reetings Principal Farr, faculty, administration, board members,
grandparents, parents, siblings … dogs … dog walkers, dog groomers,
dog orthopedists, dog psychologists, dog open space lobbyists, dog
CrossFit instructors and, of course, class of 2017 graduates!
It is an honor to be here today and share with you a true 21st-century
American success story. Listen carefully and you may soon find yourselves on
the path to greatness.
That greatness was inside of a boy, who sat, like you, at his high school graduation down in Palo Alto a few decades back. That boy had pulled himself up by
his bootstraps and gained admission to Stanford University. He had done it
through his own grit and determination.
(And multiple edits from his professional writer father on his application
essay. And two prior generations of Stanford grads in his legacy.)
But mostly, yeah. It was the grit.
Then, after college, with nothing more than six months of paid living
expenses from his parents, he started an internet company.
( Well, he didn’t start it — a computer science buddy from his freshman dorm
started it and was like hey, you want to help me with this?)
But the young man had the brilliance, the foresight, to say, yes. Yes, I will
start that company with you because I am not doing anything else right now!
And so the two started that company. They did it their way. On their own.
(Sure, there was the older Stanford buddy who back-doored them into
US Web as a subsidiary from day one. And sure, there was that internet bubble.)
But within two years that boy had become a man. A man with $50 million
of illiquid, doomed internet stock. He was 24 years old. He got his picture in
the Wall Street Journal.
And do you know who that man was? This guy! Me! I was that dude!
And boy was I a schmuck. I partied too much. I’d get angry when people suggested my success was due to luck. I made my own luck! Or so I thought. I was
entitled. I was arrogant. I had no clue who I was. And deep down, I was pretty
terrified that I was a fraud. In short, I was unhappy.
There were three events that saved me from schmuckdom.
The first event was I became a teacher at Tam. I showed up the first day,
ready to bestow my talents upon the school. Then, 15 minutes in, the students
locked me out of the room. Those kids had mad skills.
Things did not immediately get better. Kids can smell the fake on you. And
the worst teachers try to pretend to be someone they’re not. I apologize to this
day to any student I taught before about 2007. [Valedictorian] Nell Mitchell
— great speech! Where’s Nell Mitchell’s family? Wave. There you are. Is Nell’s
older sister Alex here? Alex — sorry. My bad. Anybody else? OK.
The second event that saved me was I married a wonderful woman who
loved me enough to call me on my crap. She pointed out my elitist impulses. She
threatened to leave me if I didn’t get sober. It was very hard, but I did indeed
get sober and, in turn, more humble.
The third event was my daughter Annika was born with Prader-Willi
syndrome (PWS), a bizarre, ruthless genetic syndrome. Imagine how hungry you were last night, right before dinner. Or around midnight last night
hanging out with your friends. Multiply that by three. That is what my
daughter Annika feels every second of the day, even after her last bite of
dinner. Annika literally will eat herself to death if left alone with food. Like
all sufferers of PWS, she also endures various other cognitive, emotional
and physical challenges.
I normally avoid reinforcing the name-brand college
industrial complex. But
I try to set up the audience in order to later tear
down some of their elitist
My dad said losing $50
million was the best thing
to ever happen to me. But
I like to think I could have
handled the adversity of
not losing it.
I realize this speech is shaping up to be all about me
— just like this article! Yipes.
But I’m hoping that a fresh
breeze of candor will blow
away any stink of narcissism.
Plus, write what you know.
No matter how smart you
think you are, if you smoke
weed recreationally every
day while cooling your throat
with 22-ounce IPAs you’re
likely a fraud in a few areas
of your life. Just sayin’.
Open with a joke, right?
They say comedy equals
tragedy plus time. In this
case comedy equals liberal
consumer guilt plus pets.