Success After Graduation – Ben Bolt

Posted: April 19, 2017 in Grandaddy's Speeches

Success After Graduation

Ben Bolt

Talk at the University of Southern Mississippi, 1993

Hello, my name is Ben Bolt, and I want to thank you and Professor __________ for allowing me a few minutes to speak with you today about success after graduation.

I feel like Elizabeth Taylor’s last husband – I know what I’m supposed to do, but I’m not sure if I can make it interesting.

After graduation, most of you will be trying to find a job. This may not be an easy task in today’s sluggish job market. Then, after you get a job, you will be interested in succeeding on the job.

What is success?

To most of you, success is measured in dollars, in material things. Money, someone said, is just a way of keeping score. Success may be happiness. It can be many things. There is no measure of success. Therefore, success can be defined and measured by each of you individually. For example, success for an artist is almost surely to be measured differently than for a person in business.

Life is funny. Some of you are big and muscular. Some of you are better looking than others. Some of you have low self-esteem. Some of you have more connections than others. Some of you have higher IQs than others. These things, along with many others, will determine what kind of education you get, where you will live, the type of person you will marry, how many children you have.

But as long as you are in a normal IQ range, success, in the business world, is not determined by IQ! How many of you believe that? It is true! There is absolutely no correlation between IQ and success. But there is an absolute direct correlation between your attitude and success.

I have never met a winner who expected to lose. If you sit around the table at your home at night talking about how to collect more welfare, you are going to end up collecting welfare if you’re not careful. On the other hand, if you think and talk about how to achieve success, you are more likely to be successful.

Someone once said that success is a relative thing, that the more success you have, the more relatives you will have.

Quote from James Allen:

“Good thoughts bear good fruit,

Bad thoughts bear bad fruit and,

Each man is his own gardener.”

Let me point out that success has no stereotype. There is no single formula for success. However, success for anyone will exact a price, and it is important that you be comfortable with the price that you pay. For example, a successful salesman might have to travel and spend many nights away from home. This might be the price he has to pay. Maybe he and his wife agree and find this acceptable. On the other hand, if the travel and the nights away bring on a divorce or behavior problems with the children, then maybe the price is too high.

Just be comfortable with the price you pay. But also keep in mind that failure also exacts a price and usually a much higher price than success.

Also, let me make this point. Success does not come from any one action or attitude. Some people will succeed primarily because of some God-given talent, such as voice, looks, or verbal skills. But more often than not, success will come disguised in work clothes with sweat on his or her brow.

My friend Mal Berko, who writes for the Houghton Syndicate, says that everyone is given a “lot in life” and that “some of us will build on it, and others will park on it.” You will have to decide how far you want to go, and I’m convinced that you can achieve just about anything in this world you want to.

Look at it this way: The more well-rounded you are, the more you know, etc., the better off you will probably be. But you really do not have to be all things to men. Usually, you only have to be really smart about a very limited field.

Let me give you an example: You see an old farmer going down the road, and you can laugh, make fun, and call him dumb all you want to. But I’ll guarantee you that he knows many things that you don’t know – when to plant, when to harvest, how much to pay for a piece of machinery, etc. On the other hand, you may have heard a farmer talk about some dumb city-slicker who thought that all bulls are black.

First of all, we should all start by having more respect for other people’s discipline. Accountants have a place. Economists perform a function. Teachers are important. None of us should be abashed about what we do to make a living as long as it is honest work.

Okay, so I’m off the subject. All you really have to do usually is to be very good at what you do. Concentrate on that, and try to be the very best at what you do, and don’t spend your whole life looking over the fence at someone else’s grass – just smoke what you have.

Moses came down from Mount Sinai and stood before the people with the stone tablets in his hands and said to the people, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is, I got God to come down to 10. The bad news is that adultery is still one of them.”

My point here is this: Whether you are in business for yourself or working for another person, you will be smart to live by the Ten Commandments. You can personally believe anything you want to, and that’s okay with me. But when you get your first job and go to training school, I can almost guarantee you that you are going to see someone who gets fired during the training program or is let go shortly after returning home. And do you know why? More likely than not, it will be for trying to prove that they are more popular with the men or women than anyone else there. If they don’t do that, they will get drunk and show the boss what an ass they really are, or their use of gutter language will be less than popular. Remember, the world is watching – so is the boss. As someone once said, the night has a thousand eyes.

I have been blessed by being able to travel all over the world, and let me give you a couple examples from my travels.

  1. One morning, I was eating breakfast in a hotel in China, and a man came over to my table and said, “Hello, aren’t you from Georgia?” – where I lived at the time. Yes! Here was a businessman who knew me halfway around the world.
  2. One night, on a flight to Hong Kong, a couple was sitting next to me. As I read, I couldn’t help overhearing some of their conversation about some things which sounded somewhat familiar. So, I laid down my book and asked them where they were from. “Marietta, Georgia,” was the reply. Oh, really? Where in Marietta do you live? “We live in Indian Hills Country Club.” That’s great, so do I. – Well, you get the drift. They were neighbors. I had never met them prior to that, but our children all know each other.

Well, as someone once said, “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear a word you are saying.” I’m not here to preach to you about morality, but I do want you to understand this. If you do not want what you are doing to be known in your home, in your community, in your company, then don’t do it.

I really do not know the difference between “fat chance” and “slim chance,” but I think it’s a fat chance you will get caught and a slim chance that you will get away with it.

In any event, it is my belief that success comes less frequently to those who lie, cheat, and steal.


It is important to be confident – when you are looking for a job and when you are on the job. But be very careful here because there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

You must have positive and lofty goals, but your goals should be realistic.

Every once in a while, a young person just out of college will announce that they expect to be chief executive officer by the time they are 30. They think they are expressing assertiveness and self-confidence, but what they are really doing is drawing attention to their youth and naiveté.

