Graduation Speech by John Morgridge, MBA '57
The full transcript of the keynote speech given at the 2012 Stanford GSB diploma ceremony.
Thank you Dean Saloner for your kind introduction. My grandchildren who are present might believe all of it but my wife, Tashia, also present, would be sure to edit it.
Class of 2012, it is an honor to be part of your graduation. 57 years ago, I graduated from Stanford GSB. I did not attend commencement as we were off to Lackland Air Force Base for pre-flight training as a Second Lieutenant. Decades of war — WWII, Korea, and Vietnam resulted in a program called the draft and everyone was requested to serve. However, I doubt my classmates who attended remember if we had a commencement speaker let alone what was said. With that in mind, I will be brief and offer some observations from eight decades of life’s journey — which I refer to as “Rules for the Long Road.” They are not new or necessarily original.
Enjoy and Live Fully Each Stage of Life
Don’t hurry! Marriage, first job, start up, children, grandchildren, retirement, post-employment opportunities. College and graduate school were a wonderful time of life for me and my very best friend, Tashia, as I am sure it has been for many of you. Try to find that same fulfillment in your jobs. You will spend ¼ of your life working. The Myers-Briggs test said I should have a goal of becoming the president of a company. It was not until I was 54 years old that I became president of a failing lap top company, GRID, courtesy of a business friend I had worked for at Honeywell. It is a hard title to get unless you start your own company or thank Dad when you get it.
Invest in Friendships (and a Good Marriage)
Start now — friendships are not free — cards, calls, gatherings, emails, Facebook, tweets. It takes time but pays life long dividends. Long relationships do not just happen, they require personal investment over time, but they are the essence of a life fully lived. I still duck hunt every year with high school and college friends who took geology professor Doc Loudon’s no credit weekend Wisconsin Duck hunting course back in the 50s. As a special favor to your folks, marry early and start a family. Grandchildren are the wonderful gift your parents get for raising you. To our delight, five of our grandchildren are in college — one here at Stanford, one at UC Berkeley and one at our Alma mater, the University of Wisconsin - Madison. They often come and sometimes even cook dinner for us.
Set Annual Mental and Physical Challenges
Be curious — stay hungry — learning is the work of a lifetime. I loved my work as a computer salesman because it let me ask lots of questions and learn about many different businesses. Fifteen years ago I started teaching a course on entrepreneurship here at the GSB. It is indeed a wonderful mental challenge to prepare for and teach 60+ young adults like you twice a week. Stay physically active — start now and when you are 50, 60, 70, you will have the bodies to keep up with your desires. Our outlet has been bicycling. In the past 20 years we have ridden our bikes across Wisconsin, New York, and Missouri; around Lake Michigan; to many of the Civil War battlefields; from San Francisco to Chicago and across the United States; from our home in Portola Valley to our home in Holderness New Hampshire — 70 days, 4,400 miles, and lots of Super 8s. Tashia insisted we “credit card,” not camp. Jogging in our forties and fifties gave us the stamina to do that. Five years ago we hiked the Long Trail, a 300-mile south/north journey in the Green Mountains of Vermont — 77 mountains, 19 gaps, 30 days. Our trail name was “The Old People,” given us by our grandson.
Learn to Forgive — Both Others and Yourself
Mistakes are a part of life.
Make amends and move on.
Don’t carry baggage — it weighs both you and your friends down.
Make Sure That What You Want to Be is What You Want to Do
As a senior at the University of Wisconsin - Madison I took a series of pre-law courses. While the title of lawyer was appealing to my mother, the actual work was not that interesting to me. Many individual contributors, engineers, architects, teachers, researchers long for management jobs, not realizing that these are people jobs, not technical jobs. Hiring — Reviewing — Terminating.
We spend a quarter or more of our life working. Make sure it is more than just a living. Make sure it is a life — an interest — a passion. You are blessed with an endless list of work options. Take the risks to find the one that is fulfilling for you and a challenge you want to take on.
Learn to Give Back
The graduates of the GSB have a wonderful tradition of giving back. The new campus is a testament to that. Seek ways to give back — with time, talent, and treasure. Make sure you develop the art of small check giving. Our first check to the Stanford was for $10.00 in 1967. In recent years we have added a few zeros. We are fortunate people. It is our need and responsibility to help our fellow man.
Live Your Values
They will be tested both in good times and bad. Hold on to them. Make them part of who you are.
Listen — But Don’t Always Be Looking for a New Opportunity
Remember opportunity is random and may come in many different forms. Sometimes it comes in the form of a disappointment. The challenge is to be ready and recognize it when it appears.
In the summer of 1955 I received my rejection letter from Harvard Business School, and as a result we came to Palo Alto — not Boston. Some 50 years later I fully appreciate how lucky that was.
In the fall of 1957 Eisenhower shifted our defense policy from tactical to strategic and instead of flying an F86 around Europe I ended up flying a desk at the 1607 Air Terminal Squadron at Dover Delaware.
Because I had an MBA, I became the officer in charge of the IBM Documentation Center. My IBM salesman took me to lunch as I was departing the Air Force two years later and whispered across the table, “It’s computers my son.” While only a few years my senior, he was right. His advice and Moore’s Law provided over 40 years of excellent opportunities as I went from main frames to minicomputers to PCs. In 1988, we sold the GRID laptop business to a large electronics retailer for $150 million. Truth be told, it was more of a business dream than a going concern. It is hard to compete when you buy most of your products parts from your competitors. Based on my minicomputer and PC experience, my gut intuition told me that the next BIG THING was the networking of all the world’s computers. That fall I became president and 39th employee of a East Palo Alto startup building a multi-protocol router designed to do just that. It was call Cisco.
It is, unfortunately, true that our generation and that of your parents have left you with lots of major challenges that will now be yours to address. Wars, budget challenges, pollution, global warming, cuts to education, battles over health care, natural disasters. The list goes on.
Are You Ready?
You are a privileged few who have earned an MBA from Stanford University. You live in an amazing country that at the moment is politically divided. Will you add to this divide or help to bridge the gap? The choices you will make given your youth, your energy, your knowledge and your experience will change your community, your country and your world. Your involvement will make a difference.
A Last Thought — Stay Foolish
Ride across the country at 63 — foolish said our children. When we arrived in Missoula, Montana they knew we would make it. Better in the doing than the telling.
Hike the Long Trail in Vermont at 73. Better in the telling than the doing — we had a lot of rain!
So today you will graduate from Stanford GSB! Well done! Let’s give them a hand.
Be curious = stay foolish.
I have always wished that for myself.
Now as you set out on this new phase of your life, I wish that for you!
Congratulations, good luck, and thanks for listening!
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