Jeff Bezos' Inspirational Princeton Graduation Speech
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and currently the richest person in the world, gave a very impressive and inspiring speech at the graduation ceremony of Princeton University in 2010.
We share with you the translation of this speech, which is a lesson on goodness, intelligence, innovation, entrepreneurship, determination and passion.
As a child, I used to stay at my grandparents' farm in Texas during the summer. I would help repair the mill, vaccinate the cows and do other jobs.
Also, we used to watch the TV series "Days of Our Lives" every evening. My grandfather and grandmother were members of a caravan club. We would travel to the USA and Canada together.
We tied the caravan to the back of my grandfather's car and set off with 300 caravans. I would love these travels.
I used to sit in the back of the car on these trips. My grandfather would drive the car, and my grandmother would sit next to him. My grandma smoked along the way and I hated the smell of smoke.
At that age, 10-11 years old, I used to love to apply mathematics to daily life. I used to calculate things like how many more kilometers we can travel with the available gasoline, how much we spend on grocery shopping. One day I saw an advertisement about smoking. I don't remember the details exactly, but basically, "Every cigarette you smoke steals 2 minutes from your life." It was written something like on this advertising sign.
I once tried to calculate how long my grandmother smoked in her life. I told my grandmother that 9 years were gone from her life while she was smoking.
I was hoping they would congratulate me on this math calculation, but I saw my grandmother start to cry. I didn't understand why he was crying then.
Then my grandfather pulled the car over, got out and told me to follow him. I was wondering if my grandfather would be angry with me.
My grandfather was an extremely intelligent and calm person. He never once said a bad word to me, but I thought this was going to be a first. Maybe he would have told me to apologize to my grandmother.
My grandfather looked at me and said quietly, "Jeff, one day you will learn the fact that being a good person is harder than being a smart person."
Today I want to tell you the difference between innate traits and preference. Intelligence is innate, but goodness is a choice.
It's easy to have innate traits. As the name implies, it comes from birth. No effort is required. However, choice is a difficult matter. If you're not careful, you can fool yourself with innate traits. If you do so, your preferences will be negatively affected.
You have many talents. I'm sure you are all highly intelligent and talented people. Even entering Princeton is an important issue in itself. If you were not recognized as intelligent, you would not be accepted into this school.
We need smart people like you. We will explore space with you and create clean energy resources. We will enter our cells and develop micro devices that repair the human body.
I am sure you will see that we can understand the human brain better. Curious people like Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Newton, Galileo would all want to live in our age.
As a civilization, we have many talents. But how will you use these abilities? Will pride play a role in your choices?
I founded Amazon in 1994. I noticed the fact that the rate of internet usage is increasing at an annual rate of 2300%. I haven't seen anything else that has grown so rapidly.
The idea of establishing an online bookstore was very exciting to me at that time.
I turned 30 and just married. I told my wife, Mackenzie, that I wanted to quit and start this business with a high probability of failure.
My wife, who is also a Princeton graduate, expressed that he would support me.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time in the garage, constantly trying to invent something new. For example, I made an automatic door closing device out of cement filled tires. I had built an umbrella and a solar-powered cooker from aluminum foil, but it wasn't very successful. I always wanted to be an inventor, and eventually my wife supported my decision.
At that time I was working for a financial company in New York, on Wall Street. My colleagues and boss were great people. I explained that I would go to my boss and start an online book business.
He invited me for a walk to Central Park and said: “Very good idea. But wouldn't it be better for someone who has no job to attempt such a job? "
It made sense to me. He advised me to take 48 hours to evaluate my decision.
I mean, I was in a difficult situation, but eventually I decided to enter the book business. I knew that even if I tried and failed, I wouldn't regret it. I always think that not trying an idea will lead to more negative consequences.
I scrutinized and eventually embarked on a less safe road, and I'm glad I made this decision.
Tomorrow you will also be the author of your own life. How will you use your talents and intelligence? What kind of decisions will you make? Will your guide be laziness or your passions?
Will you follow dogma and stereotypes or will you be authentic? Will you choose to live an easy life or a life full of adventure?
Will you dismiss your opinion in the face of criticism, or will you do what you know?
When you make a mistake, will you bluff or apologize?
Will you be resistant to rejection or will you be intrepid?
Will you go easy, or will you go on the adventure?
Will you give up when things get tough, or will you continue fighting relentlessly?
Will you be destructive or constructive?
Will you be smart or a good person at the expense of others?
When you reach the age of 80, I guess you will pass your life before your eyes and see that the most meaningful things are the decisions you make.
Ultimately, what makes us who we are is the decisions we make. Make a great story for yourself.