Mark Mobius

Reprinted with permission from:

Class of 2013: Get a Passport and Start Using It
May 21, 2013
By Mark Mobius

JOGGING MY MEMORY back to my university days – I earned my bachelors and master’s degree from Boston University, and a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology - I have to admit I don’t recall attending my graduation ceremonies, or perhaps they simply didn’t stand out in a vivid way. My high school commencement address stood out, though not so much because it was clever or funny, but because it crystallized for me the notion that hard work and discipline were the keys to success, and to a life beyond the confines of my hometown.

I was among the hopeful young graduates in cap and gown at Wellington C. Mepham High School on Long Island in New York. I remember the stern disciplinarian Mr. Calhoun, our principal, giving the speech. In retrospect, it may actually have been someone else who gave the speech, but it’s the searing eyes of Mr. Calhoun that remain embedded in my memory even to this day. He said we had to work hard and study in order to become successful in life. There was certainly nothing revolutionary there, but at the same time, the message that there were no shortcuts to success resonated with me. This was an idea the late Sir John Templeton, someone I deeply admire, also espoused.

At my high school graduation, I was bestowed the honor of “best citizen” in the class — not the smartest, not the best sportsman, not the most sociable, but the “best citizen.” I don’t know why I received that distinction, but I suspect it was because I was friendly to everyone and also somewhat naïve, and thus likeable. Today my job takes me to nearly every corner of the globe (I travel some 250+ days a year), meeting people from all walks of life and different cultures, so certainly being friendly and likable has proven to be an asset. Since then, you could say I’ve become a “citizen of the world.”

If I were asked to give a speech to the graduating high school students at my alma mater today, I would probably say something like this: “Other than the periodic trip to New York City, I suspect many of you have probably never left Nassau County, New York State, or the United States. My best advice to you is to immediately apply for a passport and/or obtain visas to travel to China, Japan, India, Russia, Brazil and any other countries you can afford to visit while you are young and carefree. Take a year to explore the world if you can. Keep an open mind. Listen and learn, and even do some odd jobs in different countries. You will gain a vastly different view of the world and learn to appreciate what is happening outside your own zip code. When you step outside your comfort zone into new time zones, you’ll be better prepared to make the bigger decisions about what to do with the rest of your life. Trust me – you’ll have no regrets.”

I believe travel not only widens your view of the world, but gives you the motivation and perspective to help guide your future, more so than some standardized aptitude test. I wish I had taken that step when I graduated from high school. Even though my parents were immigrants, I never thought to visit other countries. It was many years later after I had graduated from college that I began to see the world. It was an epiphany to me, the beginning of an entirely new life. If I had taken that trip after high school I probably would have made earlier and better preparations for what I ultimately decided—and was destined—to do. The opportunities today for high school graduates are virtually unlimited. The internet brings the world to your doorstep; not only to learn instantaneously about other places and make fast and cheap travel arrangements, but to make connections with people on every continent and in every time zone. But turning those electronic connections into real human connections is truly life-changing.

If I could offer one final piece of advice, which I wish I could’ve given my younger self, it would be to take stock of your life. This is something you should do throughout your career, at any stage or age. Make a list of ten things that made you the happiest in the past. Then with that list in hand, think about what you would like to do, and pick a vocation that includes the key elements of that list. Second, pick a path that you know will make you happy and that you will enjoy doing. Examine where you are today, and plan where you want to go tomorrow. Third, embark on that path independently, regardless of what your family, friends or anyone else says or thinks. In the end, it’s your own career, your own success or failure—and your own life to live.

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