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WGU Commencement Address from Elizabeth McCormick
WGU Commencement Address from Elizabeth McCormick
Western Governors University
<p>With her military career as a decorated US Army Black Hawk Pilot, her exemplary business background including being a global contract negotiator, and her nationally recognized network marketing success, Elizabeth shattered the glass ceiling and continues to rain glass as an in-demand international keynote speaker and leadership specialist.</p> <p>Listed as one of the Top 5 “Leadership Experts to Follow Online,” Elizabeth’s perspective on Leadership, Business, and Veterans Issues is highly sought after with the media. She is frequently seen on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and CW, as well as in national newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal. She is the author of <i>The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the Five Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life</i>, and 17+ business tip books in the Soar 2 Success series on leadership and entrepreneurial topics.</p> <p>Elizabeth’s many military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal, as well as the coveted Army Aviator “Wings.” In 2011, Elizabeth received the US Congressional Veteran Commendation for her service to her country and community as a disabled veteran.</p> <p>Now it's my honor to introduce our commencement address, our speaker. Our keynote speaker is the host of a new TV show in development. She is currently number five on the list of leadership experts to follow online, and she's a best selling author with more than 18 published books on entrepreneurship and leadership topics. In 2011, Elizabeth was awarded the U.S. Congressional Veteran Commendation. While serving in the U.S. Army, Elizabeth flew air command and control, air assault, repelling and top secret intelligence missions, and also transported high level government VIP's, including the Secretary of Defense. Let's see these missions, Elizabeth in the awe inspiring Black Hawk in action. </p> <p>[Video starts] </p> <p>Male: So strap into your seats. It is our pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker. Former U.S. Army Black Hawk pilot, Elizabeth McCormick. </p> <p>[Video Ends] </p> <p>[Applause] </p> <p>Elizabeth McCormick: Thank you. When I was eight years old. Do you remember when you were eight years old, right? It was a long time ago for some of us, right? When I was eight years old, something woke me up in the middle of the night. I wasn't sure what it was. But I down the hallway in the dark. And as I went to get a drink of water, I realized another light was on in one of the other rooms. </p> <p>And I peered across the corner of the hallway to see what it was. And I saw my mother. My 32-year-old mother was hunched over a card table, full of papers and books. She had gone back to school. She was going back to get her degree. And I will tell you that was the first of many, many nights I saw her up late studying, working hard. I saw the exhaustion, I saw the exhilaration. </p> <p>And I will tell you, that that shaped me. As a young girl, it shaped me. It shaped me. She became my inspiration. You see, each of you, you don't even know how much impact you have had, how much you have inspired, just by doing this, by going back to school, by showing the perseverance, by doing the late night s and doing the work. How many of you have kids? How many of you have seen a kid? [laughter] Yeah. You might have children, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, other family members, co-workers. They see you. They have seen what you have done, and you've inspired them. You impact them, and you influence them. And you might not even know how much that you made that difference until they've grown, until later when they're persevering, when they're going through a hard time, and they remember you. </p> <p>My mother shaped me. I needed to know that it was that hard work and that perseverance. Because when I decided to become a helicopter pilot, I decided to believe in my potential. I call that being in the "potential zone." Because as all of you graduates know, in your comfort zone you get what you already got. The potential zone is when you step out of your comfort zone and you do something you've never done before. It makes a difference for you. </p> <p>Oh! I went to the recruiter and he said, "You can't do this." I wanted to be a pilot. "You can't do this." And let me tell you, how many of you had somebody say, "You can't go back to school and get your degree."