Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Here’s some unsolicited advice for this year’s graduates (column) |

Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Here’s some unsolicited advice for this year’s graduates (column)

Congratulations, graduates. You’ve worked hard and are ready for the next stage in life. Embrace the challenges ahead, and savor the hard work that got you to this point.

People often say, “Everything happens for a reason.” I find myself cringing and silently thinking, “Come on, that’s a lazy excuse. You can do better than explain away challenges than ‘everything happens for a reason.’”

I realize people often say this to make sense of tragedy and deal with their pain or to help manage uncertainty. If that aids in dealing with life’s various challenges, then I would encourage them to continue to lean into it.

However, I just fundamentally do not buy into the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy. Rather, I believe we have the ability to learn from any experience we go through in life and that is a choice within our personal power.

It is this bit of perspective that provides the foundation for my annual “unsolicited advice for graduates”:

1. Overcoming challenges always involves support from others.

2. Surround yourself with incredible leaders.

3. Be pragmatic. You’ll immediately be a shining star in today’s increasingly polarized world.

4. We all have a responsibility to lead. Leadership doesn’t recognize job titles.

5. Life is about choices. Take responsibility for your choices.

6. You don’t always need a plan. Instead stay open to opportunities that aligned with your values.

7. Mindfulness is all about achieving —and maintaining — clarity, which is difficult when our culture conspires to distract us.

8. Perseverance is the key to success. Most people quit when things get difficult.

9. Your dreams and fears are neighbors. Embrace them.

10. The harder you work the luckier you get. The luckiest people I know work the hardest.

11. We’re all humans on a small, floating rock through an infinite galaxy.

12. Xenophobia equals ignorance.

13. Keep going. Don’t stop. Every generation has been beaten down by those who are older and think they know better. Sadly, adults today have the megaphone of the internet, but they are attacking because they are scared.

14. Together, everyone achieves more.

15. Break your goals into small increments.

16. Create value in all you do.

17. Learn the rules, then play the game better.

18. You can be anything. Choose to be kind.

19. Mindset is life’s greatest challenge.

20. Be a problem solver.

21. If you’re not getting attacked, then you’re not trying hard enough (Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder).

22. Strive to be indispensable to those around you.

23. Don’t be afraid of change.

24. Success is not linear. Don’t be afraid to move sideways in order to move forward.

25. Never stop learning.

26. Volunteer. There is no greater gift you can give than your time

27. If money or power or ego is what drives you, then you will eventually disappoint those around you. But if you are driven by what is meaningful to you, then you’ll have no limits.

28. Next time you’re afraid to share ideas, remember that someone once said in a meeting, “Let’s make a movie about tornadoes full of sharks.”

As the great Dr. Seuss said, “Kid, you’ll move mountains”


“Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,

You’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So — get on your way!”

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at

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