College students across the country will accept diplomas and step out into the “real world” for the first time this month. Some have jobs, many don’t, but all are hopeful about what lies ahead.
As to their first steps beyond the comfort of campus, whose advice should they follow? What lessons should they heed as they embark on this great journey of independence and self-sufficiency? How about listening to some of the most successful people anywhere: visionary business leaders who built empires from nothing and now rank among the wealthiest on the planet. Here’s a curated list of lessons billionaires have given to college graduates over the years in commencement addresses.
Steve Jobs: Live Each Day As If It Was Your Last
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, some day you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. ~Stanford University, 2005
Bill Gates: From Those To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Expected
My mother, who was filled with pride the day I was admitted here-never stopped pressing me to do more for others. A few days before my wedding, she hosted a bridal event, at which she read aloud a letter about marriage that she had written to Melinda. My mother was very ill with cancer at the time, but she saw one more opportunity to deliver her message, and at the close of the letter she said: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” ~Harvard University, 2007
Oprah Winfrey: We All Need Makeovers From Time To Time
People love makeovers, because the physical results are always so astonishing. But I like doing them because of the possibility of transforming more than the way people look. You want to change the way people feel about themselves. One man, a guy we’d just seen walking down the street, with a beard that was almost to the ground, it looked like he was hiding behind all of that beard. And after we got rid of all that hair and he could actually see himself, he said, “I feel alive again.” The makeover allowed him to see himself in a way that he’d forgotten was there. You know, we all need makeovers from time to time in our lives, and graduates, I know this, that if you can see the possibility of changing your life, of seeing what you can become and not just what you are, you will be a huge success. ~Duke University, 2009
Michael Dell: Never Be The Smartest Person In The Room
Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organizations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships. ~University of Texas, 2003
Michael Bloomberg: Don’t Stay Down Long
My first job out of school was on Wall Street and I stayed there for 15 years. It was a terrific ride: Fun times, and lots of praise from my bosses. Everybody loved me – right up until the day they fired me! But I remained optimistic – because happiness for me has always been going out and trying to beat the odds. So the next day after I got fired, literally the next day, I started a new company. ~Tufts University, 2007
JK Rowling: Failure Can Be the Foundation Of Success
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. ~Harvard University, 2008 (Note: No longer a billionaire)