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Lessons to learn from Mark Zuckerberg’s Commencement address at Harvard

Does the name Mark Zuckerberg require any introduction? Mark was born on May 14, 1984 in White Plains, New York. He is a computer programmer (and entrepreneur) who have co-founded the largest social network – Facebook. He currently serves as the CEO and chairman of the same.

A lot of his life is already known. And almost every tech enthusiast have explored a version of his life (event focused on how Facebook was built) in the acclaimed movie The Social Network. Mark disagree with many incidents explored in the film (which is based on a book named The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich).

Mark was invited to Harvard to address the commencement ceremony of 2017. Interestingly it is Harvard where Mark has created the Facebook. And being a drop out of Harvard (he left) it, as he says in his own speech, this commencement speech the first thing he have officially completed in Harvard 🙂 We have found him jolly yet serious throughout the speech.

His speech was not only interesting but is integrated with so many lessons. He insists to focus on quality and passion instead on money and business when to choose a career. The good thing is the entire commencement speech is available for free on YouTube, so everyone can go through the words of humanity and compassion he shared from the stage of Harvard.

Here are some of the lessons we found worth to learn in his speech.

Be nice to others

Mark was very comfortable and enthusiastic throughout the speech. He was himself, a young and jolly entrepreneur which he is at heart. Commercial success and possession of enormous wealth didn’t make any change in him when it comes to his attitude. He talked about his memories and personal experiences at Harvard very fondly.

The first lesson he wants everyone to learn is about being nice to others. He told in a light manner that KX Jin was the only one to be nice to him when was new to Harvard. And he is now holding a key post in Facebook.

It is all about the bond between people which matters. Mark consider the friends he has made in Harvard is one of the best things happened to him. And the most valuable thing happened to him at Harvard is not the Facebook! Yes, he considers meeting his wife Priscilla Chan is the most important thing happened to him there.

So ultimately we are human beings and emotions, values, ethics, and morals are the most important attributes we should possess. And yes, we must develop a sense to distinguish between beneficial and important stuff at every aspect of life.

Find a purpose

Just doing a work as a job is never enough. One needs to find the purpose of doing it in life. If you do a work just for the sake of it, then, what is the difference between you and a machine.

Mark goes ahead and tells that

Finding your purpose isn’t enough. The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.

How true it is. One cannot commence a big task alone. Most of the successful venture are teamwork. And it is often not a small team. However, the size of the team doesn’t matter if each of the team members has the sense of his purpose and does his/her part with by giving his/her 100% to it. A system can only function properly if all its parts are performing properly.

Mark tells one incident

One of my favorite stories is when John F Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon”.

So NASA’s mission Moon and its success were not something happened overnight. There are many people associated with the project and each of them has a purpose to serve. When each one in the team has sense of purpose then the results can be marvelous.

So Mark rightly said

To keep our society moving forward, we have a generational challenge — to not only create new jobs but create a renewed sense of purpose.

Take initiative

With the sense of purpose, you will be focusing more on the impact rather than the commercial aspect of the task.

A change in the world that seems so clear you’re sure someone else will do it. But they won’t. You will.

Mark recalls incidents from his own life. There was a time when Mark got good purchase offer for Facebook. It was getting difficult to response negative to the money coming. It is not only the temptation of money but eventually, things were running quite difficult that majority of members of his leadership team was in favor of selling Facebook. It was difficult for him to stick to his decision as a leader when eventually people start deserting you. He, however, remain focused and eventually Facebook became the biggest social network.

Take on big meaningful projects.

Mark says

Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started.

He gives an example of Facebook itself. When creating Facebook he has never thought of making the biggest social network. His vision was to connect people of Harvard. Even when he has successfully rolled out Facebook, he was joyful that he have connected the Harvard fellow. He thought someday someone will connect the people around the world in the same manner. We often think someone should do this and that but actually its us who need to go ahead and do the things.

The idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie. It makes us feel inadequate since we haven’t had ours.

Again he refers to the movie, The Social Network, and tells that there are not Eureka moment. Actually it pushes people to think that their Eureka moment will come and they need to grab it. Actually there is no such moment there. You need to constantly keep working from your end and transform one moment into Eureka moment. So just forget any such thing exists, and start doing what you require to fulfil the purpose of your life.

Its good to be idealistic. But be prepared to be misunderstood.

Mark also tells that most of the leaders associated with important projects are often misunderstood. Actually, most of the people tend to follow the path of the secure arena. Me, myself, my family,… they limit their focus on such small aspects and then looks for security (mostly financial) of the same and thus doesn’t like to explore the unexplored path.

Such people, when asked to follow an out of the box way, often oppose. So a leader needs to be prepared for such misunderstanding. There is nothing wrong in being misunderstood if you are doing the right thing and fulfilling a righteous purpose.

Redefining equality to give everyone the freedom they need to pursue purpose

This is something where even good leaders fail. (There are a few like Ajay Banga who runs the R&D Department in the firm and give them free hand, as he referred in one of his speech).

We all know we don’t succeed just by having a good idea or working hard. We succeed by being lucky too.

And one should keep motivating others to pursue their own purpose. Mark has explored many countries and he became a better human being after visiting people who lack opportunities and resources. He said at many events that the citizens of the countries which are underdeveloped are also fellow human beings and they should be presented with equal opportunities.

We can all make time to give someone a hand. Let’s give everyone the freedom to pursue their purpose — not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because when more people can turn their dreams into something great, we’re all better for it.

Create a sense of purpose for everyone is by building community

He wants to connect everyone in the world. And he knows that the long voyage can be started by small steps. And he gave real-life examples of some of the fellows of Harvard who are attending the ceremony. Mark refers some gem of students who have found a good purpose of life and started working on them to make the world better place.

But I know we can rebuild our communities and start new ones because many of you already are.

Getting successful is one thing and appreciating others who did good things is the other.


It is definitely worth to watch commencement speech. The time you will spent for it is going to be one of the worth moments of your life.

Please remember that this is not the transcript of the commencement speech. It is our own summarized interpretation of it. Let us know if you find something interesting in the speech which we missed, we love to read you.

Do you want to read full transcript of this commencement speech?
It is available at: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/05/mark-zuckerbergs-speech-as-written-for-harvards-class-of-2017/

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