? Anyone? I'm the only one. Come on, now, right? You see we choose what we believe. I believed I could do this. So when he said, "You can't do this," I looked at him, and I asked him with curiosity, not attitude, I said, "Why not? Why not? What is standing in my way?" </p> <p>And he looked at me and he said, "Well, well, well, you need perfect eyesight." I have that. "Why not?" "Well, well, well, you need perfect physical condition." I used to have that. [Laughter] I was a lot younger then. "Why not?" "Well, well, well, you need a college degree." Ha! I will tell you I have three. "Why not?" "Well, well, well, you need leadership." I said, "I have that too. Why not?" "Well, well, because... uh... uh... uh..." Go ahead and say it with me. </p> <p>And I said, "Why not?" I needed to know. I will challenge you, as you go on from here to be more curious, to ask more questions, to ask why and why not, know what is standing in your way. Because you don't have to believe what they believe. </p> <p>So, I asked him "Why not?" And he said anyone want to guess? How many of you think it's because of my gender? Yeah. Here is what he said, "I don't know how to do that paperwork." I want you to think about that. See, he didn't know how to do his own job. What would've happened if I had gone into that recruiting station and I had believed in him instead of me? Would I have become a helicopter pilot? Would I now be a motivational speaker? I travel all over the world. I just spoke in New Zealand. Hold on. Yeah. </p> <p>Would I be here today? Probably not. My entire future changed because I was willing to believe in myself, my abilities, my potential, my potential zone more than anyone else's lack of belief. Your beliefs are a choice, and you have been in that potential zone. You are here. Yeah. And your belief carried you here didn't it? Through the hard nights, through the long nights. Through working, family, crisis, whatever it might be, you've gotten here. </p> <p>So I'll tell you what I did. I sat in his office, I read the regulations, and I did the paperwork for him. I did his job. Because graduates, families, faculty, when it really comes down to it, your future is your responsibility. It is up to you to be in the pilot seat of your future. And the fact is, it's just like a helicopter, there is no autopilot. You are on the controls all the time. </p> <p>Well, in order for you to understand what flight school is like, I need to teach you how to fly a helicopter. Would that be okay? Okay, there is some audience participation required here. [Laughter] so let's teach you how to fly a helicopter. </p> <p>You're going to need both hands and feet. Go ahead, take a second, both hands and feet. So when you fly a helicopter, your right hand is on the cyclic. The cyclic is a stick. It goes down to the floorboard, up into the rotor system and it controls the pitch of the rotor blades. So, with your right hand, I want you to just take your right hand and stick it straight out. Don't hit the person in front of you. All right? That's where your cyclic would be in the helicopter. So this controls which direction you go. </p> <p>So if you want to go forward, I want you to push and lean forward. Now if you want to go to the side now, as a room we're all going to go to this side. So if you want to go to the side, we're going to push and lean that side. Yeah, now you're flying. Yeah. Now, if you want to go to the other side. That's right, you got this. And if you wanted to go back, whoa, whoa, whoa, you have a tail back there. If you pull that too far back and you hit your tail... that's bad. Don't do that. </p> <p>Now who said you could put your arm down? I just said there's no autopilot. You're flying the helicopter. So go ahead and keep your arms up there. Families are you participating too? Come on, I want to see you fly. All right. So that's with your right hand. Now with your left hand I want you to imagine there's a lever off the floorboard. You're going to pin your elbow to the floorboard. All you can move is the front part of your hand. That is the collective. The collective is the power. So the higher you pull it, the more fuel it puts into your engine. And the higher you pull it, the more air speed you get. And the higher you pull it, the more altitude you get. So go ahead and pull some power. Feels good doesn't it? We like our power, right? </p> <p>So while you're pulling your power, here is what happens to the rest of the helicopter. I'm flying straight like this, and when I pull power, it puts power in the tail. So even though I'm flying straight, my tail does this. So I'm flying straight, and my tail's oh, sorry. [Laughter] My tail is off to the side. Is this aerodynamic? No. So with your feet, independently of each other, and push on your foot pedals to get the aircraft in trim. So go ahead, push the foot pedals. Yeah. All at the same time. </p> <p>But wait, there's more. Because while you're still doing that, you have a center console of avionic and navigation equipment that you're monitoring to