It’s not often that you get to wear a gown and funny hat in public, and to celebrate your achievements, and to raise a toast to the future. This is what happens on Commencement Day. Graduating from anything—elementary school, high school, and beyond—is a special occasion.
This year, our co-CEOs Neil and Dave were honored (so honored!) to give a commencement speech to the graduating class of their alma mater, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Students of the graduating class were surprised with a pair of Warby Parker sunglasses, Oprah-style, and soaked up a few words of wisdom from Neil and Dave, before being unleashed upon the world.
(Congratulations, class of 2015! Go get ‘em, tigers and tigresses.)
If you’d like to soak up a little wisdom yourself, we’re sharing a few core nuggets from the commencement speech right here. Here, unedited, are 7 Life Lessons from Neil and Dave, who learned them all the hard way.
Lesson #1: All you need is friends.
Whether you’re earning a degree or building a business, it’s rare that we remember the moments of triumph. Far more often, we remember the moments of blind panic and comic relief. And the people who helped get us through them.
Lesson #2: Treat others the way they want to be treated.
This is similar to the golden rule, but not quite! It’s a good thing to “treat others the way you’d like to be treated”, but people are complex and different, and empathy is everything. Try hard to understand the people you engage with.
Lesson #3: Go easy on jargon.
Nobody knows what a 360º review is. “Circling up” is for kindergarteners. There’s no need to “shoot” anyone an email—you can just send it. It’ll get there just as fast.
Lesson #4: “No” is an excellent word.
Use it a lot. Use it respectfully. From a business standpoint, strategy is what you don’t do. From a personal happiness perspective, saying “no” to the wrong people will allow you time to say “yes” to the right people. (See lesson #1!)
Lesson #5: Dream big, fail small.
Take small steps, not big leaps. As the classic 1983 martial arts movie Shaolin and Wu Tang put it: “You must think first before you move.”
Lesson #6: Presume positive intent.
It’s human nature to assume the worst. Try not to do it. Believing the worst makes you cynical, and cynicism kills innovation. If you can’t presume positive intent, you might be hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Lesson #7: Always be tired.
If you’re not intellectually tired, you’re not tackling hard enough problems. If you’re not physically tired, you’re not squeezing every drop out of your day. Your eyes should already be closing in that one second before your head hits the pillow each night. That’s the right amount of tired.
Photo by Shira Yudkoff