“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”
– C.S. Lewis
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
– R. Buckminster Fuller, (1895-1983) Architect.
Thank you Vanessa!
Here’s the transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s commencement speech at Menlo College:
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.
Dont take what I say as “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—especially if 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 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.
And 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 weren’t so clueless and were often right. And as you get older and older, you will eventually become your parents. Now that is a scary hindsight.
As I said, don’t blindly believe me. Don’t take what I say as “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.
– Guy Kawasaki
It was cold that day. I could stop by a café and sip something hot but I decided to head to my doctor’s office instead.
When I walked in, I saw a very familiar face. The man had wrinkles and grey hair, but his eyes and smile were the same. After a few minutes of intense scrutiny, I couldn’t resist asking him if he were Mister G. the headmaster of my primary school and… there he was.
Mister G. was a true believer of public education. He spent 3 decades fighting for the ethics of public school and did a lot for youngsters, families of immigrants and workers. It was only when I left the Marais for the suburbs, that I realised how privileged we were. With his team, he gave us a real access to the French public education. He implemented adaptation classes for bigger kids who had just arrived in France but also adaptive courses for the quick learners and those who were getting bored. You could feel that you belonged to a place, that you were accepted.
My most memorable moment was the morning he decided to reject the offer of a children publishing house and tell us first why. There were piles of albums sent by a big company that were waiting in the corridors to be distributed. He was sitting in our class, very solemn, and we all knew that he had something important to say: “Kids, you are going to be disappointed but I am going to send all these albums back. And I am going to tell you why. I know that some of your parents don’t read French and don’t know what these things are. I don’t want to fool your families. I don’t want to make them believe that buying images and stickers to fill these albums is a compulsory expense. Simply because they were given by the school and school has this power.” – And this was for me, a life changing speech. Not only, he talked to us like reasonable and reasoning human beings, but he gave us also, a great demonstration of this quote by Plato: “The measure of a man is what he does with power”.
I was one hour early for my appointment that day, and life gave me this incredible opportunity to tell him how much he inspired me and how he shaped my education and my bond to education. I would probably not be the person I am today, if I hadn’t had him leading all these educators, at a very early stage of my life. That was something I wanted to tell him while he was still alive. – So, THANK YOU, Sir.
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
“Courage is not the absence of fear — it is inspiring others to move beyond it.”
– Nelson Mandela