In her commencement speech to the Johnson & Wales University Providence Class of 2019, Cindi Bigelow, president and CEO of Bigelow Tea, said that she jokingly tried to “boil down” (tea pun intended) what she had learned in her life and career, in an attempt to answer the audience’s questions . . .
What is my next step?
How can I be successful?
How can I live a balanced life?
Soon the graduates would leave the ceremony, diplomas in hand, beginning a new and unknown chapter. Bigelow first instructed them to step into this mysterious “gray space” with curiosity. “This is where you learn more about yourself, your likes and dislikes,” she said. It’s not always pretty, and you might look back and “shutter,” but “it’s all part of the journey to become the person you want to be.”
Bigelow shared that it took her some time, but now she knows what’s most important to her professionally: to lead well, strive for excellence, and give back.
She also cautioned the audience to expect tough choices, crossroads where your internal compass wildly spins and you don’t know which path to choose. She offered these three signposts: First, define your mission. Second, understand that, while it appears that you only have two choices, you always have more. And finally, be prepared to communicate your decision.
But you can only give voice to what you deeply know to be true.
Bigelow baulked at the idea that “you can have it all.” She vouched instead for values, saying that “defining what’s important to you” and striving for balance in those areas will lead to success.
“In the end, I controlled my destiny,” she told a crowd who soon walked out of the auditorium as alumni and into a perfect May day. Yes, even the “gray space” can look bright, and hopefully they heard her words echo as they stepped into the light: “Embrace it.”
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