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MANILA, Philippines – For half an hour, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg addressed Harvard University’s class of 2017, offering insights on purpose, charity, and having the courage to pursue solutions for the problems one sees.
He sprinkled a few entertaining excerpts on Facebook’s early days, and its non-serious predecessor Facemash, and his romance with with his now-wife Priscilla. (Watch: Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard commencement speech)
He also shared what he believes is the struggle of our time: “The forces of freedom, openness and global community against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism. Forces for the flow of knowledge, trade and immigration against those who would slow them down. This is not a battle of nations, it’s a battle of ideas. There are people in every country for global connection and good people against it.” (READ: 13 years after quitting, Zuckerberg gets honorary Harvard degree)
His speech had nuggets of wisdom expected from a man in charge of one of the world’s most important companies now. We’ve selected some of these below, along with the lighthearted moments, for anyone who doesn’t want to sit through the entire speech. Watch it above or read the highlights below:
1) Mark pokes fun at his uni days
“If I get through this speech, it’ll be the first time I actually finish something at Harvard.”
2) For Mark’s parents, getting into Harvard trumps creating the world’s biggest social network
“How many of you remember exactly what you were doing when you got that email telling you that you got into Harvard? I was playing Civilization and I ran downstairs, got my dad, and for some reason, his reaction was to video me opening the email. That could have been a really sad video. I swear getting into Harvard is still the thing my parents are most proud of me for.”
3) How a classmate got his job at Facebook
“I was late so I threw on a T-shirt and didn’t realize until afterwards it was inside out and backwards with my tag sticking out the front. I couldn’t figure out why no one would talk to me – except one guy, KX Jin, he just went with it. We ended up doing our problem sets together, and now he runs a big part of Facebook. And that, Class of 2017, is why you should be nice to people.”
4) Mark’s pickup line
“As luck would have it, Priscilla was at that party with her friend. We met in line for the bathroom in the Pfoho Belltower, and in what must be one of the all time romantic lines, I said, “I’m going to get kicked out in three days, so we need to go on a date quickly.
Actually, any of you graduating can use that line.”
5) On the challenge for today’s generation
“But I’m not here to give you the standard commencement about finding your purpose. We’re millennials. We’ll try to do that instinctively. Instead, I’m here to tell you finding your purpose isn’t enough. The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.”
6) On taking action
“I remember the night I launched Facebook from my little dorm in Kirkland House. I went to Noch’s with my friend, KX. I remember telling him I was excited to connect the Harvard community, but one day someone would connect the whole world.”
“The thing is, it never even occurred to me that someone might be us…”
“…I know a lot of you will have your own stories just like this. A change in the world that seems so clear you’re sure someone else will do it. But they won’t. You will.”
7) On his toughest time leading Facebook
“A couple years in, some big companies wanted to buy us. I didn’t want to sell. I wanted to see if we could connect more people…”
“…Nearly everyone else wanted to sell. Without a sense of higher purpose, this was the startup dream come true. It tore our company apart. After one tense argument, an advisor told me if I didn’t agree to sell, I would regret the decision for the rest of my life. Relationships were so frayed that within a year or so every single person on the management team was gone.
That was my hardest time leading Facebook.”
8) “The idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie.”
“Movies and pop culture get this all wrong. The idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie. It makes us feel inadequate since we haven’t had ours. It prevents people with seeds of good ideas from getting started. Oh, you know what else movies get wrong about innovation? No one writes math formulas on glass. That’s not a thing.”
9) On mistakes and failure
“In our society, we often don’t do big things because we’re so afraid of making mistakes that we ignore all the things wrong today if we do nothing. The reality is, anything we do will have issues in the future. But that can’t keep us from starting.
Now, an entrepreneurial culture thrives when it’s easy to try lots of new ideas. Facebook wasn’t the first thing I built. I also built games, chat systems, study tools and music players. I’m not alone. JK Rowling got rejected 12 times before publishing Harry Potter. Even Beyonce had to make hundreds of songs to get Halo. The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail.”
10) On luck
“We all know we don’t succeed just by having a good idea or working hard. We succeed by being lucky too. If I had to support my family growing up instead of having time to code, if I didn’t know I’d be fine if Facebook didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be standing here today. If we’re honest, we all know how much luck we’ve had.”
11) “This is the struggle of our time”
“The forces of freedom, openness and global community against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism. Forces for the flow of knowledge, trade and immigration against those who would slow them down. This is not a battle of nations, it’s a battle of ideas. There are people in every country for global connection and good people against it.”
12) “Change starts local”
“Even global changes start small – with people like us. In our generation, the struggle of whether we connect more, whether we achieve our biggest opportunities, comes down to this – your ability to build communities and create a world where every single person has a sense of purpose.” – Rappler.com