A new favorite speech. Some key lessons from Prof. Deepak Malhotra’s commencement speech for HBS 2012:
Quit early and quit often. Be the best quitter you know.
Close your eyes and imagine what you are going to be doing after you graduate. Ask yourself: Am I really excited about this? Is this what I always wanted to be doing at this stage of life? Is this what I dreamed of doing? Is this what I really really want to do? If the answer is no, I suggest you quit and you quit now. And save yourself some time.
Two things I’ll say about quitting before we move on to something else. First, I’m not saying quit something because its hard. I’m telling you to quit something because it sucks. It’s just not for you. It maybe for everyone sitting near to you, but it’s not for you. Quit it. Don’t spend years justifying why you got to do it. If you have the opportunity quit. The second thing, I’ll say. Quitting is not for the weak. Quitting takes strength. Quitting often takes more strength than perseverance. Cultivate the strength to quit and make it a habit. It allows you to say no to a lot of things and yes to the few things that maybe you didn’t even know were perfect for you.
Now of course after all this quitting you’ll have to do something in your life. What job should you take? Make sure what you are doing creates value. There are two kinds of people. There are those who figure out how to create value first and then worry about how much money they will make later. There are those who figure out to make money, but don’t really create value for anyone. We call these people thieves. Don’t be a thief.
Learn to see the world in gentler eyes. What does matter is how much you are willing to understand people on the other side.
Empathy matters most when you are dealing with people who seem to deserve it least. Before we have empathy, we have to have humility. Humility and confidence are not enemies. They are best friends. If you have one or the other you are in trouble. People with lots of humility and no confidence are not doing too much. But the people with all the confidence in world, but no humility. I see one of those people and I see a person about to go down in flames. You got to have both. Yes, it can be done. What are the limits that I can do on my own?
You got to get your learn on. We walk into a situation with preconceived notions about it is that I should learn. You are going to learn a lot more if you are not so picky about who you are going to learn from and what you learn. If you are open to the idea of learning from every experience that you are having.
Our limitation is that most of the time we aren’t learning what is our there to learn. You may not learn what you came here to learn, there are opportunities to learn everywhere but it may just not have come in the form that you expected. Don’t be a picky learner.
People change, people are not a memory of who they were. Often we do not recognize that our significant others, parents, friends, and others change daily and become new people through their experiences in life. Instead, we choose to see them as how they were, similar to how a grandparent may still see their 24 year old granddaughter as their “sweet 5 year old.” The key is to be aware of who people are in the present moment, and how to grow along with that changing person.
Stay in touch with your teachers. They invest in a lot in you. Reach out and let them know how you are doing.