Now, don’t take me wrong or let me rain on your parade, because you must believe in yourself. There is nothing wrong with having a dream. I think it was Einstein who said, “Your daydreams are a preview of coming attractions.” You must visualize and see yourself succeeding.

Also, there are times when you have to keep performing even in the face of what appears to be impossible odds. I remember a boy back in middle school who was about half my size, but I wouldn’t fight him. There was a good reason: I knew him from sports and other activities. He was the kind who just wouldn’t quit or give up, and I figured that if we ever got into a fight, it would be necessary to kill him. Go about your job with quiet confidence. Don’t quit or give up too easily.

Let me tell you a true story. This is a story which appeared in Sports Illustrated several years ago.

To set the scene, the University of California, Santa Cruz was playing West Coast Christian College in basketball. The well-disciplined Christians usually committed very few fouls, so their coach Jerry Turner wasn’t overly concerned when injuries left him with only eight players to play California, Santa Cruz.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, that night West Coast Christian just kept getting whistled and whistled and whistled. Even the California, Santa Cruz coach, Joe Richardson, admitted there were some strange calls.

Whatever the reason, one player fouled out, then another, then a third. They kept on fouling out, if you can believe this, until only one man – 6’ guard Michael Lockhart – was left.

Let me read you part of Lockhart’s interview after the game.

“We had started in a tandem zone, then we went to a straight 2-3 zone. After we were down four guys, we used a 2-2 box, then a 1-3 dime, then a 1-1 zone – finally a 1.”

There was two minutes and ten seconds when Lockhart found himself alone on the floor. West Coast Christian was ahead 70-57 (13-point lead).

“I was scared to death,” he said. “I have confidence in my ball-handling, but I had four fouls myself, and there was nobody to pass to.”

Do you want to know what his coach told him? I quote, “The coach told me to calm down, take my time.”

Further complicating Lockhart’s situation was that, when he put the ball in play after a Cal-Santa Cruz score, it had to touch another player before he could retrieve it. Once, he managed to bounce the ball off an opponent’s leg and then grab it back. He got a rebound after Cal-Santa Cruz missed a shot. When he got possession, he did a good job of dribbling to eat up the clock, and the other players were forced to foul him to get the ball. Lockhart made five of six free-throws.

In their brief five-to-one match-up, Cal-Santa Cruz out-scored Mike Lockhart 10 to 5, but that wasn’t enough to turn the game around. West Coast Christian won 75 to 67.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, there was a man who was confident, had the courage to stay on the floor, and the guts not to quit. There will be plenty of times when you will want to scream, yell, laugh, and quit at the same time.

Ladies and gentlemen, over the years, I have learned to use the word “impossible” with the greatest caution.

Things will happen to you from time to time which you will perceive as unfair – and, quite frankly, will be unfair. Life is just that way.

But don’t lose your sense of humor. Never lose sight of the bottom line – the bottom line is your career. You may well out-last the boss who is giving you a hard time. So, walking in and cussing him out is not the answer. You are not going to like everyone you work with.

Let me tell you a story.

It was said that Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw were not friends. As a matter of fact, you could simply say they didn’t like each other.

There is a story about the time that Shaw sent Churchill two tickets to the opening night of one of his plays, which was opening in London. The two tickets arrived with a note which said, “Here are two tickets to the opening night of my new play. One is for you, and one is for a friend – if you have one.”

Winston wrote back and said, “I’m sorry I will not be able to attend the opening night, but I can come to the second night – if there is one.”

Try to handle differences which you might have with humor.


You are going to develop certain habits in your work and throughout life. Just make sure they are good habits. When you find that you are developing a bad habit, or one that is less than good, that you change as quickly as possible.

You see, habits start like cob webs. They are easy to break. You can hardly see them. But, as time goes on, the cob webs become strings, then ropes that bind you, and they are almost impossible to break or change.

It could be the use of foul language, poor grammar, arriving late, not completing jobs you have started, or a million other things.

Let me tell you another story.


This is a story about a farmer who heard about a touchstone which could be found in a certain area near the ocean. The legend was that if you could find this touchstone, that you would be granted one wish. The farmer decided that his life could best be spent looking for this touchstone in order to get this one wish.

So, day after day, week after week, year after year, he would go to the beach and pick up stones. They all felt cold to the touch, and he would throw them into the sea. This went on for years – picking up stones, feeling them, and throwing them into the sea.

After many years, one day he picked up a stone, and it was different – it felt warm to the touch. He held it in his hand, but out of force of habit, he hurled it into the sea.


What part does luck play in all of this? Maybe you have heard that if you are lucky, things will turn out okay, and if you are unlucky, then things will turn out badly. Now, I’m not saying that luck doesn’t have anything to do with success. But every time I have tried to examine luck, I have found that lucky people, for the most part, had a hand in creating their own luck.

Billionaire J. Paul Getty was asked the secret of his success. His reply was, “Some people find oil, others don’t.”

This sums it up rather nicely, but I don’t think he was referring to just luck in the statement. I think he was saying some people find oil because they are better prepared, better financed, harder workers, and yes, maybe he was saying there was an element of luck. But I’ll take being prepared over being lucky any day. Luck, someone said, is preparation meeting opportunity, and I believe this is the case.

You see, opportunity is always there. I see opportunity like a big smile hanging out there in the universe. It is rather constant. It is always there, just waiting for you to be prepared to come and capture it, just waiting for you to prepare to work with it.

Thank you for your attention.

Dudley Moore – “Author”

Joey you gave me a diamond

Being in business for yourself, in my opinion, is often better than working for someone else. But you may find that it is like trying to run a small hotdog stand next to an active volcano.

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