- Apple CEO Tim Cook was the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremonies for both Stanford University and Tulane University this year.
- His speeches reflected on the themes of accepting responsibility, having the courage to listen to others and to see things differently, and making an impact that will be remembered long after you’re gone.
- Here’s a look at some of the best pieces of advice from Cook’s commencement speeches.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at Stanford University’s commencement ceremony last Sunday, he urged graduates to learn from the recent controversies that have surrounded Silicon Valley tech giants like Facebook and Google in recent years.
“Lately, it seems this industry is becoming better known for a less noble innovation: the belief that you can claim credit without accepting responsibility,” Cook said. “We see it every day now. With every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech. Fake news poisoning our national conversation. The miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood.”
Cook made a powerful statement about accepting responsibility when addressing Stanford’s 2019 graduates, but it’s just one of the many lessons he imparted to college graduates this year.
Be a builder.
During his speech at Stanford, Cook encouraged graduates to be builders – to make lasting contributions that will make a difference long after they’re gone.
“Builders are comfortable in the belief that their life’s work will one day be bigger than them, bigger than any person,” he said. “They’re mindful that its effects will span generations. That’s not an accident. In a way it’s the whole point.”
‘Your mentors may leave you prepared, but they can’t leave you ready.’
Being prepared isn’t the same as being ready, another key piece of advice Cook shared with Stanford’s 2019 graduates. Cook learned this lesson himself after Apple co-founder and former chief executive Steve Jobs died in 2011.
“And when he was gone, truly gone, I learned the real visceral difference between preparation and readiness,” he said.
“When the dust settled, all I knew was that I was going to have to be the best version of myself that I could be.”
‘Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life.’
Cook reiterated the famous advice his predecessor gave when addressing Stanford graduates in 2005. “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” Jobs said 14 years ago.
“Don’t try to emulate the people who came before you to the exclusion of everything else, contorting into a shape that doesn’t fit,” Cook said last Sunday to Stanford’s class of 2019. “It takes too much mental effort, effort that should be dedicated to creating and building. You’ll waste precious time trying to re-wire your every thought. And in the meantime, you won’t be fooling anybody.”
‘If you want to take credit, first learn to take responsibility.’
A central theme of Cook’s Stanford commencement speech was the importance of accepting responsibility.
Cook didn’t mention any specific tech companies by name. But his remarks about data breaches, privacy violations, fake news, hate speech, and “false miracles in exchange for a single drop of your blood” seem to reference companies such as Facebook, Google’s YouTube, and Theranos.
“Graduates, at the very least, learn from these mistakes,” he said. “If you want to take credit, first learn to take responsibility.”
Don’t believe the saying: ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’
You’ve probably heard this expression countless times. But in another speech Cook gave to graduates – at Tulane University on May 18 – he said his tenure at Apple taught him that this maxim isn’t true at all.
“At Apple, I learned that’s a total crock,” he said. “You’ll work harder than you ever thought possible. But the tools will feel light in your hands.”
Take risks to build something better.
“Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of being too cautious,” Cook said to Tulane University’s 2019 graduates. “Don’t assume that by staying put, the ground won’t move beneath your feet. The status quo simply won’t last. So get to work on building something better.”
Be open to looking at things in a different way.
When addressing Tulane’s graduates, Cook urged graduates to open their eyes, look at things in a new way, and to have the courage to listen.
In what may have been another reference to Facebook, which has been criticised in the past for the “filter bubble” it creates, Cook encouraged graduates to “push back” against algorithms that “pull toward you the things you already know, believe, or like.”
“It shouldn’t be this way, but in 2019 opening your eyes and seeing things in a new way can be a revolutionary act,” he said. “Summon the courage not just to hear but to listen. Not just to act but to act together.”
‘Be motivated by your duty to build a better world.”
Tackling big problems is never easy, but Cook urged Tulane’s graduates to embrace the challenge.
“From climate change to immigration, from criminal justice reform to economic opportunity, be motivated by your duty to build a better world,” Cook said. “Young people have changed the course of history time and time again. And now it’s time to change it once more.”
“Call upon your grit,” Cook told Tulane’s graduates. “Try something. You may succeed. You may fail. But make it your life’s work to remake the world.”
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