The Gal From Queens’ Speech

Can’t blog. Must wait by my phone, because I’m getting a little nervous.  Graduation season is upon us, which means it’s time to line up commencement speakers. The Class of 2011 is about to bid adieu to the halls of ivy, and so far not a single school has called to invite me to address the graduates.

Frankly, I’m a bit puzzled.  Surely, I should have been contacted by now. Do you think Yale University phoned Tom Hanks a day before their graduation ceremony?  Did West Point ring up First Lady Michelle Obama the morning of graduation to ask if she’d be the commencement speaker?  I’m sure even Aron Ralston, whose harrowing experience and loss of arm were chronicled in the film, 127 hours, got at least 48 hours notice from Carnegie Mellon.

So why am I being dissed?  What am I, chopped liver?

If you ask me, it’s not right that only prominent people are asked to be commencement speakers. Sure, if you’re a student at Princeton University and you learn that Brooke Shields is speaking at your graduation, maybe you get a little punch drunk. Maybe your mom gets verklempt. It is Brooke’s alma mater, after all.  But having a famous person at your graduation doesn’t bring you a whole lot of cache. It’s not as if you’re going to be able to put it on your resume that Brooke Shields spoke at your graduation.  And even if you did, I absolutely cannot fathom any potential employer saying,

“Brooke Shields spoke at your graduation? Maybe you do deserve this job.”

Plus, a lot of these fancy schmancy speakers are paid buco bucks—about enough for a down payment on the mansion of your choice.  Me? I’d settle for the paltry sum of $10,000, plus green M&M’s in my dressing room (not that I’m particularly fond of green M&M’s but I always wanted to see what it felt like to be très demanding).

So enough with just asking the somebody’s of the world to address the graduating masses.   How about us nobody’s?  Sheesh! You’d think that only famous people have something important to say.  Well, I am here to say that any university should thank their lucky stars to get me. For not only am I available and ready to speak, I have valuable tips to convey to the multitude of poor souls about to leave the comforts of college existence and delve into the hard, cruel world that is life, economic downturn and all. Plus, I know my way around a good yarn or two.   If that’s not enough, know that I keep a portable podium handy, standing by for any occasion! And for another $5,000, I’d be happy to share some anecdotal stories of my own, slightly scandalous college years.

Sure, Apple's Steve Jobs was once asked by Stanford to speak, but me? Forget about it!

So what would I say to the Class of 2011?

Welcome to reality! You are not owed anything. There are no more entitlements, so snap out of it. Enough with the hard partying, the jello shots, drinking games and Halo mania. Time to sober up, pound the pavement and get with the program!

As my first boss, Jeff, used to say, “Monica, wake up and smell the coffee!” It didn’t make a difference that I didn’t drink the stuff. I knew what he meant.

You need to start earning your keep. Get a good job, one that offers health insurance coverage. Start putting some money away for retirement. At your age it doesn’t have to be much; any little bit helps. While you’re at it, take out a “whole” life insurance policy. One day you’re going to need one and the younger you are when you get it, the cheaper it’ll be.

No one leaves college landing a CEO job.  Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg or Warren Buffet’s kid, there’s a good chance you’re not going to start at the top.  Be prepared to start a lot lower and then work your way up.

Don’t act like you’re above any part of your responsibilities.  What, you can’t make copies? You can’t file?  Well, how would you like to be in charge of the mimeograph machine?  What, you don’t know what that is? Well, that’s where I started!  Trust me, be grateful you don’t know—black ink on fingers can be nasty—so get thee to a copier now!

No matter what your job is, have high expectations of yourself. Your boss does, so don’t just get by. No slackin’ allowed. Strive to be your best and don’t always wait to be told what to do.  Identify and seize the opportunity!  Look for what needs to be done, then, do it.  You will impress your boss and all those around you.

Dress for success. Leave the flip-flops and cut-offs at home. You’re not a bum, so don’t come to work looking like one.

