It is graduation time. The season would not be complete with posts and re-posts of words of wisdom found in commencement addresses. By now, everyone on the planet has watched the Steve Job's speech, so I will omit it. Here are a few of my favorites:
Brad Feld (www.feld.com), an entrepreneur and venture capitalist here in Boulder CO recently addressed a group of graduating MBAs. Here is his advice:
"Imagine that you are 45 and are looking back on your last 15-20 years. Is your work, and life, full of meaning?
Don’t worry about money right now. You can always get a job that pays you plenty of money. Don’t worry about your resume. Don’t worry about “am I positioning myself the right way for something five years from now.” I know way too many 45 year olds who have plenty of money, have done all the right career things, yet are unhappy with where they are in life, where they live, and what they do. Don’t be that guy or gal.
Start by choosing the place you want to make a life. If it’s Boulder, figure out how to stay here. If it’s New York, there’s an easy United flight that gets you there in under four hours – take it the day after you graduate. San Francisco? That flight is only two hours long. Just go and figure it out when you get there. Don’t talk about “I’m going to live there some day” – go get in the middle of wherever it is that you want to build a life. Oh, and Boise is a pretty cool place, as is Austin, Seattle, Miami, DC, and at least 95 other cities in the United States.
Next, choose a domain that you want to dedicate your life to. If you’ve dreamed of being an investment banker or consultant to Fortune 1000 companies since you were 10, then Goldman Sachs or McKinsey is looking for you. If you want to be an entrepreneur, working at an investment bank or consulting firm for a while is pointless. Be an entrepreneur starting now. Pick that domain that turns you on the most – start at a high level (e.g. software, Internet, clean tech) but then pick a thing that you really care about and a set of problems you want to solve. If you aren’t technical, go find a technical co-founder right now – there are hundreds of them on this campus. Get your ass out of your chair and just get started.
Finally, make sure you are living your life. You are young and hopefully have plenty of time on this planet. But don’t wait because you never know when the lights are going to go out.
Ok – that’s more cogent than what I probably said in real time, but it’s what I meant. And I think it applies to anyone about to graduate with an MBA. When I graduated from MIT Sloan with an SM (they didn’t have MBA’s back in 1988) I was already following three of these – I hadn’t focused on where I wanted to live until 1995 when Amy and I moved to Boulder. But when I look back, I didn’t care about money (and subsequently made plenty of it), I focused all of my energy on building a software company (which evolved into helping create software / Internet companies), and I lived my life every single moment – the ups, the downs, the dark depressed days, and the euphoric moments.
Go do something important right now, whatever that is for you. The world needs it and your chances of living a meaningful, happy, and fulfilling life will increase dramatically."
Neil Gaiman gave a commencement speech last week at the Philadelphia’s the University of the Arts. The fiction author famous for "The Sandman" and "Coraline" was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts at the ceremony. Whatever your work, make good art:
The founder of Scouting, Lord Baden-Powell, penned a letter years before his death in the 1940's. Here are his final words to the Scouts of the world, which now number in the millions:
If you have ever seen the play Peter Pan you will remember how the pirate chief was always making his dying speech because he was afraid that possibly when the time came for him to die he might not have time to get it off his chest. It is much the same with me, and so, although I am not at this moment dying, I shall be doing so one of these days and I want to send you a parting word of good-bye.
Remember, it is the last you will ever hear from me, so think it over.
I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have as happy a life too.
I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness doesn't come from being rich, nor merely from being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man.
Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.
But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. "Be Prepared" in this way, to live happy and to die happy-- stick to your Scout promise always-- even after you have ceased to be a boy-- and God help you to do it.