make sure you stay that part tells you who to talk to and where to go. And while you're monitoring that, you have four feet of instrument panel you're scanning, which are your system limits. So even though we're in the air, we do have speed limits. Yup, just no signs. You have to have every single limit on every single gauge memorized. </p> <p>And while you're monitoring all that, you also have your windows. You have a front window, you have a door window right here, and you have what's called a chin bubble window down here by your feet. In fact, right now I want you to look down at your toes. Because when you lose your engine, that's where you're going to go. [Laughter] Yeah. You're going straight down. There is no glide in a helicopter. </p> <p>But wait... there's more. Because while you're doing all that, you also have a microphone. Kind of like this one. And you're talking internally to your crew and externally to air traffic control. All at the same time. And if you're sitting there thinking what does that have to do with me? Well, the fact is, every day we're multitasking. Every day the email is dinging and the phone is ringing. And we have to perform. That's what you've done for the last year and eight months, two years, however long it took you to get here, that's what you've done. You've been in the pilot seat. </p> <p>Oh, you can put your arms down, you look a little tired. You've been in the pilot seat. And there hasn't been autopilot has there? No. So flying a helicopter, well, maybe it is like something else. How many of you like roller coasters, let me see? Who are my roller coaster fans, let me see you. [Sigh] I don't believe you. Because no self respecting roller coaster fan would do one arm. [Laughter] Let me see ya, roller coaster fans. Yeah! Hands in the air, right? </p> <p>I want you to imagine you're in the front car of a roller coaster and there's no track. You get to decide where it goes, how high, how low, how fast, or how slow, to the right, or to the left, which way it should go. That's what your future is like. It's like flying a helicopter. </p> <p>So flying a helicopter the first maneuver you must learn is how to hover. Hovering is when you're eight to ten feet off the ground, the wind whips off the rotor system, it comes down underneath the helicopter and it buffers the helicopter, and it makes it aerodynamically unstable. Ever encounter turbulence? Yeah. The helicopter makes its own. And it's unstable. And it's so aerodynamically unstable it's like the bumblebee that shouldn't fly but doesn't know any better and flies off anyway. It's aerodynamically unstable. </p> <p>And hovering requires a very soft touch on the control. A soft touch is best. But what happens to that soft touch when you have a flight instructor who is screaming at you? Ever have one of those leaders in your life? "You're stupid. You don't deserve to be here. You're wasting my... time." Yeah. I could believe him or I could believe in me. So I showed up because the greatest things in life happen when you show up and you show up for yourself. And that's what you've done haven't you? You've shown up. Yeah. You're in the pilot seat and there's no autopilot. And it doesn't stop today does it? No. </p> <p>I had eight weeks of an instructor screaming in my ear, trying to fail me. And at the very end, oh, the very end, I ended up with this flight instructor, a substitute who came in and taught me instead of screaming at me. And he taught me one thing to help me hover. Would you like to learn what that one thing is? All right. Raise your right hand up. Now raise it up high. The person next to you won't know your deodorant's worn off. All right, bring your elbow down. With your elbow braced against your ribcage, pivot your hand forward. That's where your cyclic would really be in a helicopter. With your elbow braced against your ribcage how smooth and stable is that wrist? Yeah. He taught me how a create a stable platform. One thing. And I hover today. </p> <p>WGU has given you that stable platform for your future. It starts here with you in the pilot's seat. Did I teach you how to fly? Was that pretty cool? Yeah? Oh, yeah, practice makes permanent by the way, right? That was part of that. Practice makes permanent, not perfect. Permanent. What you've done is created permanence. Be more intentional. Be more deliberate. And be more focused in why you do what you do. Because everything you do today impacts your tomorrow. Because practice makes ? Permanent. Shift to thinking. </p> <p>All right, did I teach you how to fly? Yeah. Well what fly really means is to first lead yourself. Because it's that exceptional in life. So few do lead themselves. They're on autopilot. But not you. Not you. When you fly, you will soar. [Applause]</p>
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