You are here

Hind Sight

Guy Kawasaki is one of founders of Apple Computer who helped create the Macintosh computer.

Guy Kawasaki

Palo Alto High School Baccalaureate Speech 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 wouldbe 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

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

#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

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
positions 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 are 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 school.

#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 problem.

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

In its purest form, winning becomes a means, not an end, to
improve yourself and your competition.

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 squandered.

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 parents. 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.


Add new comment