Bill Werde, editorial director for Billboard, spoke at Belmont Wednesday, encouraging students to embrace failure and expel apathy.
After making a few jokes with students, Werde began the morning by explaining his background and path to his current position at Billboard. He described his passion for music and emphasized that this is a key ingredient for anyone interested in a music industry career.
“Music inspires me. Music makes me cry. If you don’t love music, there’s way, way better ways to make money,” he said.
Werde encouraged students to practice “ruthless self-accountability” and to take responsibility for one’s own failures rather than place the blame on others. This theme was woven throughout his entire message.
He also urged students to be proactive in creating opportunities for themselves.
“Ninety-nine percent of journalists are all chasing the same story. If you want to be successful, be the one percent,” he said.
“I found stories that I wished I were writing and I devoured them,” Werde said, describing how he developed his journalistic craft early in his career.
On his morning commutes, Werde analyzed newspaper stories, making notes and digesting how established journalists created their material.
“I was like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. It was obsessive and probably frightening to the people around me,” he quipped.
At one point, Werde asked students to stand.
“Sit down if you’ve never experienced abject failure in your biggest dream,” he instructed.
Slowly, students sat down until only a few remained standing.
With this, he provided a positive perspective on failure, encouraging students to pursue their ideas, even those that seem radical.
“Failure is kind of where it begins,” he said. “You’re not taking enough chances if you’re not failing.”
“Don’t wait. You should walk out of this classroom and do something to change your reality today. You think you have all the time in the world, but then you blink and you’re my age.”