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Moravian College
Commencement

Commencement Speaker

Commencement speech by Moravian’s David Zinczenko: Grads, do this, not that to succeed

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By DAVID ZINCZENKO

It’s an honor to be invited to speak here at my alma mater, Moravian College.

One of the reasons I’m so excited is because there was a time when I wasn’t sure I would be able to call myself a college graduate. Growing up, I double-majored in mischief and mayhem. A nun in second grade told my wonderful, long-suffering mother that I would end up in jail one day. I avoided the slammer, yes, but there’s something I didn’t avoid: Getting slammed in my first semester, squeaking by with a 2.0 GPA.

After getting whupped in boot camp before heading into the U.S. Navy Reserves, I quickly learned that my weasel ways would lead me nowhere. So I started diving into the college newspaper, wrestling and being part of the Reserves. Those out-of-class experiences helped me grow — and do better in my in-class experiences.

You have transformed in your own ways — from wide-eyed freshmen to the class of 2019. Whether you majored in biochemistry or art education, computer science or accounting — you will encounter challenges, bumps and plenty of career craziness.

As you graduate, I want to share the guiding values that have helped me to succeed. In the spirit of my book series “Eat This, Not That!,” which I created nearly 15 years ago, let’s call this one Do This, Not That.

One: Do something, not everything. The pressure to know it all and do it all can feel like a tornado of unfair expectations. Instead, think about it like this: Maximize your strengths and neutralize your weaknesses. Focus on what you do well and build from there. Every small something matters.

Two: Work together, not apart. Nobody builds a house alone — or from the roof down. You start with the foundation. For you, that’s your family — and your Moravian community. As you build your teams, keep in mind my main mantra: If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

Three: Be flexible, not unbendable. Virtually every industry has experienced tremendous disruption. I spent my life in print products but quickly saw that the future was digital. Learn to pivot. Again and again and again.

Four: Think win-win-win, not sleep in. I’ve always subscribed to the “get in first, leave last” philosophy. It’s a fundamental truth that success correlates with grinding.

Five: Call. Your. Parents. 

Six: Talk, don’t hide. Warren Buffett argues that having a command of public speaking instantly increases a person’s value by 50 percent. He also said public speaking is the one skill that makes you better at literally everything you do.

Seven: Become the shepherd, Not the sheep. You have a message. Share it. I’m proud to say that “Eat This, Not That!” was one of the original influencers. We held restaurants and food manufacturers accountable for the ingredients they used and for being transparent in the way they communicated to the public. Thanks to this belief, you can now buy healthier food at even McDonald’s. Your power to think, to influence, to challenge can — and will — lead to changes that will make the world a better place.

Finally, here’s a secret I’ve learned in 25 years in the health industry: Anxiety and excitement are shockingly similar — at least according to your body.

When you’re anxious, your heart rate spikes, your mind races, your palms sweat, and you start speaking faster. When you’re excited, the same things happen.

One of my challenges is to be mindful about how you might be able to turn the negative into a positive. Channel your anxiety into excitement and motivation, or into action, or into a connection with others to take control of your life.

To do so, remember this: You control everything when you take ownership of you. That means exercising, eating well, maintaining strong relationships; walking more and sitting less; and playing enough — because you’ll be working a lot.

Life is going to happen — and you don’t have to have all of the answers now. Sure, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook when he was younger than you, but Stan Lee didn’t create the Marvel universe until he was 40. So be easy on yourself as you step boldly into the future.

I know how much blood, sweat and pre-exam tears it took to get to this finish line.

For that, you should be proud, excited, and confident — and trust the training you have received at Moravian College. You are now at life’s next starting line, ready to run the race of your lives.

David Zinczenko, the founder of Galvanized Media and a 1991 Moravian College graduate, delivered the commencement address at Moravian on May 11. This piece is adapted from that address.