This is the season for commencement addresses, and lucky indeed are the schools that can draw a high profile speaker who is also inventive and succinct.
And then there are the others – places where exhausted and anxious graduates have to endure lengthy speeches from self-important outliers who thrive in the place where science, business and insanity meet.
Text of the Commencement Address by Dr. Larry Kyle, founder of the supermarket Genway, to the graduating class at the Designing Nature Academy (DNA), a Genetic Engineering School.
Looking at all of you waiting to get your B.S.’s from DNA, it makes me think of my most favorite letter of all – I!
When I was in your position, I thought I would get a job in a big scientific laboratory, posing impossible questions and squinting at test tubes all day. I imagined that I would draw a huge paycheck for this work because my mind is nimble and original and I like to think up things that no one has ever thought before.
Little did I know how weak the demand is for unusual thoughts. Unusual thoughts are suspicious and are treated with disdain by the world at large. What the world wants are USUAL thoughts that are guaranteed to make money, but that no one else has ever thought of.
Some of you will manage to convince your clueless employers that you can come up with this kind of magical idea. I hope you’ll be gone with the money before they realize they’ve been hoodwinked.
A very select few will follow my path.
I have found that to do the truly weird, genuinely “out there” work that the world needs but can’t ask for, you must go on a personal crusade with three “I”’s to guide you.
Independence. Ingenuity. And Insanity.
I am that three “I”’d monster! That’s what allowed me to create some of Genway’s most famous genetically engineered produce, like Bumble Grapes, Screaming Pumpkins and Crayfish Kohlrabi!
When people heard about the kind of work I wanted to do, many of them said things like “No”, and “Stop” and “Great scott, your irresponsible ideas will end up destroying life as we know it!”
This was hard to hear, especially since I discovered early on that I am motivated by the approval of others. Yes! And yet true pioneers are seldom lauded by anyone at the beginning. Or ever. That’s why I took steps to ensure that my supply of approval would never run out.
I hired a yes man, and you should too!
The people who are the CEO’S of major corporations are smart, but they’re no smarter than you. The difference? They have yes men (and some yes women) who bolster their confidence and give them the energy to proceed with their crazy ideas. Confidence is what got them where they are, and confidence will keep them there. It all starts with the word YES.
Now, I realize that many of you don’t have the resources to hire a yes man to personally approve all your impulsive whims, and you might have to start being someone else’s yes man. But eventually, the goal should be to surround your self with feckless enablers!
Allow me to get you started. I want you to think of your weirdest, wildest, wackiest idea that does not involve nudity, gunfire, or invading someone else’s personal space.
Got it? OK.
I think it’s brilliant, and you should do it.
As soon as I leave campus.
Thank you very much, and good luck to all of us!
What is the key to success?