.
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator
University of Mount Union
Talent alone is never enough. … Every year, countless hours and millions of dollars are spent on the [player] evaluation process trying to bring in the best prospects to aid your team. With the technology we have today, there’s a vast amount of information to deal with on every prospect. Yet every year, 50 percent of the first-round draft picks fail — so it becomes very obvious that the biggest, strongest, fastest players are not always the most productive players in the NFL. As you go through and observe this, you begin to realize that the intangibles of an individual are just as important, or even more important, than the talent. … A passionate person with a little bit of talent will almost always outperform a passive person with great talent.
Boston Red Sox president and CEO
I am pleased to share this day with you because it marks a milestone for both of us. For Fenway Park and the Red Sox, a 100th anniversary. For you, the culmination of 16 years of formal schooling. I use the word “milestone” deliberately. We are not at the end of the journey. Both Fenway Park and your education are works in progress.
For Fenway Park, there were days and years when the future of the park was in doubt. When we arrived 10 years ago, it was considered a relic. Its days were numbered. Few imagined it could reach its centennial. Of the six groups vying for ownership of the Red Sox, ours was the only one that wanted to save Fenway Park and not build another ballpark from scratch. With the help of the mayor and the community, we saved it, restored it, expanded it, improved it. As a result, Fenway Park celebrates its version of a commencement: the beginning of its next hundred years. Yes, I do think it has a chance to survive that long. …
To the Class of 2012, may Fenway Park and your Red Sox remain sources of enjoyment and inspiration as you continue to pursue your dreams, wherever they may take you. And yes, those good wishes not only include members of Red Sox Nation, but you folks from New York, New Jersey and other backwaters of the so-called Yankee Universe.
Green Bay Packers president and CEO
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Of course, that means the obvious. Don’t get furious when you get a speeding ticket, don’t be annoyed if your phone has no reception, and don’t get upset if you wait all day for the new “Glee” episode and it turns out to be a rerun. I admit: I’m a Gleek. But besides the obvious small stuff, I’ve learned that “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is really about keeping perspective, oftentimes in the face of things that feel very big.
In 2008, the Packers organization was faced with a very difficult decision when our star quarterback, Brett Favre, one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game, retired and then changed his mind and wanted to return to the Packers. We had made a commitment to his backup and eventually decided to trade Favre.
I have a letter that I received which will give you a sense of what it was like then. The letter came from a shareholder, James from Milwaukee. He writes, “Dear Mr. Murphy. You, sir, are a complete and total idiot. Only an idiot would trade Brett Favre, the greatest quarterback in the history of the Packers and an MVP finalist last year. I will never again cheer for the Packers because of you.”
It felt like a huge deal to me. There was nonstop national media attention and thousands of letters like that from fans. Though it was difficult, I tried to keep my perspective. I kept thinking to myself: We let players go all the time. Favre is 39. Five years from now, he’ll be gone one way or the other, so just get through this and don’t let the media make a bigger issue of it than it really is.
So, when you are faced with a difficult decision, try to break it down to the basics and picture yourself a few years in the future. And if you ever have to trade a legendary quarterback, it really helps to have Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings.
University of Portland
The important thing is, Let’s make sure that we are being significant. How do you know when you’re being significant? Ask yourself this question: If you didn’t show up, who would miss you, and why? If you didn’t go home, would anybody miss you, and why? … The people we miss are those that are significant and add value to other people’s lives. …
You want to be happy for an hour, eat a steak. You want to be happy for a day, play golf. You want to be happy for a week, go on a cruise — going on a cruise to me is like being in jail except you have the chance to drown. You want to be happy for a month, buy a new car. You want to be happy for a year, win the lottery. You want to be happy for a lifetime, make sure you add value to other people’s lives.
MLB hall of famer
Breaking into the big leagues in the days of segregation was extremely hard. There were many times when I wanted to give up. But I kept going, and I learned that if you want something bad enough, you have to make the necessary sacrifices to get it. … During the offseason, I worked hard at staying focused, staying healthy and keeping my body fit. I set goals at the beginning of each season, and each time I achieved one goal, it gave me the confidence to reach for a higher goal. I learned to be patient when I got into a slump; learned to wait for my pitch before I’d swing at the pitcher’s pitch. The temptation that exists today to take shortcuts to success was not around in my day, so I can’t say how valid my response is to the often-asked questions about steroids, but I’d like to think that I would have rejected any kind of drugs that did not meet the approval of the team doctor. …
There are absolutely no acceptable shortcuts to success in life. Cheating for whatever reason and in any field is wrong and is at best a temporary solution to a greater problem. At some point, quick fixes will come back to haunt you, and it might destroy your body and your dreams. Great or small, your accomplishments thus far will follow you for years to come, for what you do with your life and how you do it is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all those institutions that have helped to make you who you are. My mother used to say to me when I was a boy, “Don’t forget: You are my son. Don’t bring no shame to this family.” And by the look on her face when she said it, I knew she meant it.
Atlanta Falcons owner and chairman
Auburn University College of Business
During my tenure and ownership of the Atlanta Falcons, which is going on 12 seasons now, we went through more coaching changes than I would have liked under any circumstances. Some were in our control, and some were not in our control. So in 2008, when we set out to find another head coach along with a search for a general manager, we were determined to get it right this time to build the kind of sustainable winning organization that we needed to do and we have done. …
I let the football experts focus on the football side of things, the Xs and Os, and I focused on the person. Was he trustworthy? Did he have character? Was he a team player? Did he represent the best of us? Was he willing to learn to grow? Did he want to be the very best? The ultimate hirings of Thomas Dimitroff, our general manager, and coach [Mike] Smith were pivotal moments for our Atlanta Falcons. … They are both experts in their craft, and they are both great cultural fits for our club and for the franchise.