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Karan Dyson delivers the keynote speech at the podium
Photo by Maddie Schroeder

Hello everyone! I’m excited and honored to be here today to celebrate this momentous occasion. I want to start by saying congratulations, Class of 2024! YOU DID IT!!! I know that there was significant dedication and resiliency required to get you all to this point of achievement. I am also certain that this is not just a proud moment for you but also for your family and friends that have been your support system along the way.

Today your family and friends get to come together to celebrate you, and you get to celebrate them for what they have been for you on this journey.

Class of 2024, as exciting as this significant achievement is, it is just the beginning! I am here to tell you that on the other side of this graduation wall, the world is waiting on you all to rise as leaders — not just average leaders but transformational leaders. Transformational leadership will absolutely demand that you “Boldly Navigate Life After Graduation.”

To navigate life boldly will require an art of resiliency! There are some key elements to creating “Resiliency” in your life that I’d like to share with you.

First, it will require creating your life map and owning it.

You have to know where you are going, otherwise life will take you to where you land. People will lead you on their own life path or worse, on what they think your path should be.  

How exciting it is that you get to plot out your life plan that integrates your passion and purpose. You also get to customize your plan to meet some very specific goals along the way.

But I encourage you to resist just following what others have done because their plan may not encompass the magnitude of greatness that you desire for yourself and your life.

Mastering the ability to overcome fear and doubt is also a critical element to executing life with resiliency: It is absolutely natural to have fear and doubt. The key is not allowing your fears to stand in the way of you boldly pursuing your goals and aspirations.

That is why, when fear sets in, it is imperative that you quickly assess and understand the origin, so that you can effectively manage it. Allowing fear to fester could potentially seed self-doubt. Fear and doubt become the perfect incubator for imposter syndrome to move in. Imposter syndrome is simply where individuals start to doubt their accomplishments, success and even competence, which typically leads them to questioning their value and to fear being exposed. I share this because it affects people in all stages of life and is the most common challenge that I see as I mentor. The good news is that it can be overcome by recognizing and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs as they emerge.  

Headshot of Karan Dyson
It is absolutely natural to have fear and doubt. The key is not allowing your fears to stand in the way of you boldly pursuing your goals and aspirations.
Karan Dyson
Vice President of Global Grooming Process & Engineering, Procter & Gamble-Gillette

I also would caution you that it’s not just your own fears that can be a barrier. Other people, in the spirit of offering advice, can sometimes project their fears onto your life goals and aspirations. I’m not in any way saying that you shouldn’t listen to your close advisors, your family and your friends, but you need to be able to assess the validity of what they are sharing as it pertains to your life plan.  

I think back often on a situation in my own life where I had an opportunity to take an assignment in China earlier in my career. Well, guess what? I was just a country girl from Mobile, Alabama, on a quest to do big things in life. Things I had never seen done in my hometown. Moving to China to lead an engineering organization for Procter & Gamble felt like a pretty big thing to do to me!  

However, as I sought advice on the opportunity, people advised me “Don’t DO it, Karan.” They said the food will be different. Well, I’m from Alabama, we eat almost everything. I brag about my developed palate. It took me a lifetime to fine-tune my palate to this point of excellence! They also expressed concerns that I should consider that I would stand out and look different from everyone else. Well again, I’m a Black female in engineering; I’m used to standing out. Actually, it kind of makes me feel like a celebrity!  

I share this story because I think back so often on the experiences that I would have missed out on, had I followed other people’s fears. In fact, I was actually relieved as they shared their concerns, because I could quickly assess that these were not my fears nor concerns that would prevent me from embracing the opportunity. Was I afraid?? Heck yeah, I was scared. But I committed to myself that when fear seeps in, I will run towards it because I know what lies beneath the fear is an opportunity for me to learn and grow exponentially.  

Your ability to bounce back from failure and setback is another element of resiliency: Life will throw you curve balls!  

You will experience setbacks and failure — expect them and plan for them. Every good plan has a backup plan. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t slowed down from the setbacks or that your path doesn’t require modification. Just don’t abandon your plan, don’t abandon your goals, don’t abandon your aspirations and don’t abandon your dreams!

Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times before finally succeeding in inventing the light bulb. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple before returning to the company and leading it to become one of the most successful companies in the world. The Wright brothers failed in their early attempts to build a successful airplane. I want you to clearly see and believe that on the other side of failure there is success!

Take time to celebrate! Celebrating your achievements and milestones is a secret weapon that you can use to help motivate and build your own confidence. Proactively doing this can even help you avoid falling into self-doubt. You don’t have to wait for big achievements. In fact, I encourage you to celebrate the small things and practice self-affirmation. It’s OK for you to tell yourself “Karan … Great Job! You killed it!!” The sense of accomplishment, no matter how small, will fuel you through the rough patches of doubt.

Finally, take time to be in the moment! Enjoy the process of navigating your life. Appreciate the high points and celebrate overcoming the low points. Be kind and patient with yourself as you navigate life beyond graduation.

So, Class of 2024, today I give you permission to boldly step into this next chapter of your life, to dream big, to break down walls of fear and doubt, and when you are knocked down, pop back up and allow the resiliency muscle that you have created to kick in. Ladies and gentlemen, Class of 2024, YOU ARE READY!!

Congratulations and I wish you all the best that life has to offer. 

Bentley 2024 Commencement Recap