Good morning University of Colorado Class of 2016! I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to be here. Thank you to the Senior Class Council and Chancellor DiStefano for this incredible opportunity. Some of you may know - I am a proud CU Buff and I sat in those seats – almost 20 years ago. I would never have thought in a million years that I would be standing here in this spot with you today. Can you do me a little favor - I want to broadcast live on Facebook around the world - a graduation edition of the CU fight song ... can you do that for me – Loud and proud on the count of 3 … 1-2-3!
Some of you shared your thoughts about graduation, what's next for you and what you want to hear today in a short survey I sent out. What you told me is that you’re feeling equal parts excited and equal parts terrified about what's next. That is great! Because that’s exactly how I feel right now. In all seriousness though, I'm here to tell you to get used to that feeling. If you aren't feeling equally excited and scared for most of your life – I actually don’t think you’re doing it right. From starting a job to starting a family to advocating a strong point of view -- or choosing not to do any one of those things. Making the choices that are right for you is thrilling and terrifying all at once.
Some of you asked me to share how I got to where I am today and how you can be successful in building your life and family and career. I am honored and humbled that you asked. And I have good news and bad news. The good news is I can tell you all the details you may or may not want about my own path in life. The bad news is there is no universal blueprint I can give you for your own. Sitting in your seat 20 years ago, there is no way I could have mapped my path to Facebook. When I graduated there was no Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg was only 12 years old. In fact, when I graduated from CU, I didn’t even have a cell phone or access to the internet. I know. I’m a dinosaur.
It’s incredible to think about how much technology has advanced in the past 20 years since I graduated. It will advance so much more in the next 20 years. Some of you will end up doing jobs we can’t even imagine today and working on things that don’t exist.
But there is one constant over the past 20 years and next 20 years that you can count on and that is choices. With your degree from CU in hand, you are entering a world where you will have more choices than any generation before you. That is exciting and terrifying and an incredible gift. The choices you make and the values that guide those choices will determine your happiness, your success and your impact on the people and world around you.
So today I would like to talk about choices.
In the survey I sent, I asked some of you to make an importance choice. I asked you to choose one word or phrase to describe the life you want post college. Pretty much every third answer was happy.
I love that. Happy is pretty hard to beat.
But how do you find happiness? I used to think that if I just worked hard enough, that if I just achieved enough – I would reach “happy”. But happiness is not a destination, it’s not a finish line that you arrive at 5 years from now or 20 years from now. Happiness is a constant work in progress. Happiness comes from the strength to make the choices that are right for you and the courage to make new ones when circumstances change or things just don’t go as planned.
Now is probably the right time for me tell you that you will make a number of choices that ultimately don’t end up being the right ones for you – from choosing the right job to the right partner to wearing an inappropriate costume to your office Halloween party. That one you will deeply regret and unfortunately, the Facebook photos may remind you of that choice for years to come.
Let me share with you a few of the choices I faced on my own path …
Upon graduating from CU, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to move to San Francisco. So I set my job sights there and ultimately landed a job with – wait for it – the phone company. At 21, I was managing a team of about 20 people in a call center. I had no idea what I was doing. One morning, I found myself playing the tambourine as employees arrived for work to fire them up to sell caller ID. Pro tip - Nothing motivates job performance like a tambourine at 8am.
To be honest - that first year was hard. There were times I thought about throwing in the towel and moving home but thankfully, I made the choice to stay. It was the late 90s and the new thing called the internet was exploding in San Francisco. It was unchartered territory and I wanted in. But the choice wasn’t an easy one - I still had to make a trade-off of a clear career path, stable company and good pay – which I thought were the keys to career happiness coming out of college. But I listened to myself and how excited I got about the path not yet defined. I made the choice to trade stability for innovation and growth.
Over the next 10 years – I was faced with more choices – personal and professional. I chose different experiences that took me to Denver, Chicago and ultimately back to San Francisco. There were highs and lows all along the way, but I chose to trade the clear and stable path for more new experiences, new cities and new jobs.
And then in 2010, I was faced with another choice. I got a call from a friend who had recently joined a start-up called Facebook. He insisted that I come in for coffee. I tried to tell him that the timing was terrible. I’d just had my 1st son, Grady, and I was trying to figure out how to be a mom and a good employee and wondering if I would ever see a friend or exercise again in my life … the next thing I knew, coffee had turned into an offer to go and work at one of the world’s most exciting companies.
Easy decision, right? It was anything but. The job was less money, less impressive title, an hour and half commute from my house with no flexibility. How could I say yes? Life was good and I had a good job where I could see a clear path to balancing work and my family. I felt guilty for even thinking about it or wanting more from my career at that stage in my life.
So how did I ultimately make the choice?
I did some soul searching and with the help of my husband, George, I got clear on my values and what energized me.
I’ve always known that I value people. And from previous moves and jobs, I also learned that I value new experiences; the path not yet defined. With this in mind, I realized that staying where I was wouldn’t give me the growth I craved over time. The status quo in my current job would be fine, but it wouldn’t be awesome. And I wanted awesome in all parts of my life – family and career.
