DEA Narcos’ Steve Murphy Speaks to Graduates

by Wayde Byard, Loudoun County Public Schools

Former DEA special agent and Lost Clipper teammate, Steve Murphy, told the 403 graduates of Briar Woods High School in Loudoun County Virginia to drop the word “no” from their vocabulary if they want to say “yes” to a successful and rewarding future.

“So, what can you expect for the future, life after high school? For me, I choose to view life as an adventure, with opportunities to take on new challenges, try things I’ve never done before, improve ways of getting the job done. I try to never say no when a new door is opened for me. I don’t blindly step into new realms without thinking and researching them first, but I try to never say no, and I try my best to step through that door.”

Murphy, a former Briar Woods High School parent, made his remarks during commencement exercises on Tuesday, June 11th 2019 at EagleBank Arena on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Murphy has led an unusually adventurous life (as chronicled by the Netflix series “Narcos”). He told the graduates how his unique experiences related to the life they are about to embark on.

“How does my idea of accepting a new adventure apply to you, and why do I even mention it? Let me ask you, do you want to do something the rest of your life that is boring, something that doesn’t excite you, a career that just pays the bills? Wouldn’t you prefer having a career that you love so much, you want to go back to work on Monday morning? My point is this, since you’re going to spend the next ump-teen years working at something, why not choose a career that you love?…

“My family will tell you how much I loved my job. They’ll also tell you, being a DEA agent isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle. And I was blessed to have a family who made lots of personal sacrifices that allowed me to pursue my dream. So I was very worried about what would happen to me when the time came to leave my life’s passion. Well, fortunately for me, a little company named Netflix called and things worked out pretty well for the next adventure in my life. You know, when the producer of Narcos first called, we – my partner and I – turned him down, thinking no one really wanted to hear our little story. Boy, were we wrong. Shows how much we knew about the film industry.

“Believe me, this is something I never expected or even considered in my life. But being willing to step through that open door and accepting that new challenge has been as rewarding for me as being a public servant for 38 years.”

Such transitions, he added aren’t without glitches.

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“Has my professional life been a bed of roses without problems? Of course not. Did I make mistakes along the way? Of course, I did. Do I still make mistakes today? I’d like to say no, but the truth is, yes, I do. After retirement, I started two small businesses. I’ve been a cop my entire adult life, what do I know about running a business? But I’m learning.

“So what did I learn about making mistakes? Was it better for me to hide from what I did wrong, try and blame my mistakes on someone else, just ignore the issue and hope it would go away? No, none of those are the right answers. What I learned is that I was going to make mistakes, and I still do today. But I also learned to not be afraid to make those mistakes, as long as no one was killed or placed in extreme personal danger.

“When you make a mistake, and you will if you’re doing your job for the right reasons, but when you make that mistake, own it. Admit to what you did and then learn from it so you don’t make that same mistake again. Don’t be arrogant or confrontational when you admit that mistake. That most likely won’t be received well by your boss. But be humble, identify what went wrong, and know what you’ll do different the next time.”

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