Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, stepped on the podium at Princeton in 2010, twenty-four years after his own graduation with a degree in computer science in 1986, to address the graduating class about —
The difference between cleverness and kindness:
What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices.
Cleverness is a gift; kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.
Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life — the life you author from scratch on your own — begins.
How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?
Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?
Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
Jeff compels us to seriously reconsider carving out our own fate by re-writing a great story for ourselves:
I will hazard a prediction. When you are 80 years old and in a quiet moment, a reflection narrating for only yourself — the most personal version of your life story — the telling that will be the most compact and meaningful —will be the series of choices that you’ve made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.
A clip of Jeff Bezos delivering graduation speech at Princeton University in 2010.