Hindsights

Hindsights was written by Guy Kawasaki, in his words:

“About fourteen years ago my wife and I separated for a time. As part of my search for what the hell was going on in our lives, I looked for a book about people’s hindsights in life–what they did right, what they did wrong, and what their advice would be.

To my surprise, I could find no such book. So, like a fool, I decided to write the book. After all, how hard could it be to turn on a record their hindsights ala Studs Terkel?

Let me tell you, it was hard. Very hard. Every step of the process was hard: figuring out who to interview, getting the interviews, doing the interviews, and editing the interviews. It was much harder than writing a book where you just sit there and make things up. 🙂

I also wrote a speech based on the book, and I have given it six times at commencements, graduations and baccalaureates: Palo Alto High (three times), DeAnza College, High Tech High, and Harker School. Giving these speeches brought me some of the greatest moments of joy in my life. And, unlike the Kurt Vonnegut hoax, these were for real.

Yesterday at Macworld Expo someone came up to me and told me how much the speech meant to his family. Memories of these speeches and the book came flooding back, so today’s blog is the full text of my Hindsights speech.

Nota bene: read and forward this at your own risk because hindsight #10 has cost parents thousands of dollars!”

HINDSIGHTS by Guy Kawasaki

Speaking to you today marks a milestone in my life. I am fifty years old. Thirty-two or years ago, when I was in your seat, I never, ever thought I would be fifty years old.

The implications of being your speaker frightens me. For one thing, when a fifty year old geezer spoke at my baccalaureate ceremony, he was about the last person I’d believe. I have no intention of giving you the boring speech that you are dreading. This speech will be short, sweet, and not boring.

I am going to talk about hindsights today. Hindsights that I’ve accumulated in the thirty-two years from where you are to where I am. Don’t blindly believe me. Don’t take what I say as “truth.” Just listen. Perhaps my experience can help you out a tiny bit.

I will present them ala David Letterman. Yes, fifty year old people can still stay up past 11:00 pm.

#10: Live off your parents as long as possible.

I was a diligent Oriental in high school and college. I took college-level classes and earned college-level credits. I rushed through college in 3 1/2 years. I never traveled or took time off because I thought it wouldn’t prepare me for work and it would delay my graduation.

Frankly, I blew it.

You are going to work the rest of your lives, so don’t be in a rush to start. Stretch out your college education. Now is the time to suck life into your lungs-before you have a mortgage, kids, and car payments.

Take whole semesters off to travel overseas. Take jobs and internships that pay less money or no money. Investigate your passions on your parent’s nickel. Or dime. Or quarter. Or dollar. Your goal should be to extend college to at least six years.

Delay, as long as possible, the inevitable entry into the workplace and a lifetime of servitude to bozos who know less than you do, but who make more money. Your parents and grand parents worked very hard to get you and your family to this point. Do not deprive them of the pleasure of supporting you.

#9 Pursue joy, not happiness.

This is probably the hardest lesson of all to learn. It probably seems to you that the goal in life is to be “happy.” Oh, you maybe have to sacrifice and study and work hard, but, by and large, happiness should be predictable.

Nice house. Nice car. Nice material things.

Take my word for it, happiness is temporary and fleeting. Joy, by contrast, is unpredictable. It comes from pursuing interests and passions that do not obviously result in happiness.

Pursuing joy, not happiness will translate into one thing over the next few years for you: Study what you love. This may also not be popular with parents. When I went to college, I was “marketing driven.” It’s also an Oriental thing.

I looked at what fields had the greatest job opportunities and prepared myself for them. This was stupid. There are so many ways to make a living in the world, it doesn’t matter that you’ve taken all the “right” courses. I don’t think one person on the original Macintosh team had a classic “computer science” degree.

You parents have a responsibility in this area. Don’t force your kids to follow in your footsteps or to live your dreams. My father was a senator in Hawaii. His dream was to be a lawyer, but he only had a high school education. He wanted me to be a lawyer.

For him, I went to law school. For me, I quit after two weeks. I view this a terrific validation of my inherent intelligence. And when I quit, neither of my parents were angry. They loved me all just the same.

#8: Challenge the known and embrace the unknown.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in life is to accept the known and resist the unknown. You should, in fact, do exactly the opposite: challenge the known and embrace the unknown.

Let me tell you a short story about ice. In the late 1800s there was a thriving ice industry in the Northeast. Companies would cut blocks of ice from frozen lakes and ponds and sell them around the world. The largest single shipment was 200 tons that was shipped to India. 100 tons got there unmelted, but this was enough to make a profit.

These ice harvesters, however, were put out of business by companies that invented mechanical ice makers. It was no longer necessary to cut and ship ice because companies could make it in any city during any season.

These ice makers, however, were put out of business by refrigerator companies. If it was convenient to make ice at a manufacturing plant, imagine how much better it was to make ice and create cold storage in everyone’s home.

You would think that the ice harvesters would see the advantages of ice making and adopt this technology. However, all they could think about was the known: better saws, better storage, better transportation.

Then you would think that the ice makers would see the advantages of refrigerators and adopt this technology. The truth is that the ice harvesters couldn’t embrace the unknown and jump their curve to the next curve.

Challenge the known and embrace the unknown, or you’ll be like the ice harvester and ice makers.

#7: Learn to speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, and play non-contact sports.

Learn a foreign language. I studied Latin in high school because I thought it would help me increase my vocabulary. It did, but trust me when I tell you it’s very difficult to have a conversation in Latin today other than at the Vatican. And despite all my efforts, the Pope has yet to call for my advice. Latin has proven to be very valuable, but a “live” language would be nice too.

Learn to play a musical instrument. My only connection to music today is that I was named after Guy Lombardo. Trust me: it’s better than being named after Guy’s brother, Carmen. Playing a musical instrument could be with me now and stay with me forever. Instead, I have to buy CDs at Tower.

I played football. I loved football. Football is macho. I was a middle linebacker–arguably, one of the most macho position in a macho game. But you should also learn to play a sport like hockey, basketball, or tennis. That is, a sport you can play when you’re over the hill.

It will be as difficult when you’re 50 to get twenty-two guys together in a stadium to play football as it is to have a conversation in Latin, but all the people who wore cute, white tennis outfits can still play tennis. And all the macho football players are sitting around watching television and drinking beer.

#6: Continue to learn.

Learning is a process not an event. I thought learning would be over when I got my degree. It’s not true. You should never stop learning. Indeed, it gets easier to learn once you’re out of school because it’s easier to see the relevance of why you need to learn.

You’re learning in a structured, dedicated environment right now. On your parents’ nickel. But don’t confuse school and learning. You can go to school and not learn a thing. You can also learn a tremendous amount without school.

#5: Learn to like yourself or change yourself until you can like yourself.

I know a forty year old woman who was a drug addict. She is a mother of three. She traced the start of her drug addiction to smoking dope in high school.

I’m not going to lecture you about not taking drugs. Hey, I smoked dope in high school. Unlike Bill Clinton, I inhaled. Also unlike Bill Clinton, I exhaled.

This woman told me that she started taking drugs because she hated herself when she was sober. She did not like drugs so much as much as she hated herself. Drugs were not the cause though she thought they were the solution.

She turned her life around only after she realized that she was in a downward spiral. Fix your problem. Fix your life. Then you won’t need to take drugs. Drugs are neither the solution nor the problem.

Frankly, smoking, drugs, alcohol–and using an IBM PC–are signs of stupidity. End of discussion.

Finish reading the speech by clicking below, and yes the second half is just as life changing…
Read more: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/01/hindsights.html#ixzz1QyVVhlYW

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4 Comments

  1. First off. I hit like when I seen the topic was hindsight because I’m always trying to work on my foresight. That sucks that I had to go to another website to read more seeing that I wanted to STAY on WordPress. This has triggered all sorts of thoughts. This should be on Freshly Pressed. Glad I found this. Do you post stuff like this all the time?

    1. Hi Harnew, thanks for the like and the kind words! Seriously. It’s always good to hear from people like you because it keeps me motivated to continue what I do here. I apologize for the inconvenience of having to go to another site, thanks for letting me know, it helps to have CONSTRUCTIVE feedback like that. And to answer your question YES, I do always post stuff like that it’s pretty much all I post in one way or another. Thanks again for helping me start my day off on the right foot! See you around.

  2. Yes, please continue. I like articles like the one you posted. I’m going through a funk and that was a good read. I thank you. And thanks for the compliment

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