What would you give to be a Class of '17 graduate at a college where Bill Gates was giving the commencement speech? Now you can have the next best thing. This year, the Microsoft founder, legendary philanthropist, and world's wealthiest human decided to spread the wealth by publishing what amounts to a brief and profoundly wise commencement speech in a series of 14 tweets beginning just before 9 Eastern Time this morning.
"New college grads often ask me for career advice," he starts out. So, at the risk of sounding like the guy in the movie The Graduate who pulls the Dustin Hoffman character aside to offer him a single word of career advice--"Plastics!"--Gates launches in. In just under 300 words, he provides thought-provoking comments on what he would do if he were graduating today and what he wishes he'd known back then. Here's a link to the full text. Here are the highlights:
1. Consider A.I., biosciences, and energy for your next career move.
These are fields where you can "make a huge impact," Gates tweets. Although he does not specify, I'd bet billions he means green energy, not fossil fuels.
2. Intelligence is overrated.
Gates tweets that he wishes he'd known when he left college that intelligence can take many forms and is "not as important as I used to think." That aligns with recent research suggesting that "grit" and emotional resilience may be better predictors of success than IQ.
3. You should start fighting now for a fairer world.
Gates tweets that one of his biggest regrets is the decades it took him to learn about the world's worst inequities. "You know more than I did when I was your age," he tweets. That's probably true and a hopeful sign in itself. Gates wants new graduates and everyone else to start doing something about it, whether it's right where you are or halfway around the world. Now.
4. Choose friends and loved ones who make you a better person.
"Surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self," he tweets. "Like Warren Buffett, I measure my happiness by whether people close to me are happy and love me, and by the difference I make for others." That's a great way to have a happy life.
5. Take heart! The world is a better place than you think.
Reading the news every day, and seeing the bitter divisions in our society that last year's presidential election revealed could make even the sunniest, most optimistic person sink into despair. That may be why Gates recommends The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker, saying he would give it to every new college grad if he could. (Although, of course, he can. He is the richest guy in the world, after all.)
Pinker's book goes back to ancient times and "shows how the world is getting better," Gates tweets. "Sounds crazy, but it's true. This is the most peaceful time in human history."
That matters, he says, because if you think the world is getting better, you want to spread that improvement to more people and places. And while you understand that we're facing some very serious problems, you also have faith that they can be solved. This view of the world "sustains me in tough times and is the reason I love my work," he tweets. "I think it can do the same for you."
And he closes with this eloquent parting: "This is an amazing time to be alive. I hope you make the most of it."
I hope he does something like this again next year.