Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Tyler Turnbull
Guest Speaker
Rundle College Graduation 2015

Good afternoon everyone.

I’d like to begin by saying thank you to the Rundle Alumni Committee for inviting me to speak with you. It is a true honour to be here with you all today.

To say that I was surprised to have been asked to speak would be a gross understatement.

In fact, my first reaction was that my close friend and fellow Rundle graduate Dave Wares – was simply playing a prank on me.

But no – it was in fact for real and I’m so excited to be here.  

I’d also say thank you all for taking the time to listen and, being from Generation Z, please feel free to Snapshat, Text, Instagram and digitally talk amongst yourselves. I won’t take it personally.

Over the next few minutes, I’m going to tell you about my own journey and some of the things that helped shape me into who I am today – you can decide later whether that’s a good thing or not.

Finding Rundle

When I was finishing elementary school here in Calgary, it had been a pretty rough journey – mostly for my parents.  

I’d been very close to failing Grade 2.

How do you fail grade 2, you ask? I don’t really know either – maybe that was the problem.

Beyond Grade 2, the challenges continued - My grades weren’t good, I was struggling and instead of focusing on my academics and performance, I prioritized other things like watching TV, hanging out with friends and doing everything I could do to avoid mentally-challenging work.

My parents went to great pains to find out exactly what was wrong with me. I took IQ tests, met with councillors and specialists, had my health assessed and more.

At the conclusion of this intensive evaluation period, the team across all disciplines shared the same diagnosis – Tyler is lazy.

And so, I was quickly enrolled in a new school called Rundle College.


I remember my first day on campus – mostly the uniform. Grey ties and maroon blazers. My public school friends loved my newfound attire. I wasn’t so sure.

I also remember suddenly having nowhere to hide – 12 kids in a class.
In my old school the sheer volume of 30-40 kids per class made it really easy to be forgotten and to do whatever I wanted.

No such luck at Rundle.

I was in the open – the questions would come flying at me and if I wasn’t paying attention, look out.

But as time started to pass, things got better in really unexpected ways.

I started to enjoy going to school. I met new friends who became core to who I am today. Teachers started to look out for me, they challenged me and made me think differently. And I started to get involved in extra curricular activities like sports.

The years passed and I found myself wanting to do more – get more involved, try different things, meet new people and challenge myself.

And when I look back on my time at Rundle and combine it with the 14 years since I graduated, there are a few key lessons that I wanted to share with you today.

LESSON 1 – Don’t Hide

It’s hard to hide at Rundle. But it’s easy to hide in the world.

Many of you will be going to College and University and will experience what it’s like to be on campus with thousands, not hundreds, of other people.

And it will be really tempting to stick with what makes you comfortable – same friends, same routine, same patterns.


When I went to University in Ontario, I really only knew one person – my best friend from Rundle. Together, we knew about 2 other people and while daunting, it was amazing looking back because it forced us to get out there – to try things and experiences that we wouldn’t have done normally.

And we are all the better for it.

So if you find yourself saying, ‘I’m going to stay in or skip that activity. Don’t.’

LESSON 2 – Be Relentless

I can’t understate how hard things can be out there.

But what differentiates people is their drive to achieve their goals – sounds cliché but it really isn’t.

My wife, Jennifer, is the polar opposite of me. For her entire life, she knew exactly what she wanted to do – be a family doctor.

She got great grades at High School, got great grades at University, got great marks on the MCAT and did everything she was supposed to do to become a doctor.

But when she tried to get into med school, she wasn’t accepted.

So she took another degree and spent a year trying to get better for the next round of applications. She got better marks, better MCAT scores, better everything. And applied again. But the same thing happened – she wasn’t excepted into any Canadian schools.

Most people at this point would have given up and tried something else. That would have been the easy thing to do.

But she didn’t. She kept going. And decided that if she couldn’t get trained in Canada, she’d move to England and train there.

And so she moved. And it was hard –5 years in a foreign country. But she persevered despite it all. And in a few months will be completing her residency in Toronto. It took 12 years and she made it.

The point is – you are going to get thrown curveballs. Things will not go as planned. But don’t let that stop you.

LESSON 3 – Treat Everyone Well

I’ve had the privilege of working around the world. And it’s hard to describe how connected everything is.

All the time, I meet people from Canada, from Calgary, from everywhere. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone talks and everyone remembers.

I can’t understate how much it matters to treat everyone with respect  - at our agency, how you greet our receptionist is substantially more important than what you’ve written on your resume.

Be polite. Say thank you – you can start with your family. Then your teachers. Then your friends.

And try to help as many people as you can – they won’t forget and they will help you back – sometimes in the most wonderful and unexpected ways.

LESSON 4 – Start something

When I was in 11th grade, two of our teachers – Mr. Buchannan and Mr. Foreman – had a wild idea. Start a Rugby team.

It’s hard to imagine – starting a team from scratch that requires 15 people on the field. We needed almost everyone in our class to participate and most of us had never even seen a rugby game, let alone played one.

But we started the team, And trained. Those first practices were pretty intense and so were the first games. But the experience was amazing and it led to something bigger.

The years passed, the team got better and now the program is what it is today.

But it had to start somewhere. The point is, you never know what starting something could lead to so don’t be afraid to make something if it doesn’t exist yet.


I’d like to close with one final thought.

When I had the privilege of standing on this stage 14 years ago, I told a story from that year that still sticks with me today.

The graduating class had been on a trip to Costa Rica and my close friend, Peter Newman, and I were sitting in a hot spring with the rest of our group.

We were about half-way through our trip, reflecting on the great experiences we’d had and getting excited about the remainder of the visit.

It was a perfect evening and, as we caught up, I said – “Wow, I really don’t want this to end. Sucks that we have to head back in a few days.”

Peter said something to me then that has stuck with me ever since. He said simply – “Ty, Don’t wish it away”.

“Don’t wish it away”.

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