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Follow your moral compass - In the News

Mohawk president delivers annual convocation virtually during the pandemic

The Hamilton Spectator recently published a condensed version of the convocation speech, delivered virtually, to the graduating classes at Mohawk College by president Ron McKerlie.

The published version is below. The full address can be viewed as part of the Welcome and Convocation Address video.

During this year of exceptional challenges, you had to be flexible, focused and determined in order to finish your college studies, but you persevered.

Now, as you look to the future, be confident that your Mohawk education has provided you with important tools for the future — theory, practice, a network and a credential.

But there is one more very important thing you need for the journey ahead. And Mohawk College can’t give it to you. Only you can create it — your moral compass.

A moral compass, like a directional compass, should point you in the direction of what’s right and good and help you steer away from what’s wrong and corrupt.

Following your moral compass will ensure you live a life of integrity.

Take some time to make sure you know yourself. Then decide what you will stand for and who you want to be.

Once you set your moral compass, then set some life goals.

I’d strongly recommend that your life goals aren’t about money, or the type of car you drive, or the size of your home.

Those things are nice to have, but it’s much more important that you consider what kind of value you will contribute to your employer, or to the community you live in or to the people’s lives you touch.

A young woman recently said, “So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.”

When 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman stood on the steps of the United States Capitol for the president’s inauguration, she was speaking to her fellow Americans.

But the world was watching. And the world was listening. And her words made an impact on the world.

Her hope for her country is one to which we should all aspire.

We all have a responsibility to make our society, our communities and our workplaces better than they were when we arrived.

So, 10, 15 or 20 years from now, what impact do you want to have made?

How do you want to be known by your friends, your colleagues, maybe even your employees?

Do the work now because character matters. Your moral compass defines your character and helps to guide your decisions when you reach a crossroads.

To stay the course, consider these three strategies:

First of all, be true to yourself. Set your own goals and trust your own compass rather than following someone else’s.

A former professor of mine, Bill George, said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

Bill George wrote that in a book called “True North.” Talking with 125 international influential people about leadership and life, he confirmed that ultimately, success is determined by who we are as people, not by the job title we hold.

So, always be aware of how you conduct yourself, in business and in life. In a world of perpetual social media, what you do and say will never be forgotten. The impressions you make will stay with people for a very long time.

Secondly, find a mentor and learn from them

We all want to feel like we are unique, blazing our own path, but the truth is that others have travelled a similar road before us. Take advantage of the wisdom others have to share.

Identify the people around you who are reliable and show good character and learn from them. It might be a colleague, or a supervisor, or a supplier or an employer. You may be impressed by their skills or their behaviour, or by the way they treat other people.

Ask them for advice. Ask them questions that will help you navigate the road ahead. The odds are that someone likely helped them get where they are, and they will gladly pass their experience along.

Thirdly, remember that the path to your goals isn’t likely a straight line.

As you begin your career, don’t be surprised if your first job isn’t exactly what you were hoping for — that it isn’t the way you dreamed you would start your career.

Don’t turn down an opportunity just because it might not be exactly what you want. Often, that first job can help you develop useful skills. If you can learn and grow through that job and it won’t push you off course from your goal, then consider it.

I encourage you to roll with the twists and turns that are part of every career — that is part of life’s great adventure. Never stop learning and growing.

Graduates, you have the ability to achieve so much.

You have the potential to go so far. Be positive, be patient and be persistent.

Set your moral compass carefully and live your life with integrity. Keep true to your course.

And enjoy the journey. We can’t wait to see where you end up.