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Steve Ballmer to New Grads: 'I, Too, Don't Know What I'm Doing'

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently delivered an enthusiastic commencement address at the University of Washington.

Recent graduates of the University of Washington--and all of those who newly find themselves at a crossroad in their careers--likely took comfort hearing that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is in a similar position as well. 

"I am 58 years old, and I, too, don't know what I'm doing again," Ballmer said to applause Sunday during his University of Washington commencement speech.

Ballmer served as Microsoft's CEO for 14 years before stepping down in February. Prior to his resignation, most commentators widely agreed that it was in due time. Microsoft's stock value had tumbled over the course of 10 years, and the company had been struggling to chase Apple and Google for a large part of Ballmer's tenure.

Inc.'s Les McKeown concluded that it was Ballmer's leadership style that had hindered his own success. "The sports-coach-as-leader model doesn't work in business," McKeown stressed.

Whether or not you agree, you can certainly argue that, at the very least, his style lends itself well to motivating the masses. With a booming voice and sweeping hand gestures, he ushered more than 5,300 University of Washington graduates into the real world with some apt advice. Here are a few of Ballmer's best quotes.

Carpe Diem:

"Don't be afraid to make a mistake. Because you know what you can do if you grab the wrong [opportunity]? Drop it and pick up another one."

Have a point of view:

"Sometimes it will be your point of view that creates an opportunities. And sometimes you will pick up opportunities, and it will give you a chance to build a point of view."

"If you're like me, you might not have a point of view before you get started. But I had the privilege them to learn. And all of you will from somebody."

Be hard core:

"Hard core is really hard to define. But it is my favorite expression."

"I don't care what you do. You're going to have to be patient and industrious and really stay after things."

Don't make it all about one thing:

"Seize the personal opportunities that are in front of you, too. I really believe that people need to have more than one thing in their life. I feel fortunate. I have a life partner, I have kids, I have a family."

IMAGE: Youtube
Last updated: Jun 16, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.

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