Advice to graduates
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - February 10, 2019 - 12:00am

I was invited to speak at the DLSU RVR College of Business Graduate Studies recognition rites yesterday. I want to share my speech with my readers: 

You are very lucky to be graduating from this wonderful school. DLSU is only one of two Philippine universities ranked in the top 1,000 universities in the world by the Times Higher Education Ranking. It also has the best part-time graduate program in business and management , not just in the Philippines, but in Southeast Asia. 

It is said that in the next 25 years, machine learning and robotics will change almost every line of work from producing yogurt to teaching yoga. All industries will see drastic changes from health care to financial services, from retailing to transportation, from manufacturing to professional services. Are we on the verge of a terrifying upheaval or will automation, in the long run, keep generating new jobs and greater prosperity for all? Is it possible to prepare for such an uncertain future?

Let me share just a few lessons I learned after teaching and studying in the DLSU Graduate School for 22 years. 

First, there were frameworks I learned and taught that have, so far proven timeless. Peter Drucker wrote his greatest management lessons in the 1950s and every time I do planning I still remember the mantra : “Management by Objectives” as the only correct management style. Catholic Social Teachings is an eternal framework for a person’s and an institution’s obligations to society. If I had the time, I would share the many other frameworks that I have found to be timeless and functional. But, Dean Sarreal has warned me that I can speak for only 10 to 15 minutes . She knows that I can speak for three hours.

Let me now go to the second thought I want to share with you. It is a cliché, but it is worth repeating – Learning does not end with graduation even with a doctoral degree. I recently wrote a column about Yuval Noah Harari’s newest book A Brief History of Tomorrow. One of those who sent me a reply was Dr. Carmelita Quebengco, DLSU chancellor emeritus and the first and only woman and lay person who was President of DLSU-Manila. She said: “Just the other day I bought Harari’s book “Homo Deus.” Some four years ago I took an online course “A Brief History of the World” taught by Harari. 

By the way, in a survey of 100 top global CEOs last year, one of the 15 books they recommended was Sapiens: A History of Humankind by Yuval Harari. Among those who specifically recommended this book were Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Sanjit Biswas, CEO of Samsara.

Today is for celebration but tomorrow I urge you to embark on a lifelong relationship with a faithful companion who will always help you and sometimes delight you – who will never desert you, who will make you smarter, and wiser, who will always be by your side and enlighten you all the days of your life. I am talking about books.

People say that nobody reads anymore. That could not be further from the truth. In survey after survey, most of Fortune CEOs read four to five  books a month. These are the leaders, the game changers, the ones that end up shaking the ground, rebuilding industries, providing jobs, and inventing some of our most beloved every day products. If they are reading that much, then clearly there is still some value in picking up a book. Here is what some of those CEOs have said:

Mark Zuckerberg: “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media do today.”

Bill Gates: “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

Shelly Lazarus: “As head of a global company, everything attracts me as a reader, books about different cultures, countries, problems. I read for pleasure and to find other perspectives on how to think or solve a problem.”

Warren Buffett: “Read 500 pages...every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

Mark Cuban: “Every thing I read was public. Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. Turns out most people did not want it. Most people won’t put in the time to get a knowledge advantage.”

All my past students will remember that on the first day of class, I tell everyone to introduce themselves and then tell the class what was the most memorable book each one had ever read. 

Let me repeat, if you are seeking a happy and interesting life, one with depth, meaning and accomplishment, you must read books. I am certain that all of you have read some books for you to get here today. Some of you may have read a great many. Don’t stop now. And if you have not read 50 books a year, you can start now, your brain is still young and fresh, it can still absorb and hold and even commit to memory important things.

Reading books forces you to imagine, question, ponder, reflect, connect one historical moment with another. Reading books provides a deeper understanding of people and events of the world, of life itself. 

I became the teacher I was, the student I was and I continue to write two columns a week only because I read books. I follow the news, read articles and magazines to know what is happening, but I read books to understand what is happening – to answer the question why?

My final message to my students was always a line from a Robert Browning poem: “A man’s (or woman’s) reach should exceed his or her grasp. To achieve anything worthwhile, a person should attempt those things that may turn out to be impossible.

So continue to reach beyond your grasp and you will be surprised how far you can reach.

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Feb. 16 (1:30 pm-3 pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration, email

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