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Salman Khan to Rice University Grads: 'Be a Source of Positivity'

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Commencement Address

Editor's Note: As the 2012 graduation season winds down, we at YoungEntrepreneur.com thought it fitting to check in on the commencement addresses given by some of nation's top entrepreneurs.  Here's the third installment in a week-long, five-part series on top tips from entrepreneurs' commencement addresses. Click here for inspiring words from Oprah Winfrey , Mike Bloomberg , Eric Schmidt and Luma Mufleh.

Salman Khan, a former hedge-fund analyst turned entrepreneur, spoke to graduates at Rice University on May 15. There, he described his own history of getting good grades, having a promising career and then giving it all up to start the Khan Academy, a Mountain View, Calif., not-for-profit venture that provides free educational videos. Though, Khan's early days at the startup weren't easy, he acknowledged the importance of both getting and providing positive feedback even if you think no one is listening.

Here are Khan's three lessons for aspiring young entrepreneurs:

  1. Be a source of positivity. Validate others. It will empower others to increase the net happiness, the positivity in the world. Don't just sit by and observe it when you see something great, recognize it. It might make that person's day, their year. It might make their career. They'll start doing that ultra-positive thing more. People will recognize that you're a source of positivity. When you're a source of positivity, people will naturally gravitate to you.

  2. Be a lifelong learner. Really invest in yourself. In 2008, during the financial crisis, I started making videos on the Federal Reserve and credit default swaps. I got a letter in 2008 from a terminal cancer patient. She had two months to live. She wrote: I've got two months to live, but my life's dream is to learn calculus and with the Khan Academy now I can learn it. That's a testament to lifelong learning.

  3. Keep things in perspective. You will have hard moments, but you'll get through them. Keep your sights set on the long term game. Many of you all are going to have higher ups than I've had and many will have lower downs. Those who have higher ups, keep them in perspective. Enjoy the big successes but keep in mind that life is fleeting. When you have hard times, as you surely will, keep those in perspective too.

To view Khan's unedited speech in its entirety, watch below.

Diana Ransom

Written By

Diana Ransom is the former deputy editor of Entrepreneur.com.