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  • Richard Costolo: I love you too. You know I have to start with by tweeting this, so

  • just give me one second. I'm a professional so this will only take a second.

  • All right, I want to start off by thanking President Coleman, all the graduates, friends

  • and family, faculty of course and finally the Board of Regents who sit behind me quietly judging us all.

  • I'd like to also take a moment to thank my mother and father who are here today

  • and I'd like all of you to remember at the end of the day, to take a moment to

  • thank your parents or whoever it was that helped you get where you are today. They have

  • sacrificed greatly for you and we'll be out of here by 3:30 I promise.

  • When I woke up this morning and started writing my speech, I was thinking about my first month

  • on campus in September, when I was a freshman. And the football team went into that season,

  • ranked number one in the nation, preseason and there was all this -- I remember that

  • September when I got here, there was all this excitement on campus. And our first game was

  • at Wisconsin and we went up there and we lost our first game, 21 to 14 and there was this

  • just crushing disappointment afterwards. And I'd like you to think of that, soaring expectations

  • followed by crushing disappointment, as a metaphor for your next 20 minutes with me.

  • When I was sitting where you are so many years ago, but what seems to me really like just

  • yesterday, I was earning my degree in Computer Science and, Yay nerds! At the time,

  • the CS Department was in the School of Literature, Science and the Arts, so I had to have a certain

  • number of Arts credits to graduate. And so my first semester senior year, I decided,

  • Well I‘ll take an acting class because" -- I'm just going to pander to the crowd,

  • that's the kind of person I am. I thought, I’ll take an acting class because we

  • won't have a lot of homework and I‘ll go in and we'll say Arthur Miller lines to

  • each other and then I can work on my operating systems programs at night. And I loved

  • the class so much that my second semester senior year, I took another acting class and

  • in fact I started doing standup comedy which I'd never done before at the Michigan Union at the U-Club.

  • So that, by the time I was sitting where you guys are today with my CS degree, I had offers

  • from three technology companies to go work for them as a programmer, but I decided instead

  • that what I would do is move to Chicago, try to get into the improv comedy group Second

  • City and go on from there to Saturday Night Live and ultimate fame and glory.

  • Now in the Hollywood version of my story, what would happen is there'd be about three

  • minutes where I would move to Chicago and I would suffer mightily probably at night or in the rain.

  • There would be music in the background and I would come home at night

  • to a dog in a giant loft that I could somehow miraculously afford and fall asleep. And after

  • those three minutes, I would be discovered by a director who would cast me to film and

  • I'd walk down the red carpet and my parents would be across the red carpet giving me the thumbs up.

  • In the real world story of what happened when I decided to make a big bet on myself and

  • take the chance to do this because it's what I loved, I was grinding away for a long time

  • and I had no money and we would rehearse during the day and perform to these little

  • theaters at night for free. And I was taking classes during the day at Second City as well,

  • trying to learn improvisation and I eventually had to get odd jobs because I had no money.

  • So I put my CS degree from Michigan to use wrapping flatware and selling place settings in Crate & Barrel.

  • But while I kept on improvising in Chicago for many years, I want to tell you two lessons

  • I learned in that very first year there, learning at Second City. The first one was we had this

  • director at Second City, who was instructing a class I was in, named Don Depollo. And there

  • are four people up on stage, there are about 10 of us in the class and these guys are improvising

  • that they're in a laundromat and the scene ends and Don asked all of us in the room,

  • What do you see up there on that stage right now? And there was nothing up there,

  • so we described what we see up on the stage. It's an empty stage.

  • And Don says, So far today, you guys have improvised that you're in an apartment, an

  • apartment, a laundromat and an apartment. What are you afraid of? We all kind of

  • looked at each other like, �What do you mean what are we afraid of? And he said,

  • You need to make more courageous choices. The reason that stage is completely empty

  • and doesn't have a set on it is so that you can go out there and be in the Keebler

  • Elf factory or be on the space shuttle as an astronaut who's never even tried to fly

  • a plane before. Make bigger choices, take courageous risks.

  • And a few months later I was studying at Second City with another legendary director there,

  • Martin de Maat, and Steve Carell was out on stage. Steve and I were on the same group

  • and he was improvising something. I was back stage and I thought of this amazing line and

  • I thought, I got to go out there and get into the scene and I'm going to get this line out.

  • And so I entered the stage and I try to start moving the scene in the direction

  • of what I wanted to say and Martin stops the scene. He says, Stop, stop. And he says

  • to the whole class, but really he's talking to me. He says, You can't plan on a script.

  • The beauty of improvisation is you're experiencing it in the moment. If you try to plan what

  • the next line is suppose to be, you're just going to be disappointed when the other people

  • on stage with you don't do or say what you want them to do and you'll stand there frozen.

  • Be in this moment. And he stopped everyone in the room and said, All of you right now,

  • be in this moment. Now be here in this moment, now be here in this moment."

