Charlie Xu, MSF ’22, to fellow grads: Embrace your adventure

  • May 27, 2022
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 4 minute read

Charlie-Yitong Xu, MSF ’22, was the student speaker at the graduate programs graduation recognition ceremony on May 20, 2022, selected by his peers. Here is what he had to say to his fellow graduates.

Thank you, Dean, for the great introduction and throwback. Good morning, students, parents, parents of parents, teachers and faculty of Olin. To my family and my beloved ones. To the family members and friends joining us no matter in person or via online live stream. Thanks for carrying us so far with your support.

First, I want to say thank you to the event coordinators and ushers who planned and prepared everything today. We could not celebrate such a ceremony—which definitely is precious under COVID pandemic—without your help. I used to wake up at night from dreams—I could not make a sound—standing on a stage like this. So, I am very glad that my dream came true today and with a microphone that actually works.

Demonstrating a growth mindset

Personally, I need to appreciate and give credit to Zhenwei Shi, Muran Wu and many incredible people who are more deserved to stand here than I am. But they gave the opportunity to me. I love the fellas I met at Olin. Some are mighty and self-opinionated. Some are shy and self-contained. But what’s in common is none of us ever chose to give up under pressure. We all demonstrated a strong, growth mindset, which is exactly why we are all sitting here today. So, first, I invite my SMP and MBA graduates to give a round of applause for ourselves. To the resilience we showed and to our conquest of this challenge. Well done!

Last year, we came here with anticipation. Now it is the time for us to carry on and depart again. Graduate school is so different from college. If undergrad is where we learn how to learn, grad school is a rapid spinning machine that makes you harvest the best skills needed. Speaking of gains, the journey at Olin is never a smooth path, which is good. You would not actually learn something useful from an easy-A class.

Our multi-tasking and time management abilities were tested as we needed to equip ourselves with the finance bible and search for future careers at the same time. The faculty at Olin is so amazing that they cultivated us and left a lifelong, permanent mark on each of us—just like the barbecued ribs from Pappy’s smokehouse that I will miss every day.

‘Tell me a story’

On the first day, we ran into the classroom of Professor Richard Frankel. One takeaway I still remember was him saying: “Don’t talk about numbers. Tell me a story.” There is where we started crafting the analytics with both quantitative science and qualitative fine arts.

To change the world for good. We may need more than this. I was lucky enough to team up with MBA students in some project groups. One thing I think MBA students typically do better than us—they have a better understanding of teamwork spirit. With my friend Ben Gialenios, I learned that oftentimes, the most important thing is not to distinguish between who is more right or wrong but to empower the group, to move forward, together as a whole.

This is an impatient era. Born in the late ’90s, we are also the generation of impatient and superficial. Young adults like us are often so eager for the instant benefits that if you recommend a book—without telling what you will learn after reading it—people just won’t read it. We are often too myopic to see what the long-term return is and too rushed because we are afraid of getting left behind. Thinking that we would get rewarded immediately after the mission was complete. Just like reaching 93% overall would get us an A for the class. But such a measure is not good enough for real life.

Find your edge

Of course, as business school students, we must be sensitive to the investment and return. But the wolf who can escape from the hunter’s trap is often the one that tried something different rather than being a blind follower. So why not pause for a moment, meditating on what makes you more irreplaceable and where your edge really is? Prioritize with the edge and be the change you want to see.

Admittedly, sometimes we must prove our worth to others—maybe in an interview with a 10-year HR head. You want to show your potential as quickly as possible. But my friends, trust me. No matter how knowledgeable he is or how many candidates he has seen, he doesn’t understand you like you do. My friends, we have climbed to the mountain high, and we have also fallen to the bottom deep.

You know better than anyone where you truly are. Challenge itself is not a bad thing, but the time and vitality wasted on fearing it is. I wish we all encounter our own adventure, embrace it, and see ourselves more clearly from that. You will be proud of your findings on what you are really excited to conquer, just like I am so proud of each of you guys. Congratulations, Olin class of 2022, and to the future we are destined to hold our heads high! Thank you!

Pictured above: Charlie Xu, MSF ’22, student speaker at the May 20, 2022, grad programs graduation recognition ceremony.

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

Firmly established at the Gateway to the West, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis stands as the gateway to something far grander in scale. The education we deliver prepares our students to thoughtfully make difficult decisions—the kind that can change the world.

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