Succeeding in a Time of Dramatic Change

The following are excerpts from a speech I made to students at Rutgers
University’s School of Communication and Information on Nov. 14, 2013, New
Brunswick, New Jersey:
“I am on my third career – newspapers, nonfiction
books, and now novels. I’ve adapted. I’ve always been independent and that has
worked in my favor. But

I would say the main reason I have succeeded
in a time of dramatic change is that I had the proper education and training, as
you will have. Everything I learned 30 years ago still applies. The need for
reporting and other forms of human communication and information-sharing
continues. Story-telling is part of human nature.
You are coming of age and
entering the work force in a time of tremendous change that is no where near
settled: That’s the bad news. But it’s also the good news. There is opportunity
during times of change.
One of the problems in our culture is that too many
people have access to technology who don’t have the training you will have. They
are not truly communicating. They don’t even know how to argue. They are making
noise and, worse, they are making civil discourse impossible. We need people
like you. We need critical thinkers, expert writers. We need people who can
guide and lead and advance the conversation. Our Democracy depends on it.

The biggest favor you can do for yourself is to stay away from
negative-thinking people. Take risks and forget the naysayers. I was often told,
“That will never sell” or “no one will read that” – even when I was working on
HAVING OUR SAY, which, as it turned out, sold millions of copies. You will find
people in your career who try to discourage you from trying things that are new.
Don’t listen.”

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