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My Menlo College commencement address

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On Saturday, May 5th, I gave the commencement address at Menlo College. Here is the text of what I said.

Congratulations to all the graduates and their families. What a great day it is for all of you. And what an honor it is for me to be your commencement speaker.

That said, the implications of being a commencement speaker frightens me. This is because, typically, “old” people give commencement speeches.

When I was your age, the last person I would believe is someone who is my age. The fact that one even says “when I was your age,” says a lot.

I am going to provide ten hindsights today. Hindsights that I’ve accumulated in the 35 years from where you are to where I am.

Don’t blindly believe me.

Don’t take what I say as the “truth.”

Just listen. Perhaps my experience can help you a tiny bit as you enter this next phase of life.

  1. Live off your parents as long as possible. They worked very hard to give you a better life. Don’t deprive them of the pleasure of watching you enjoy it. You have your whole life to work for bozos. Why rush?

  2. Pursue joy, not happiness. Sure, the future is bright and all that stuff, but life is not uninterrupted, pure happiness. You will go through difficult times. But what balances and overcomes difficulty is episodic joy. Joy does not come from the possession of material things—it comes from experiences such as falling in love, making close friends, creating products and services that delight people, and eventually raising children—mdash;especially when they move out.

  3. Challenge the known and embrace the unknown. Many people challenge the unknown and embrace the known. Do the opposite: question the status quo because, quite frankly, the status quo is over-rated. Embrace, accept, and even better, cause change and enjoy the unknown.

  4. Change your mind. This is a sign of intelligence. Steve Jobs changed his mind all the time. Complete, total, utter 180 degree changes. And he made you think he was right both times. The ability to change your mind means that you’re thinking, questioning, and courageous enough to admit mistakes. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”

  5. Don’t worry, be crappy. Don’t wait for perfection. Life isn’t perfect. Do the best you can and ship. Real people ship and then test and then ship again. And test again. And ship again. And one day you wake up and by golly, you have something insanely great.

  6. Suck it up. Think of Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. He’s The Man because he’s willing to do the dirty job like working in factories, cleaning out sewers, and performing artificial insemination on pigs, chickens, turkeys, and llamas. Life isn’t easy. Suck it up.

  7. Don’t ask people to do something you wouldn’t do. This is the best test for everything you want to ask or expect others to do. If you wouldn’t do something, you have no right to expect anyone else to.

  8. Let me give you secret to succeeding in business: learning how to use PowerPoint. The optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation is 10. You should be able to give these ten slides in 20 minutes. The optimal font size is 30 points or ½ of the age of the oldest person in your audience.

  9. Learning and schooling are not the same thing. Learning is lifelong. Schooling is not. Arguably, you will start a new kind of learning tomorrow because learning from this point is mostly internally driven. When you stop learning, you mentally die. It’s that simple.

  10. Obey the absolutes. The greatest temptation in the work place is relativistic morality: I don’t cheat on my taxes as much as others. I don’t pad my expense report as much as others. I don’t goof off as much as others. This is the slippery slope that causes people to lie on their resumes, cheat customers, and defraud the government. Right is right. And wrong is wrong. Don’t ever forget that.

May I make one more observation? When you were young, you believed your parents were always right. As a teenager, you questioned them—perhaps thinking that they were clueless and you were right. As a young adult, you’ll start to see that your parents aren’t so clueless and are often right. And as you get older and older, you will eventually become your parents. Now that’s a scary hindsight.

As I said, don’t blindly believe me. Don’t take what I say as the “truth.” Just keep what I said in the back of your mind. Perhaps my experience can help you out a tiny bit. And now go forth and kick butt.

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1 Comment

  • donna_tribe

    Hey Guy, A realistic speech you have given these young people. I know it will stick in their heads like a hard drive. They may not realize these words now, but as they go through time, it will echo in their heads. Isn’t that always the way? Donna Merrill

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