A few years ago,  I was asked to speak in front of about 2,000 new Capilano University students at our campus orientation.  I wrote a fairy tale to explain the three lessons that helped shape my life, and wanted to pass on these invaluable lessons to our new students.  The story is a true tale, and I follow those lessons every day of my life.

I wanted to post my story as these lessons apply to all of us…students and those in the workforce.  I hope you enjoy reading it, and the lessons help you on your journey.

Once upon a time, there was a bright, funny, and highly motivated girl named Isabella.  Isabella worked really hard in school and in her career and ended up in a corporate job she was not happy with.

One night, a fairy godfather, appeared and told her over the course of the next 20 years, she would be visited by three friendly ghosts who would lead her through moments of her life in the past, present, and future to teach her three key lessons which would shape her life.

However, these three ghosts would only teach her these invaluable lessons if Isabella promised to pay it forward and one day, when given the chance, share what she learned with others.  Isabella agreed and her fairy godfather disappeared.

Lesson #1 – Working Hard Leads to Opportunity

Later that night, the first Ghost of the Past appeared. Together, they revisited a scene from Isabella’s past that happened during her first year of university.  Isabella had worked very hard in her classes and had been asked by one of her professors to learn a software program and teach it to the entire class.  Isabella was excited about the opportunity and worked hard to do well on the project. After her presentation to the class, a fellow student said to her, “You know, Isabella, you should be a teacher.” At that moment with the Ghost of the Past, Isabella knew what she had to do.  The next morning, Isabella quit her job to pursue a teaching career.

Lesson #2 – Making Connections Pays off

Ten years later, Isabella had now become a high school teacher.  Once again, although good at her job, Isabella knew she could make a bigger difference. That night, the second Ghost of the Present appeared.  Together, the second ghost showed her that one of her past professors who had become a mentor to her over the years was currently the Dean of Business at Capilano U, where there happened to be a job opening in the School of Business.  At that moment with the Ghost of the Present, Isabella knew what she had to do.  The next morning, Isabella applied for the Capilano University job.  By chance, the Dean of Business was on the hiring panel as well, and Isabella got offered the job of a business professor at Capilano University, where she is happily working now.

Capilano University was a special place for Isabella.  It was the place she was always looking for, a place where she could make a difference.  It was small enough, where everyone knew her name and where everyone cared for one another. It was a place where learning was based on doing rather than reading from a textbook.

Lesson #3 – Ask and You Shall Receive

After happily working in the School of Business for a few more years at Capilano University, Isabella knew that she yet again wanted to make an even bigger difference.  That night, Isabella was welcomed by the third friendly Ghost of the Future. Together the third ghost took Isabella forward in time to see that she would be given an opportunity to speak in front of a large audience and share what she had learned with others about to start their university journey.  At that moment with the Ghost of the Future, Isabella knew what she had to do.

The next morning, Isabella made an appointment to speak with the President to see if she could be a part of Capilano University’s orientation, so she could fulfil the promise she had made to her fairy godfather twenty years ago.

It was a very atypical move to ask someone so high up in the ranks, who also happened to be the busiest woman on campus, but Isabella felt that since everyone was so nice and cared for each other at Capilano, she would be brave enough to ask, as she had nothing to lose. Well, the President said yes.

Which brings me (aka Isabella) here today.  My name is Carolyn Stern, and I am a proud faculty member of Capilano University.  So, as I promised my fairy godfather many years ago, I will share with you these three lessons as you begin your university experience.

  1. Work hard – work really hard in class – it will lead to both expected and unexpected opportunities, now and later in life.
  2. Make connections – take the time to make connections. You never know who you are going to meet and how they may help you in your life.
  3. Ask for what you need  – don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it or don’t know something or want to try something new.  Someone might just say yes.