Fun_People Archive
31 Jan
Guy Kawasaki on Life

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 97 16:02:52 -0800
To: Fun_People
Subject: Guy Kawasaki on Life

Forwarded-by: "Jack D. Doyle" <>
Forwarded-by: Kevin Johnsrude <>
Forwarded-by: Bruce Kyle
Forwarded-by: (Concord Communications)

   by Guy Kawasaki

(Guy Kawasaki was on Apple Computer's Macintosh development team. He
delivered this speech to the graduates of Palo Alto High School on 6/11/95.)

Speaking to you today marks a milestone in my life. I am 40 years old.  22
years ago, when I was in your seat, I never, ever thought I would be 40
years old. The implications of being your speaker frightens me.  For one
thing, when a 40 year old geeser spoke at my baccalaureate ceremony, he was
about the last person I'd believe. I have no intention of giving you the
boring speech that you are dreading. This speech will be short, sweet, and
not boring.

I am going to talk about hindsights today. Hindsights that I've accumulated
in the 20 years from where you are to where I am. Don't blindly believe me.
Don't take what I say as "truth." Just listen.  Perhaps my experience can
help you out a tiny bit.  I will present them ala David Letterman.  Yes,
40-year old people can still stay up past 11.

#10: Live off your parents as long as possible.

When I spoke at this ceremony two years ago, this was the most popular
hindsight-except from the point of view of the parents. Thus, I knew I was
on the right track.  I was a diligent Oriental in high school and college.
I took college-level classes and earned college-level credits. I rushed
through college in 3 1/2 years. I never traveled or took time off because
I thought it wouldn't prepare me for work and it would delay my graduation.

Frankly, I blew it.  You are going to work the rest of your lives, so don't
be in a rush to start. Stretch out your college education. Now is the time
to suck life into your lungs-before you have a mortgage, kids, and car
payments.  Take whole semester off to travel overseas.  Take jobs and
internships that pay less money or no money. Investigate your passions on
your parent's nickel. Or dime. Or quarter. Or dollar.  Your goal should be
to extend college to at least six years.

Delay, as long as possible, the inevitable entry into the workplace and a
lifetime of servitude to bozos who know less than you do, but who make more
money. Also, you shouldn't deprive your parents of the pleasure of
supporting you.

#9 Pursue joy, not happiness.

This is probably the hardest lesson of all to learn. It probably seems to
you that the goal in life is to be "happy." Oh, you maybe have to sacrifice
and study and work hard, but, by and large, happiness should be predictable.
Nice house. Nice car. Nice material things.  Take my word for it, happiness
is temporary and fleeting. Joy, by contrast, is unpredictable. It comes from
pursuing interests and passions that do not obviously result in happiness.
Pursuing joy, not happiness will translate into one thing over the next few
years for you: Study what you love. This may also not be popular with
parents.  When I went to college, I was "marketing driven." It's also an
Oriental thing. I looked at what fields had the greatest job opportunities
and prepared myself for them. This was brain dead. There are so many ways
to make a living in the world, it doesn't matter that you've taken all the
"right" courses. I don't think one person on the original Macintosh team
had a classic "computer science" degree.

You parents have a responsibility in this area. Don't force your kids to
follow in your footsteps or to live your dreams. My father was a senator in
Hawaii. His dream was to be a lawyer, but he only had a high school
education. He wanted me to be a lawyer.

For him, I went to law school. For me, I quit after two weeks. I view this
a terrific validation of my inherent intelligence.

#8: Challenge the known and embrace the unknown.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in life is to accept the known and
resist the unknown. You should, in fact, do exactly the opposite: challenge
the known and embrace the unknown.

Let me tell you a short story about ice. In the late 1800s there was a
thriving ice industry in the Northeast. Companies would cut blocks of ice
from frozen lakes and ponds and sell them around the world. The largest
single shipment was 200 tons that was shipped to India. 100 tons got there
unmelted, but this was enough to make a profit.

These ice harvesters, however, were put out of business by companies that
invented mechanical ice makers. It was no longer necessary to cut and ship
ice because companies could make it in any city during any season.  These
ice makers, however, were put out of business by refrigerator companies. If
it was convenient to make ice at a manufacturing plant, imagine how much
better it was to make ice and create cold storage in everyone's home.  You
would think that the ice harvesters would see the advantages of ice making
and adopt this technology. However, all they could think about was the
known: better saws, better storage, better transportation.

Then you would think that the ice makers would see the advantages of
refrigerators and adopt this technology. The truth is that the ice
harvesters couldn't embrace the unknown and jump their curve to the next
curve. Challenge the known and embrace the unknown, or you'll be like the
ice harvester and ice makers.

#7: Learn to speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, and play
non-contact sports.

