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Goldenview Middle School — Talk to National Junior Honor Society

Written on Apr 27 2012

Wow, what a fun night!

Tyler Arnold speaking at Goldenview Middle School

I was invited to speak at the Goldenview Middle School National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony, which was a really fun group. My former alma mater, Goldenview has a warm place in my heart.

Andy Holleman, a close family friend and my former technology teacher, had a chance to introduce me to the group. Andy really helped me grow my love for technology by always being there to answer my questions. With Andy being there to match my enthusiasm, tech was easy to be passionate about.

Thanks again Andy, and thanks Goldenview! There’s a big part of that school in me, and it was fun to come back.

Read the speech below:

Time: ~ 10 minutes. April 26th, 2012.
Tyler Arnold

About a year and a half ago, on one of those sunny Anchorage winter days, the roads were icy. I was headed to meet a friend at a nearby cafe, and was first in line at a stoplight, getting ready to turn left onto Old Seward (I was facing O’Malley). As the light turned green, I paused for a moment. Typically, being a young driver, I would have just floored it. Alas, I looked right, then look left, and slammed on the breaks as I inched forward… A truck ran a red light right in front of me. Without flashing lights or even a horn, it passed a few feet in front of my driver’s side door at 50mph.

How many of you believe in luck, raise your hand!

When I started by first IT business shortly after my 16th birthday, things started to go pretty well. About eight months in however, I knew I was in over my head. After all, I was still a 16 year old trying to navigate the business world. I didn’t know about accounting, I didn’t know what a client was, and I certainly didn’t know how to manage a business.

So at one point, late at night, I sent a friend of mine an instant message, talking about mentorship. “Do you know of any mentors of business folks that could help me out?” I asked. “Uhhh, Google this guy named Allan Johnston. He’s pretty well known in the community and has an impressive background” he advised. So sure enough, I Googled him, and was fascinated with everything I read.

I worked up the courage to send him an email asking for help. “I’m young… I need help,” I said. I was looking for a business mentor, someone who could help navigate the business world.

Shortly after sending my S.O.S., I went to bed (early of course, it was a school night).

Next morning, I woke up, rushed to school, and waited to check my Blackberry until lunch.

Let that be an example for all of you.

Okay, kidding, they paid me to say that.

Sure enough however, he responded. He suggested I come by his office that afternoon.

Shortly after school got out, I had to borrow a pair of my Dad’s clothes to look like a business professional. Luckily I had gotten my drivers license a few days before, or else my Mom would have been dropping me off to my first business meeting.

As I got out of the car and took the elevator to the fifth floor, the doors opened up to a prestigious financial firm. I glanced at the receptionist who shot me a look that said “you don’t belong here.” I think with my sweaty palms and nervous body language, I responded in silent, “I know.” I told her I was there to meet Allan.

As he came into the lobby, I remember vividly shaking his hand for the first time.

One could argue that was the handshake that launched my modern career, as he and a group of other gentlemen invested in my business just 90 days later.

How many of you believe in luck, raise your hand!

Going back to shortly after I turned 16 (when I first started my business), I didn’t have much money, but was putting everything I was making back into advertising. I had a website and was trying to drive traffic to it to get new clients. At the time, that was enough to be running about $150/month of online advertising. With that small budget, on the other side of the world, one of our first clients was an advertising agency located in Northern Europe.

That firm, on the other side of the world, clicked on our banner ad.

Today, one of the founding partners of that firm is now one of my closest business partners and is indeed in the room here tonight.

How many of you believe in luck, raise your hand!

The truth is, you’re all lucky. And, relax, because I’m not just another old person telling you how easy you have it. At least Goldenview wasn’t uphill for me both ways when I went here just six years ago. And even if it was, there was still a bus to take me there.

I’m talking about luck, because luck matters… And it’s not something they teach you in school.

Consider a few successful individuals. There are a lot of people that say college is the only way to be educated. There are others (believe it or not) that say being a dropout is the only way to be a successful entrepreneur or business person “Look at Apple’s Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg!” — “They were lucky,” others will say. Lucky billionaires.

There’s some truth to that, but luck is everywhere. You know what’s lucky? Being born in the United States. Being given a great institutional education. Getting to learn from great teachers. Getting into good schools. You’re all students in arguably one of the best middle schools in one of the best states in one of the best countries in the world.

Luck is a part of life. And going to school or not can’t really change that. But you can.

Dr. Richard Wiseman, or Dr. Luck, as I call him, is an author that studied luck throughout his career. He found that luck is brought with new routines, creativity, and spontinaity. He found individuals that identified themselves as unlucky were often unobservant, or ruled their life on a series of routines. The good news is however, he was able to cure those individuals. By encouraging them to try new routines, explore new hobbies and break out of their existing ways, those same “unlucky” people began to identify themselves as lucky just six months later.

With that story in mind, we could say luck is a skill. Not just in school, but in life.

There are exceptions to every rule, and everyone is different. I never cease to be amazed by stories about (un)/successful individuals and their backgrounds. So don’t be afraid to try new things, to blaze your own trail, to lay a new path. It was Dr. Luck that said new actives, new observations, and being spontaneous can bring luck your way.

However, that’s easier said than done.
Madeleine L’Engle, famous American author described the following situation: A letter to me from an eleven-year-old girl posed the question, “How can I remain a child forever and not grow up?”

Madeleine, wrote back, “I don’t think you can, and I don’t think it would be a good idea if you could. What you can do, and what I hope you will do, is remain a child forever, and grow up, too.”

That is what it means to be a whole human being, she says, rather than an isolated fragment of our own chronology.

The notion that “if you go to school to get your degree, and everything will be OK” is an idea that’s quickly dying. The hard truth is, there are very few sure things in life anymore… And one can argue even if there ever was.

Whether or not you pursue higher education will make an impact, and while I highly recommend an institutional education where possible, don’t expect it to solve all your problems. A strong passion, drive, key social skills and ability to function in a modern (and changing) environment will be of great assistance to you. Be lucky. Be happy. Be passionate.

Passion. What an incredible word. Search for that drive inside of you. And if you’ve found it, hang on. Take the wheel, and steer it.

Because life is about more than what you will learn inside these walls. Learn in this environment. Work hard in school. But don’t use school as an excuse to call yourself educated. Pursue that passion, grow that luck, and be happy in what you do. Do that, then, well, that’s all the advice I have to give. Thank you.

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