WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama’s chief of staff says that his path in life was determined more by his failures than his successes.

Rahm Emanuel told graduating students from George Washington University on Sunday that his habit of picking fights got him demoted within President Bill Clinton’s administration. Emanuel said the humility that taught him is responsible for his continued successes.

Obama’s chief of staff also recalled how a serious infection he contracted after swimming in Lake Michigan with a deep cut on his finger nearly cost him his life.

Emanuel says the resulting two months he spent in the hospital made him appreciate life.

He encouraged the new graduates not to be reckless with their futures and to take their work seriously.

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