Learn a foreign language. I studied Latin in high school because I thought
it would help me increase my vocabulary. It did, but trust me when I tell
you it's very difficult to have a conversation in Latin today other than at
the Vatican. And despite all my efforts, the Pope has yet to call for my
advice. Learn to play a musical instrument. My only connection to music
today is that I was named after Guy Lombardo.  Trust me: it's better than
being named after Guy's brother, Carmen.  Playing a musical instrument could
be with me now and stay with me forever. Instead, I have to buy CDs at

I played football. I loved football. Football is macho. I was a middle
linebacker-arguably, one of the most macho position in a macho game.  But
you should also learn to play a non-contact sport like basketball or tennis.
That is, a sport you can play when you're over the hill.  It will be as
difficult when you're 40 to get twenty two guys together in a stadium to
play football as it is to have a conversation in Latin, but all the people
who wore cute, white tennis outfits can still play tennis. And all the macho
football players are sitting around watching television and drinking beer.

#6: Continue to learn.

Learning is a process not an event. I thought learning would be over when
I got my degree. It's not true. You should never stop learning.  Indeed, it
gets easier to learn once you're out of school because it's easier to see
the relevance of why you need to learn.

You're learning in a structured, dedicated environment right now. On your
parent's nickel. But don't confuse school and learning. You can go to school
and not learn a thing. You can also learn a tremendous amount without

#5: Learn to like yourself or change yourself until you can like yourself.

I know a forty year old woman who was a drug addict. She is a mother of
three. She traced the start of her drug addiction to smoking dope in high
school.  I'm not going to lecture you about not taking drugs.  Hey, I smoked
dope in high school. Unlike Bill Clinton, I inhaled.  Also unlike Bill
Clinton, I exhaled.  This woman told me that she started taking drugs
because she hated herself when she was sober. She did not like drugs so much
as much as she hated herself. Drugs were not the cause though she thought
they were the solution. She turned her life around only after she realized
that she was in a downward spiral. Fix your problem. Fix your life. Then
you won't need to take drugs. Drugs are neither the solution nor the

Frankly, smoking, drugs, alcohol-and using an IBM PC-are signs of stupidity.
End of discussion.

#4: Don't get married too soon.

I got married when I was 32. That's about the right age. Until you're about
that age, you may not know who you are. You also may not know who you're
marrying.  I don't know one person who got married too late. I know many
people who got married too young. If you do decide to get married, just keep
in mind that you need to accept the person for what he or she is right now.

#3: Play to win and win to play.

Playing to win is one of the finest things you can do. It enables you to
fulfill your potential. It enables you to improve the world and,
conveniently, develop high expectations for everyone else too.  And what if
you lose? Just make sure you lose while trying something grand. Avinash
Dixit, an economics professor at Princeton, and Barry Nalebuff, an economics
and management professor at the Yale School of Organization and Management,
say it this way:

"If you are going to fail, you might as well fail at a difficult task.
Failure causes others to downgrade their expectations of you in the future.
The seriousness of this problem depends on what you attempt." In its purest
form, winning becomes a means, not an end, to improve yourself and your

Winning is also a means to play again. The unexamined life may not be worth
living, but the unlived life is not worth examining. The rewards of
winning-money, power, satisfaction, and self-confidence-should not be

Thus, in addition to playing to win, you have a second, more important
obligation: To compete again to the depth and breadth and height that your
soul can reach. Ultimately, your greatest competition is yourself.

#2: Obey the absolutes.

Playing to win, however, does not mean playing dirty. As you grow older and
older, you will find that things change from absolute to relative. When you
were very young, it was absolutely wrong to lie, cheat, or steal.

As you get older, and particularly when you enter the workforce, you will
be tempted by the "system" to think in relative terms. "I made more money."

"I have a nicer car." "I went on a better vacation."

Worse, "I didn't cheat as much on my taxes as my partner." "I just have a
few drinks. I don't take cocaine." "I don't pad my expense reports as much
as others."

This is completely wrong. Preserve and obey the absolutes as much as you
can. If you never lie, cheat, or steal, you will never have to remember who
you lied to, how you cheated, and what you stole.  There absolutely are
absolute rights and wrongs.

#1: Enjoy your family and friends before they are gone.

This is the most important hindsight. It doesn't need much explanation.
I'll just repeat it: Enjoy your family and friends before they are gone.
Nothing-not money, power, or fame-can replace your family and friends or
bring them back once they are gone. Our greatest joy has been our baby, and
I predict that children will bring you the greatest joy in your
lives-especially if they graduate from college in four years.

And now, I'm going to give you one extra hindsight because I've probably
cost your parents thousands of dollars today. It's something that I hate to
admit to.  By and large, the older you get, the more you're going to realize
that your parents were right. More and more-until finally, you become your

I know you're all saying, "Yeah, right." Mark my words.  Remember these ten
things: if just one of them helps you helps just one of you, this speech
will have been a success:

 #10: Live off your parents as long as possible.
 #9:  Pursue joy, not happiness.
 #8:  Challenge the known and embrace the unknown.
 #7:  Learn to speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, and
      play non-contact sports.
 #6:  Continue to learn.
 #5:  Learn to like yourself or change yourself until you can like yourself.
 #4:  Don't get married too soon.
 #3:  Play to win and win to play.
 #2:  Obey the absolutes.
 #1:  Enjoy your family and friends before they are gone.

Congratulations on your graduation. Thank you very much.

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