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Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt and His Top 5 Tips for Excellence

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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 fourth 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 , Salman Khan and Luma Mufleh.

Ok, so Eric Schmidt isn't an entrepreneur in the traditional sense. He didn't start up his own tech company, for instance. He did however lead one of the biggest but still entrepreneurial companies around, Google. He is also the founding partner Innovation Endeavors, an early stage venture capital firm in Palo Alto, Calif.

At his speech to Boston University grads on May 20, he spoke of the power of technology and the still very present need for human ingenuity. "Technology doesn't work on its own. It's just a tool," Schmidt said in his commencement address. "You are the ones who harness its power. And that requires innovation and entrepreneurship."

Here are Schmidt's five tips for young entrepreneurs:

  1. Don't just be a shepherd, following somebody else's vision and ideas. New models, new forms, new thinking is what we need. You all have a chance to make an original contribution. You don't need to become an aid worker or a teacher. You don't need to be an engineer. Everyone can make their mark by creating new standards of brilliance and innovation.

  2. You can't let technology rule you. Take at least one hour a day and turn your technology off. Go dark. Shut it down. Learn where the OFF button is. Have a conversation -- a real conversation -- with the friends who make you think, with the family who makes you laugh. Life is not lived in the glow of a monitor. Life is not a series of status updates. Life is not about your friend count -- it's about the friends you can count on.

  3. Find a way to say "Yes" to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learning a new language, picking up a new sport. Even if it's a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means that you will do something new, meet someone new and make a difference in your life -- and likely in others' lives as well. Yes lets you stand out in a crowd, to be the optimist, to stay positive, to be the one everyone comes to for help, for advice or just for fun. Yes is what keeps us all young. It's a tiny word that can do big things. Say it often.

  4. Do not be afraid to fail. And do not be afraid to succeed. There's an old Italian phrase I like, it's used to describe especially daring circus performers -- they do the salto mortale. It means they do a somersault on a tightrope, without a net. Graduates, do this. Be brave. Work without a net. I promise you, you will land on your feet.

  5. Ignore the naysayers in others and yourself. For those who say you're thinking too big, be smart enough not to listen. For those who say the odds are too small, be dumb enough to give it a shot. And for those who ask, how can you do that? Look them in the eyes and say, I'll figure it out.

For the unedited version of Schmidt's commencement address, watch below.

Diana Ransom

Written By

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