Dear Graduates: Now Is the Time to Choose a Meaningful Career

Nicholas Negroponte
Technologist and Futurist
Nicholas Negroponte, the Founder of the MIT Media Lab, advises recent graduates to choose a purposeful career.
  • Transcript


Nicholas Negroponte:  If you’re graduating right now, or if you’ve just graduated, I would make a very simple observation.  Because I think you’re very lucky to be graduating now.  Because 25 years ago when people graduated and went and let’s say had a job in investment banking, very successful careers.  And let’s say today they’re in their middle to late fifties and they’ve just retired and you meet them at a cocktail party.  What do they tell you about?  CEO of an investment bank.  They tell you about the Peace Corps years and what they did in the Peace Corp.  And I’m saying, “Wait a minute.  You’ve just had this amazing life and you’re talking about the Peace Corps.”  And then they say, yeah.  And now I’m gonna use the rest of my life to do something meaningful . I made a lot of money, my kids are graduated, empty nest and now I’m gonna do something meaningful.  And I say to myself, wow, here’s somebody who graduated and basically did something meaningless for a period of time and then decided to do something meaningful.  And the reason I’m so enthusiastic about people who graduate today is that we’re starting to understand that it’s possible to have meaningful lives all the way along.  And to be a social entrepreneur if you want to put your entrepreneurial energy in that way.

To do things that, in fact, do mix market with mission.  It’s, in fact, a period today where you can take an avocation and turn it into something that’s very intimately connected with what you do.  And if you are, you know, toying with taking a job because it pays well but you hate it, don’t do that.  Don’t ever do that because it is the saddest period.  You’re gonna wake up every morning and unless you really wake up and not only smile about it but you tell your spouse or your family what happened and how excited you are. That’s the life you want to live and more than ever before lots and lots of people can do that.  And so that’s why I think graduating today would be really interesting.  Thirty years ago we were a bit more in lockstep obedience and you did things because you were supposed to and opportunity didn’t include making the world a better place.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton