5 inspirational quotes from Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard speech

mark zuckerberg commencement speech facebook harvard 2

If you could attend a lecture from anyone on earth (besides Shia LeBeouf), who would you want most? For Harvard students this week, they didn’t have a choice, but they did get Mark Zuckerberg.

The little known [lol – ed] Facebook CEO, whose company worth is beyond the US$450-billion mark, returned to his old university after dropping out in 2005. It was a moment that he’ll probably never forget, joking in the speech that his speech was the first time he completed anything at Harvard.

But it’s probably a speech many a student won’t forget either.

Reading through his speech, we’ve picked out five of our favourite snippets.

How Mark met Priscilla

A large part of Zuckerberg’s life, Priscilla Chan married Mark in 2012, a good few years after Harvard, Facemash and eventually, Facebook was founded.

Here’s how they met.

But my best memory from Harvard was meeting Priscilla. I had just launched this prank website Facemash, and the ad board wanted to “see me”. Everyone thought I was going to get kicked out. My parents came to help me pack. My friends threw me a going away party. 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.

I didn’t end up getting kicked out — I did that to myself. Priscilla and I started dating. And, you know, that movie made it seem like Facemash was so important to creating Facebook. It wasn’t. But without Facemash I wouldn’t have met Priscilla, and she’s the most important person in my life, so you could say it was the most important thing I built in my time here.

‘Purpose is what creates true happiness’

As a Millennial speaking to other Millennials, Zuckerberg also touched on the notion of purpose. Explaining that the world of today is a much harsher environment than when parents graduated, “many people feel disconnected and depressed”.

This is his opinion.

Today I want to talk about purpose. 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.

One of my favourite stories is when John F Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon”.

Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for.

Purpose is what creates true happiness.

He added that “it’s not enough to have purpose yourself. You have to create a sense of purpose for others.”

Mark Zuckerberg had no idea what he was doing starting Facebook

Using that janitor as an example again, Zuckerberg explained that “more than 300 000 helped to put the man on the moon”.

“Movies and pop culture get this all wrong. The idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie,” he adds, suggesting that even Facebook at its birth wasn’t fully formed.

That didn’t stop him though.

Now it’s our turn to do great things. I know, you’re probably thinking: I don’t know how to build a dam, or get a million people involved in anything.

But let me tell you a secret: no one does when they begin. Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started.

If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have started Facebook.

Progress measured through meaning

Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want human beings to value their worth by the number of zeroes propping up a figure, but rather “how many of us have a role we find meaningful”.

We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things. We’re going to change jobs many times, so we need affordable childcare and healthcare that aren’t tied to one company. We’re all going to make mistakes, so we need a society that focuses less on locking us up or stigmatising us. And as technology keeps changing, we need to focus more on continuous education throughout our lives.

Change doesn’t start with a global event

Even though Facebook is now used by nearly one in every three people, Zuckerberg believes that the focus of change should be “local”.

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.

You can read Mark Zuckerberg’s entire commencement transcript right here.

Andy Walker, former editor


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