I finished my Master’s Degree last year in June and today is the official graduation ceremony.
Today, more than thinking about what I’ve learned so far, I am reminiscing about how that particular period of finishing my Degree felt to me. It was an overwhelming period caught between closing some doors (finishing my thesis, finishing my mandate as President of BEST ) as well as opening doors (finding a job, finding a new place to live, figuring out what to do with my live).
At that time, I was lucky enough to read Derek Houston’s Commencement Speech at MIT (video, transcript) which ended up defining how I approached that particular period of my life. Perhaps, it does mention all the cliché things that you find in many commencement speeches yet, it had everything I needed to listen at that particular time.
It’s funny how sometimes you just need to hear the right words in order to push yourself forward!
I’m so excited for all of you is that today is the first day of your
life where you no longer need to check boxes. For your first couple
decades, success in life has meant jumping through one hoop after
another: get these test scores, get into this college. Take these
classes, get this degree. Get into this prestigious institution so you
can get into the next prestigious institution. All of that ends today.
It took me a while to get it, but the hardest-working people don’t
work hard because they’re disciplined. They work hard because working
on an exciting problem is fun. So after today, it’s not about pushing
yourself; it’s about finding your tennis ball, the thing that pulls
you. It might take a while, but until you find it, keep listening for
that little voice.
Here was my faithful beer pong partner and my little brother in the
fraternity, two years younger than me. I was out of excuses. He was
off to the Super Bowl and I wasn’t even getting drafted. He had no
idea at the time, but Adam had given me just the kick I needed. It was
time for a change. They say that you’re the average of the 5 people
you spend the most time with. Think about that for a minute: who would
be in your circle of 5? One thing I’ve learned is surrounding yourself
with inspiring people is now just as important as being talented or
working hard. Can you imagine if Michael Jordan hadn’t been in the
NBA, if his circle of 5 had been a bunch of guys in Italy? Your circle
pushes you to be better, just as Adam pushed me. And now your circle
will grow to include your coworkers and everyone around you. Where you
live matters: there’s only one MIT. And there’s only one Hollywood and
only one Silicon Valley. This isn’t a coincidence: for whatever you’re
doing, there’s usually only one place where the top people go. You
should go there. Don’t settle for anywhere else. Meeting my heroes and
learning from them gave me a huge advantage. Your heroes are part of
your circle too. Follow them. If the real action is happening
somewhere else, move.
The last trap you might fall into after school is “getting ready.”
Don’t get me wrong: learning is your top priority, but now the fastest
way to learn is by doing. If you have a dream, you can spend a
lifetime studying and planning and getting ready for it. What you
should be doing is getting started.
As you might expect, building this company has been the most exciting,
interesting and fulfilling experience of my life. What I haven’t
really shared is that it’s also been the most humiliating, frustrating
and painful experience too, and I can’t even count the number of
things that have gone wrong. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter. No one
has a 5.0 in real life. In fact, when you finish school, the whole
notion of a GPA just goes away. When you’re in school, every little
mistake is a permanent crack in your windshield. But in the real
world, if you’re not swerving around and hitting the guard rails every
now and then, you’re not going fast enough. Your biggest risk isn’t
failing, it’s getting too comfortable.
Bill Gates’s first company made software for traffic lights. Steve
Jobs’s first company made plastic whistles that let you make free
phone calls. Both failed, but it’s hard to imagine they were too upset
about it. That’s my favorite thing that changes today. You no longer
carry around a number indicating the sum of all your mistakes. From
now on, failure doesn’t matter: you only have to be right once.
I read something online that said “There are 30,000 days in your
life.” At first I didn’t think much of it, but on a whim I tabbed over
to the calculator. I type in 24 times 365 and — oh my God, I’m almost
9,000 days down. What the hell have I been doing? So that’s how 30,000
ended up on the cheat sheet. That night, I realized there are no
warmups, no practice rounds, no reset buttons. Every day we’re writing
a few more words of a story. And when you die, it’s not like “here
lies Drew, he came in 174th place.” So from then on, I stopped trying
to make my life perfect, and instead tried to make it interesting. I
wanted my story to be an adventure — and that’s made all the
And today on your commencement, your first day of life in the real
world, that’s what I wish for you. Instead of trying to make your life
perfect, give yourself the freedom to make it an adventure, and go