Dropbox CEO Gives Graduates His Cheat Sheet for Success
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Editor’s Note: With the 2013 graduation season in full swing, YoungEntrepreneur.com is culling the top tips and pieces of advice from commencement addresses given by some of the world’s most inspiring leaders. Stay tuned for more from this year’s commencement circuit
Even rain couldn’t dampen the spirit at Massachusetts Institutes of Technology's commencement address.
Returning to his alma mater, the CEO of Dropbox Drew Houston spoke to the 2,625 graduates and 10,000 guests about becoming infatuated with your dream, being okay with failing and the need to be surrounded by inspiring people. Lessons close to Houston's heart.
Despite Dropbox’s success and current valuation of approximately $4 billion, Houston told graduates it wasn’t always easy.
"As you might expect, building [Dropbox] has been the most exciting, interesting and fulfilling experience of my life. What I haven't really shared is that it's also been the most humiliating, frustrating and painful experience too, and I can't even count the number of things that have gone wrong," says Houston.
Hoping to provide graduates the recipe for success, Houston offered the following crib sheet:
Don’t love what you do, be obsessed with it.
I was going to say work on what you love, but that's not really it. When I think about it, the happiest and most successful people I know don't just love what they do, they're obsessed with solving something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball: Their eyes go a little crazy, the leash snaps and they go bounding off, plowing through whatever gets in the way.
So after today, it's not about pushing yourself. It's about finding your tennis ball -- the thing that pulls you.
Stick close to those who inspire you.
Surrounding yourself with inspiring people is now just as important as being talented or working hard. Your circle pushes you to be better. Your circle will grow to include your co-workers and everyone around you. Where you live matters. Whatever you're doing, there's usually only one place where the top people go. You should go there. Don’t settle for anywhere else. Meeting my heroes and learning from them gave me a huge advantage. Your heroes are part of your circle too -- follow them. If the real action is happening somewhere else, move.
Stop thinking about your dream, act on it.
The last trap you might fall into after school is "getting ready." Don't get me wrong, learning is your top priority, but now the fastest way to learn is by doing. If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started.
There are 30,000 days in your life. When I was 24, I realized I'm almost 9,000 days down. There are no warm-ups, no practice rounds, no reset buttons. Your biggest risk isn't failing, it's getting too comfortable. Every day we're writing a few more words of a story. I wanted my story to be an adventure and that's made all the difference.
Instead of trying to make your life perfect, give yourself the freedom to make it an adventure, and go ever upward.
-This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.
What are your tips for putting Drew Houston's advice in action? Let us know in the comments below.