Graduation Speech – Distinguished Alumnus, Geoffrey Mark ’85

Graduates, professors, family and friends. Graduation speeches such as this are usually filled with advice to the newly matriculated. Advice coming from experiences and adventures enjoyed so far in the past that they have little bearing on what these young people here today might be facing.

So, today, I’m not going to do that.

Instead, I’ll offer three simple yet hard fought secrets that have worked for me again and again. And, I will hope that they will be useful regardless of the millennia in which they are used.

For those of you who don’t know me, since graduating Roycemore in 1985, I have enjoyed a tumultuous career spanning almost thirty years in an industry where newcomer burnout is measured in months. The entertainment industry is difficult at every level, with twelve hour days the standard, weekends sometimes a luxury and steady work almost unknown.

At first, I followed my dreams. Today, they might call it following my passion. Since my dreams rarely lined up with anyone else’s, those early years were fraught with short gigs, long hours and borderline emotional abuse.

Early on, one of my more caring supervisors told me his secret. He wasn’t much older than me, and he was already running the post production team on a major TV cartoon. He said, keep showing up. That one secret, he said, will put you ahead of anyone who’s heart isn’t into the job, and will show the bosses that they can count on you.

Another secret, no one had to teach me this one. Though it always came easy to me, it might not to you. Every industry has its labyrinth of hidden knowledge and practices that vary well beyond facts learned in school. How things are done and why. Who controls what, and where you need to be to take your next step, whatever that is. None of that is in any book, it’s all in the heads of people who have been there for years.

So … ask questions. Be polite, be helpful, make it a conversation, not an interview. Sometimes, you can learn more over lunch with the right person than in a whole semester of graduate school. Maybe, people might consider you foolish, but if you’ve already proven yourself valuable and intelligent, the chances of this are slim. And the rewards more than outweigh the risks.

Finally, the most difficult secret of them all. This one will sound as if it goes against every instinct you have, and might seem on the face of it as if I am offering you sabotage rather than a hard won secret for the ages … Make mistakes. Not on purpose, not as retaliation, honest mistakes are okay to make … as long as you learn from them.

With the right attitude, you learn more from the smallest mistake than from the largest success.

I close with this, from my time here, I know that Roycemore has taught each of you many things. The most important of which is the ability to learn and keep learning. Each of my secrets really leads to that. Keep on learning.

It’s time for each of you to go out into the world, show up where you’re needed, ask the right questions, make a few mistakes and learn from them.

And achieve those great things that everyone here knows you are absolutely capable of.

Thank you.

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