Don’t expect a barrage of compliments from the boss.  (No entitlements, remember?) Just do your job the best you can and the compliments will come, though maybe not as often as you’d like, but then your boss is not your parent.

Oh, and one last thing: if you think you’re never gonna get old, think again. It will happen to you. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but certainly before you know it. So think twice about getting that tattoo. Looks icky on wrinkly skin.

I’ll bet anything Brooke Shields’ class day speech won’t be as good as mine might have been. Princeton, it’s your loss. West Point, you too. And Yale? Call me, I’m available!

The Facebook

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...

Photo of Mark Zuckerberg, via CrunchBase

I finally got around to seeing “The Social Network,” and after two hours of being captivated by the film, all I can say is: That Mark Zuckerberg, he sure could have used a timeout from his parents. Or maybe just had his computer privileges taken away.

Or, at the very least, mom and dad could have given their son some sage advice. Like if you only have one friend in the world, and this friend lends you $19,000, don’t screw him over. Of course, someone should have told said friend, Eduardo, lending large amounts of money to your BFF, especially one as self-absorbed as Mark, has turned many a genuine friendship sour.

Now I know there’s some fictionalizing in this film in order to tell a better story. The movie was based on a book called The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, and I’m going to assume it was written from the perspective of Eduardo, who comes off in the movie looking like a victim and a saint. But for the sake of my blog, I’m going to process it as 100% real, as in, this is what really happened. To me, this movie is gospel and I’m sure every conversation happened exactly as it was written in the script, down to the very smart and insightful associate lawyer, played by Rashida Jones.

In the film, Rashida represents us, the audience, who like us, listens during the depositions to the fascinating story of the making of Facebook as it unfolds through a series of flashbacks. At the end of the film, Rashida speaks for us, when she says what we’ve been thinking all along: Mark Zuckerberg is not a nice guy. I am paraphrasing, so don’t take my words as gospel.

The lesson here is, if you’re a college student, especially one from Harvard, and you want to start up something new but you need financial backing from a friend, make sure you put it in writing. Detail what the expectations are from each partner. I’m talking a contract, not a gentlemen’s agreement. When it comes to making money, there are no gentlemen, only ruthless capitalists. Didn’t these boys see Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street?” Greed isn’t so good when it’s at the expense of your friends or, in this case, a friend who also happens to be a saint.

As for the twins, I don’t have much sympathy for them, handsome and athletic as they are. In my estimation, which I base on the movie as my sole source, they didn’t give Mark the idea of Facebook, or The Facebook, as it’s originally called. They only met with Mark once and exchanged a few emails. Plus, there idea wasn’t as grandiose. They were thinking small, so if you ask me, they were lucky to settle out of court and make millions in the process. Frankly, I think they were just jealous of Mark, the boy wonder.

So if Mark’s parents had intervened, they could have disciplined their son several times, like when he trashed the rental in California. His dad also could have advised Mark not to befriend a guy like Sean, the founder of Napster. Sean was trouble from day one and Saint Eduardo knew it. Plus, Mark’s mom could have made her son write a nice thank you note to his friend, for believing in him and for loaning him all that start-up money. While she was at it, she could have made her son clean up all those broken beer bottles on the kitchen floor. That was disgusting.

To think, if it weren’t for Mark’s girlfriend dumping him (and you have to give her some credit for dating him in the first place), Facebook might not be what it is today. Maybe it wouldn’t even exist. Powerful stuff and certainly, food for thought. True love for Zuckerberg was out of reach and I attribute this to one thing and one thing only: Mark lacked empathy—compassion for his fellow man or in this case, his girlfriend and his BFF.

Poor, rich billionaire lad. If you ask me, the only thing missing in this film, was for “Citizen Zuckerberg,” alone in his Facebook world, to utter the words, “Rosebud.” Cameras would then pan to his childhood sled. That would’ve been perfect.