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Pat Broe Address

Autumn Convocation 2008


Pat Broe

Always Look in Life:

Thank you Lloyd for that kind and generous introduction. It’s all the more special coming from a close friend and a person I deeply admire.

Madam Minister, Mr. Chancellor, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for the degree the University of Winnipeg is giving me. Graduates, congratulations on your achievement, which reflects so much work, accomplishment, and determination to succeed.

Congratulations to your parents who have been waiting for this day. My wife, Paula, my four children, Sean, Caitlin, Kevin, Brianna and my sister, Mary Lynn, have made the trip here from Denver not only because I asked them to but because they wanted to see me actually get a degree.

That’s because it’s taken me forty-three years to get a university degree. I am hopeful your parents have not waited that long or spent on your education the $35 million I spent educating myself because I had to do deals the hard way.

I’ve learned a lot from life – in fact I’m reminded of something John Lennon wrote: “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” Now that I am back at university, I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned.

Three things are needed in life - education, passion, and the desire to look and find opportunity. You already have your education and you have passion or you would not be graduating today. You are two-thirds of the way there. The only thing you now need is the ability to look and find opportunity. Always look.

There are a number of ways you can do this

To begin with, look by researching everything you can. A Nobel Prize winner once said: “Research is to see what everybody else has seen and to think what nobody else has thought.”

Research is powerful. I remember when I was in my early 20s spending research time at the public library. What was I looking at? Houses. I wanted to see who owned houses on various streets.

I took that information, offered to purchase the ones I thought had hidden value - beat up, not painted, no landscaping - and made some of my first money. This was fun! So I researched more…bought four in a neighbourhood, fixed one up, and realized that the value of all four had improved just because I had fixed the one up. With the current housing market collapse throughout North America, you have the ability to do that today in any community.

You have so many more research tools than I had then. You have the Internet. You can go on the Internet day and night and find anything you want. Let’s say you want a job. You can research companies, find out which ones you like, and based on that research, call them and use the research to make a great impression. That’s exactly how we find our best deals! Research gives you great insight into opportunities. But that’s not all.

There is a second way you can always look... Pursue your ideas. In 1899, the head of the US Patent Office is said to have declared: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

That was before Microsoft was created by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who had a big idea and followed it.

That was also before My Space. My Space was created in 2002 and sold in 2005 for $600 million dollars. Today, it has more than 100 million user and accounts and is growing at 250,000 (quarter of a million) user per day. Who would think that many people would have their entire identities on the Internet. When you pursue your dream this is what happens.

I would never have bought the Port of Churchill if I had not seen its potential (and if Lloyd Axworthy had not forced me to). Others saw it as an unattractive, remote port that represented no opportunity. But I saw this run down property as a vital trade link between Canada’s Northern Territories and Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America. We developed that potential and created opportunities for this country, this community and our business partners. All because I looked and did not turn away.

The third way to look is not to be afraid to fail. Every successful entrepreneur fails at some point. Anything you attempt in life will have its challenges…you will have moments when you wonder what you’re doing and why things aren’t working. I like to think of failure as success deferred.

One of my favorite books is Blink. This brilliant book ends with a chapter called “Listening with your Eyes”. It explains in that split second before you blink you capture the essence of life.

I want to leave you graduates with the message I began with - great lives are made from looking. Look by researching; look by pursuing; and look by having the courage to fail.

My best to all of you.