I have endured some stunningly dull college commencement speeches, most recently at Columbia University for Heejin’s niece. At most of the ceremonies, administrators give the speeches, exhorting the kids to go forth and administrate :).
OK – it is not quite that bad, but I often think about what I would say to make the speeches a lot better. I would give sound advice and tell stories based on my own many screw-ups.
There are numerous pieces on the web (with “advice for 22 year olds”) from people far more successful than I, and I highly recommend them. Guy Kawasaki’s is a great example, e.g. be brief, tell stories with pictures (not long narratives), don’t get married young, don’t sweat your first job, continue to learn, right and wrong never change, ignore your past and deliver results now, make your boss look good, etc.
Here are a few things I’d tell myself that Mr. Kawasaki didn’t address:
1. Cultivate your social capital. This includes the oft repeated reminder that “you are the sum of the five people you are closest to” and the need to maintain contact with people who can help you down the road. I always thought I could work really hard and make it on my own. I couldn’t.
2. Save your cash when times are good. Be ultra prudent with investments and business opportunities; when times are not good, liquidity is invaluable. I realized this very painfully in 2008.
3. Stick to your knitting. I invested in businesses outside of my expertise and lost … a lot.
4. Vet your business partners and employees very carefully. Take your time and ask uncomfortable questions. Don’t ever think you can just fix things later on when you have more time. Later on is always too late.
5. Be patient and don’t compare yourself to others. I did this all too often, making myself unhappy and causing me to look for shortcuts. Interestingly, one of the guys I used to compare myself to is now in jail b/c the “success” that impressed me so much turned out to be a Ponzi scheme.
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