[Ed. - I've given this talk to just about every intern class that has ever walked through the doors of Karsh Hagan, but never bothered to write it down. I'm publishing it for anybody who might find it interesting. Crossposted to The Denver Egotist.]
Think about the person you want to be in three years. I'm not talking about your lifeplan here. Just the medium-term future. Three years from now. Do you have a clear picture of who that person is, what job they have, what they stand for? If not, your only job is to figure that out. Leave this room immediately and go do that.
But let's say you do. There are only three things that are standing between you and being that person.
I hate to tell you this, but the first one is luck. Many of you are too young to understand just how important a role luck plays in your life. Maybe you never will. For now, take my word for it. If you leave this room and get hit by a bus, you're fucked. That happens. And there's nothing you or I can do about it. But this is the gift I can give you. I can take it off the table. It's at least one-third of your success and you don't even have to think about it.
The second one is your innate talent. The spark you were born with. Now, you are kind of responsible for making sure the talent you have syncs up with the life you want. (I could say I want to be an NBA superstar in three years, but I'm 40 and I can't jump, so that's not going to work out for me.) But if you have an honest understanding of your talent and if it ladders up to your dreams, you can forget about that one, too.
Which means the third one is the only variable you actually have control over. And it is how hard you are willing to work. Work is how you turn talent into skill. Work is how you turn skill into a career. I would encourage you to work on all fronts - planning, networking, creating, learning, everything. Do it with passion. No facet of your life is going to take care of itself. Put in the time. If you want to be a great creative director, put in the time. If you want to be a great surfer, put in the time. If you want to be a great parent, put in the time.
So my advice to you is to quit listening to me ramble and get out there and work your ass off. It's all you got.