October 23, 2023
Keynote speaker to Purdue Global grads: Keep building your dreams
Kahil Cole, a Purdue Global alumnus, made these remarks on Saturday (Oct. 21) during Purdue Global’s commencement ceremonies in West Lafayette, Indiana
Build the dream.
I believe in the power of building a dream and know firsthand that dreams come true every day. As I look at all of you, it is confirmation of believing in a purpose and building on your own dreams. Some of the key building blocks are leadership, vision, communication, accountability, consistency and, of course, execution. My journey getting my MBA at Purdue Global was firmly established with a dream!
Leadership comes with a price. You often make decisions that impact those closest to you. Many times you don’t get the opportunity to explain the decisions made, and often you’re misunderstood. Like many graduating today, I enrolled in 10 p.m. Eastern courses to make sure I could support the needs at home. I also would change my newborn while trying to stay engaged in the chat to gain credit for attendance.
The second building block to making your dreams a reality is communication. When I started my journey at Purdue Global, I told myself I’d take a few classes to see how it goes, and if it went well, I’d continue. My wife and family supported me and were overly encouraging. My wife told me to do whatever I needed to do and let her know what extra support that would be needed. The only challenge in my house was that our newborn son didn’t quite understand what supporting Dad meant. He thought coming into the office late at night wanting milk, changing a diaper, or to wave and talk at the instructors on Zoom was supporting the cause. As all great disciplinarians do with kids, I put a TV in the office with Disney Plus access. All great dreams are nurtured with communication. That helps with consistency and accountability.
My daughter helped me with the third building block — accountability. She told me that if I finished school, she would get her black belt in jujitsu. When I started school at Purdue Global, she was a yellow belt, basically starting the process. It took us four years, and we both quit three to four times, each, but always looked at each other as accountability partners. I often bribed her with fruit snacks and jumpy house outings. She would simply look at me and say, “Wait, are you a quitter, Dad?” And I’m proud to say that today, as I stand here speaking to you as a fellow Purdue Global alum, my daughter, Blake, has also qualified to test for her junior black belt. Although not always easy, it was accountability that helped us each reach these goals.
In addition to having a vision, communication and accountability, I’ve also learned that great dreams are built on consistency. I decided to write a children’s book. But I sat on that first book for over a year. Every time we had guests over, my wife would say, “You know Kahil wrote some children’s books.” I’d look surprised and say, no, I’m just playing around. Well, one day we had some friends over who are chefs. As we got talking, they mentioned they were in the process of writing a cookbook. I thought to myself, maybe I should really do this. After that conversation, my life changed. I completed and published that first book, and soon after, my book was ordered by schools, appeared in the local library, and I was even on a podcast. I thought to myself, how is this book getting to all these people? Insert my wife. Two books and 2,000 copies later, I finally started to embrace it — I was an author. It started as one, and before I knew it, I wrote five. I was overly excited about my work, and proof that consistency does pay off. Funny story: While I was at an engagement, a few people were being introduced for community work. The emcee said “renowned author.” At that point I tuned out. A couple of people around me said, “Hey, they just introduced you.” My goodness, I couldn’t believe it; I didn’t think the lady was talking about me. As I learned, being consistent is key, and you also need to acknowledge and embrace the vision and dream. Needless to say, I’ve been supported throughout my journey as a dreamer from a strong family.
I first went to college in the early 2000s for my bachelor’s degree. I never thought 20 years later I would pursue my MBA. Over the last 20 years, I set a goal of impacting those who are less fortunate and building a career in sales and leadership development. I never lost sight of the need for further education, but I also got sidetracked. I would set reminders and put it on vision boards. While building a vision board with my daughter that included being a boss princess and a doctor, she asked me why I haven’t gone back to school since I always talked about it. I thought to myself, great question, Blake Cole! Blake went on to tell me that I needed to put the plan on paper and take it step by step and execute — little did she know that I was afraid, but our talk helped me gain confidence. I enrolled and started my journey and realized that dream was a reality. Execution only came after I had put all the building blocks in place and trusted the training. Purdue Global helped me and others sharpen our focus, identify what I do best — my calling — along with helping me understand when to raise my hand. I always felt execution was the finale. Truthfully, it’s the beginning of the next challenge and next phase. With execution comes pressure. Having pressure is a byproduct of your greatness.
Throughout my journey with Purdue Global, I’ve made amazing lifelong friendships. During my capstone class, one of my classmates took a bold business venture and attempted to buy a Chick-fil-A restaurant. I don’t know about you, but in our family, Chick-fil-A is a household name, so this business prospect I would definitely support. Unfortunately, the deal did not go through, so in solidarity with our classmate, four of us decided that the honorable thing to do was boycott Chick-fil–A. But I live in Georgia, with a Chick-fil-A on practically every corner. I was the first to cross the picket line. I have a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old. Chick-fil-A is a fabric of their lives! Joe, I’m sorry I could not boycott longer. But the beauty in not obtaining a restaurant at that time is that Joe was able to get a different high-level opportunity that would allow him to develop branding for multiple franchises. He has tons of insight on what business to move forward with when the time is right, and he has tons of flexibility to be a dad, which is his ultimate goal. I did have to take my kids to Disney to make up for the “boycott” — talk about a trade-off for loyalty, but to support new friends that are now more like family is priceless.
I want to share a quote that really resonates with me. It is from the novel by Juhea Kim titled “Beasts of a Little Land”:
“Everyone dreams, but only some people are dreamers. The non-dreamers, by far more numerous, are those who see the world as it is. Then there are the few dreamers, who see the world as they are. The moon, the river, the train station, the sound of rain, and even something as mundane as porridge become something else with many layers. The world feels like an oil painting rather than a photograph, and the dreamers are forever seeing hidden colors where others just see the top shade. The non-dreamers look through glasses, and the dreamers through a prism.”
Sometimes life has a way to bury our dreams — not you, not this group. At some point, instead of saying “I wish, I want, I think,” we said, “I am, I can and I will.”
Like many of you, my life has been built on the impossible. My parents and sister inspired me early on. My childhood friends gave me the belief that I could be great. My wife and kids let me know that nothing is impossible, on a daily basis. I’ve written books, invested in startups, mentored young people, executive-produced movies. My career is a dream come true! Saying that, completing my MBA and standing in front of you has been a top highlight for me. Seeing all of you other dream builders accomplish a goal is surreal. My colleague Mindy Ricketts is also graduating virtually today. Sharing this experience with her and her family is icing on the cake. To all of you graduates, congratulations! You built your dream and achieved it. Now start building your next dream, and show the world. Never forget: Everyday dreams come true!