Commencement Address by Mr. Spin Man & Ms. Rita Pierotti-Madden

They keep saying at commencements “Follow Your Passion,” but I say it’s not passion, but friction that challenges and teaches you to persevere.  

Keep rising from falls and you’ll have a better life.  If friction teaches us the most about ourselves, why not follow your friction? 

For aren’t mistakes, difficulties and as Albert Einstein once observed, spending longer times with vexing problems the more enlightening way to go.  Follow friction to challenge yourself.  To grow into what’s right for you.

Passion perhaps initially we should keep as a hobby, a plaything, while friction is the rugged path you should choose for discovery of what’s the best route to support yourself and eventually your family.  Slips and falls will challenge you to be a better person, so have the hard skin it takes to excel at something you’re destined to do.

Always look at your failures in a positive way. What this mistake, what that failure taught you?

Doesn’t matter your choice, always work with pride, attention, and research/study to be the best in your field, even if it’s not your passion because many times passion is not always the right path.

Before I discovered I was adept at publicity and wrote my first book “Spin Man,” I had to take many wrong paths before reaching the right one.  I tried and failed so many times, but with each slip and fall, I rose wiser. 

The Spin Man’s first job was working at a large advertising agency on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.  Was I creating captivating jingles, powerful ad campaigns, memorable slogans?  No, I worked in the mail room, delivering the food from a cart I pushed around like I was in a slogan supermarket.

Soon my passion in advertising dissipated but flared in a new direction—acting. After seeing a couple hit plays on Broadway, one of them “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Zero Mostel, I signed up to study acting at HB Studio in Greenwich Village.  Soon I was on stage acting in a repertory company off Broadway, quite a way off in upstate New York waiting on restaurant tables during the day, then acting nightly in a new play a week in the theater next door. 

Then an accident changed the trajectory of my life.  I dove from a boat onto a sneaky sandbar.  Broke my neck. 

Forget all the peripatetic adventures life lures us into, there’s nothing as dead-stop, career paralyzing as breaking your neck. Still, it was thought provoking. 

There I was with my passion drowned, my life put on hold, forced to lay on my back for eight eternally long weeks suspended from hooks drilled into my head to keep pressure on my extended neck and me in an invisible straitjacket. 

Unable to look down, all I could do was look straight up until I found I could read wearing prism glasses so I could see the book resting on my chest.  And this is how I read nearly the complete works of George Benard Shaw, from The Devil’s Disciple, in which I once acted, to Pygmalion and St. Joan.

When I recovered, I decided to try journalism and I got a job as a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I also got a master’s degree from The Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania while writing front page stories until one day another “accident.”  I was beaten up covering the racial unrest sweeping the city. 

That’s when I decided to take a safer course as a college professor, but eventually found that totally missing what I came to like so much–excitement.  So, I accepted a job offer in public relations and got to write speeches for the chairman of Kellogg’s Company and wouldn’t you know, they were reprinted in The New York Times. 

This in turn attracted the attention of top execs at ABC, then landed me position after position in network television, including #2-ranked exec at NBC, then onto my own PR firm, TransMedia Group.

Here’s what I learned on this peripatetic, ups-and-downs journey to nose-bleed executive levels:

Don’t take the easiest, most fun-filled path toward destinations everyone wants.  Follow your friction.  Take the hardest, bumpiest roads in life.  Look for ways to fall and fail the most, because that’s how we grow and ultimately succeed. “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer,” said Einstein.

Look for life’s sandbags to trip over, falling on stages before millions, then rising next day even more robust, resilient, and determined to remain upright, stay the course, no matter what age or condition, or odds against you succeeding. 

Be careful, too much passion for money and sex can be beguiling urges landing you in trouble with police, the opposite sex or a wee too pridefully your own. 

So, start out with your dipsy doo diploma in hand, dispassionately.  Then take the lowest, least inspiring path, not the ones everyone else takes.  No, you take the roughest, hardest path bound for falls.  Put yourself in the wrong direction in pursuit of what you believe is not your destiny, so failing won’t be fatal, but meaningful. 

Forget passion as it’s probably the same passion for something that’s driving everyone else seeking those alluring mirages called fame and glory. 

No, you need to be quirky and naïve, refreshingly bold, and dispassionately different, bravely stupid, even quixotic at times about what’s best for you. 

Why start your journey on an upward path toward what most of your peers want, a path so crowded you’re bound to disappear as one little cog in a giant wheel, a tiny ant anticipating climbing to the summit of an ant hill swarming with other ants all with the same incoherent passion. 

No, find your own path, even if a downward trajectory toward something you abhor, that you hate to do, something you’re bound to fail at and falter. Make those mistakes! For that’s how we learn, how we know what strengthens us most, which is not succeeding too soon– but first failing and falling. 

This is the source of great strength, resoluteness, self-confidence, and character.  So, I say find your friction! 

Find what’s hardest for you to do, that causes you to trip and fall the most, because that’s the problem you must master.  And with each fall you get stronger, tougher, more determined to succeed and it’s that determination that will lead you to your ultimate destination in life, to what you were born to become after multiple trials and errors, flubs, failures, and defeats. 

So, embrace those hard knocks.  Hug those failures.  Relish those skiing wipeouts in the snow, dangling from high wires, even falling off cliffs hopefully not too far above ground as you need to recover. 

Now that’s what I call following your friction.

Congratulations to all you fricts.  I wish you all fricting bad luck!  And many productive falls ahead that will lead you to achieving herculean goals yet to be discovered.   Whatever you do, don’t dive headfirst into shallow water.

Always remember that everything you think creates energy and you will surround yourself with this energy.  So, keep your thoughts always at a high level of good energy.

Whatever you are determined to do, you can do it, if you keep your discipline, perseverance, and study for it. Maybe one day, if you wish, you can be running for president, but you need to be prepared for it. Keep in mind that you should listen to and analyze the information you are receiving to make sure it is true. Doubts? Talk to those more experienced, at least three people with different “agendas,” then do your own thinking.

Keep in mind the image you see in front of the mirror every day is the most important person in your life. So, believe in yourself!   Also, in persistence!

Keep your good energy and everyone around you will feel it. Love yourself, so you can love and respect others around you.  And don’t worry about the frictions and flops in life as they can be quite uplifting.

“SPIN MAN” is the title of the first of five books by author Tom Madden, his tell-all tale about the topsy-turvy world of public relations, in which he has excelled since leaving NBC where he was vice president, assistant to the president, then programming wunderkind Fred Silverman.  Madden is the CEO of TransMedia Group, serving clients worldwide from its headquarters in Boca Raton, FL.

Madden’s beloved and beautiful wife Rita Pierotti-Madden ’s purpose nowadays is helping her fellow Brazilians understand about financial education in the US.  In the past, she promoted Brazilian Culture in USA, Europe, and Japan.