Even as a decision started to emerge, I was scared to make a change that not only impacted my career but my family. To push through the fear, I reminded myself just as I would make this hard decision – I could always make another, different one if I needed to. Know that you’re in the driver’s seat of your life – if you make a choice that ends up being wrong for you – you can find the courage to steer another direction.
As you might expect, I ultimately said yes to Facebook. But the day I did … I cried. I was scared of the unknown for my family. But when I thought about passing up the opportunity, I just knew that I would regret it. I knew that I wouldn’t be happy sitting on the sidelines when I had a chance to take a seat on the rocket ship. I made a choice to again, take a chance.
CHOOSE YOUR VALUES
You will be faced with many choices in the years to come. And to navigate those choices, you need a core set of values to guide you. Your values are your greatest source of power. My ask for each of you as you go head long into your next chapter is to invest time in thinking about what you value.
To illustrate this, let me share one of my more embarrassing moments at CU. I was in a program called the Presidents Leadership Class. It was a phenomenal program that helped shape me and much of my thinking on people and leadership. In one of my early recitation classes my first year, we had the assignment to share with the class what we’d want for our eulogy. A little morbid but go with it. I went back to my dorm room and spent hours combing through my CDs. I needed just the right song. I arrived back in class the following week and was proud to set the stage … my eulogy would be seaside, it would be sad but a celebration of life and most importantly would be summed up by my favorite band at the time - U2. I proceeded to read all of the lyrics to a U2 song including the same chorus 5 times. You are embarrassed for me right now, aren’t you?
The TA looked at the rest of the class and asked everyone, “What did you get from that?” After a moment of painful silence, someone finally spoke up and said – “That you like U2?” Ugh – not what I was going for. At that moment, I realized that I hadn’t had the courage to find my own words. And that I hadn’t done the work to look inside and really tap into what I value and what I wanted people to remember about me. I had been such a people pleaser and achiever up to that point that I was really good at figuring out what other people wanted & valued and doing that. But - what did I value? Answering that question for myself was terrifying and hard. So much so – I tried to rely on Bono to do it for me. From that moment on, I made it a priority to understand what it is I value most.
If you haven’t done it already, I implore you to do the same. Get clear on what you value now. What matters to you? What makes you angry? When do you feel strongest, most energized, most proud? With this in mind, what is the mark you want to leave on the people around you and the world?
My fear is that you go into the world and make decisions based on someone else’s values or expectations. Even when you wake up and realize you aren’t happy with your path, you may feel compelled to make more decisions that support the earlier decisions you made and before you know it – you’re staring at a life and person you don’t recognize. Don’t do it.
I am constantly setting aside time to reflect on my values and the choices I’m making to ensure those are aligned. In these next few years of your life and career, there isn’t a more important exercise. Let your values guide your choices. Doing work that you value and you get strength from will lead to success. Not the other way around.
In the survey I sent out, when I asked you what you would miss most about CU – almost every single one of you said the people and the friendships. Take a moment, close your eyes. Think about your favorite moment over the last 4 years. Was it a good grade? Solving a complex stats problem? Getting an awesome internship? Those are all important things and you should be proud of them. But when I think about my favorite moments from CU – they are things like watching my friend trying to eat a piece of bread in under a minute at Johnny Maquires and rolling on the floor laughing after running through the pouring rain from Pearl Street to the Hill.
The friendships I made at CU continue to be one of my greatest gifts. I am honored and grateful that many of those friends traveled far and wide to be here with us today.
In this era of incredible technology and innovation, we can’t forget that it’s people that matter most. My company’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. The beauty of technology is not for technology sake but to make this world smaller, closer and give us shared experiences that connect us & enrich our lives.
My most rewarding experiences at Facebook center on people – having the opportunity to help another person grow and be successful, to help someone think bigger and strive bigger than they possibly have before, to listen and learn from those around me – this fuels my happiness and success.
People make your life. Not achievements. Not money. But sometimes it’s the people and friendships that are the first to fall to the wayside when life gets busy. If it’s the people and friendships and connection that you value as I saw that many of you do – make the choices with your time and attention accordingly.
A few weeks ago, we took our kids to Disneyland for the first time and I put our 2 ½ year old, Tucker, up on my shoulders and as I hoisted him up – he said in his little voice, “Mommy is strong.” And while he was literally referencing my ability to carry him on my shoulders, those three little words hit deep within. Mommy is strong. And I realized in that moment that my happiness comes from feeling strong and having the courage to constantly make choices – some easy, but most hard – that impact me, my family, my friendships and the people I work with. I don’t feel strong every day and I don’t always make the right choices. You won’t either. But in the balance of your years and lives, I want you to feel that strength & confidence and pride that you’re living the life that you’re meant to.
I could not be more excited for the world that awaits you and the impact you’re going to have on the people in it. I wish I could give you a map for your journey. But what’s far better is that you are charting your own course - exciting & terrifying & beautiful & yours – with the strong & courageous choices you make.
Choose your Values
And today -- choose to celebrate - Congratulations CU Class of 2016!