  • I continued to stay in Chicago and improvised there for many years and ultimately got lots

  • of auditions for shows and got all none of them. Fortunately during this time, the internet happened

  • and that was great because when the internet happened -- I know it's funny to you guys.

  • When I was your age, we didn't have the internet in our pants.

  • We didn't even have the internet not in our pants. That's how bad it was. I know I sound like my grandfather

  • right now. We didn't have teeth. There were no question marks, we just had words.

  • What was I talking about? The internet.

  • So I dove into the internet because I saw it's this extensible structure that had

  • these amazing possibilities and I created a sequence of companies over the course of

  • the next 20 years that led me to Twitter. If there's ever an example of the importance

  • of making bold bets and focusing on what you love, it's Twitter. When Twitter cofounder

  • Jack Dorsey talks about the origins of his thinking for the product, he talks about his fascination with maps.

  • He talks about his ultimate fascination with dispatch systems

  • as he studied maps and the more efficient way of getting things like taxis and ambulances

  • to where they needed to more quickly. And when he sent out his first tweet, "Just setting up my Twitter,"

  • he didn't plan for President Obama to declare victory on that platform in the 2012 election.

  • None of us at Twitter thought during the earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Fukushima, Japan that

  • our service would be a great alternative communication platform if the mobile networks in Japan were

  • spotty in the aftermath. And certainly none of us even hoped, let alone considered, that

  • our platform would be one of those used to organize protests across the Middle East in

  • Tunisia and in Egypt during the Arab Spring.

  • Here's the amazing thing about what I've observed when I've witnessed all of those things.

  • Not only can you not plan the impact you're going to have. You often won't recognize

  • it even while you're having it. A few months after I started at Twitter, Russian President

  • Medvedev was coming to the office. And that morning going into the office, the streets

  • were all completely blocked off by the San Francisco Police and the U.S. Secret Service

  • was there and Russian Security Forces were there and so was this crazy scene walking into the building.

  • I remember going through the metal detector to get into our office

  • which was there just for the day and there were all these guys in these crazy uniforms

  • with these beautiful German Shepherds that looked like they could kill you standing right next to them.

  • And so there was this huge buildup and President Medvedev came into the office with his entourage

  • and they're all these reporters and cameras behind them and he was going to send out his

  • first tweet from the office to the rest ofthe world. Everyone was waiting for that happen

  • and as he was walking down the hall, taking a tour of the office before going to send

  • his first tweet, I got a tap on my shoulder and I turn around and I say, What is it?

  • And this person says to me, The site is down. And being the thoughtful, charismatic

  • leader that I am, I said, Like totally down? Totally down.

  • So the next day, you know you guys and the rest of the world read President Obama welcoming

  • Russian President Medvedev to Twitter and declaring that we maybe no longer needed the

  • red phone anymore because we could now use Twitter. But for me, that moment was, The

  • site is down. And it's always like that, not the site is down part. The impact

  • is what others framed for you and the world after it happens. The present is only what

  • you're experiencing and focused on right now and every so often, my past and present come together.

  • I was invited to this fundraiser at this children's hospital in the Bay Area last year and

  • Steve Carell was the guest speaker. And so I took a photocopy of this review of the group that

  • Steve and I were in Chicago over 25 years ago to the charity auction. And I showed it

  • to Steve when I got a chance to talk to him. He's mobbed the whole time by people, but

  • we got a chance to have a brief conversation. We looked at this photocopy of the review

  • and talked about the different people in the group and where they were now and we'd kept

  • in touch with some but not with all of them. At the end of that conversation, Steve patted

  • me on the back and he said, I'm really sorry it didn't work out for you. You

  • cannot draw that path looking forward. You cannot draw any of your paths looking forward.

  • So you have to figure out what you love to do what you have conviction about and go do that.

  • Here's the challenge, so far, you guys have gotten where you are by meeting and exceeding expectations.

  • You are awesome. You have excelled. Look at you. You looked like an amazing, giant choir.

  • But from here on out, you have to switch gears. You are no longer meeting and exceeding expectations.

  • There are no expectations. There's no script. When you're doing what you love

  • to do, you become resilient because that's the habit you create for yourself.

  • You create a habit of taking chances on yourself and making bold choices in service to doing what you love.

  • If on the other hand, you do what you think is expected of you or what you are supposed to do,

  • and things go poorly or chaos ensues as it surely will, you will look to

  • external sources for what to do next because that will be the habit you've created for yourself.

  • You'll be standing there frozen on the stage of your own life. If you're just filling a role,

  • you will be blind-sided. Here's the other problem. I don't feel like I can stand here

  • and tell you to try to have an impact because the problem seems so massive,

  • it seems impossible to make any impact at all and you just end up feeling like you can't do anything.

  • Just thinking about it, you know Syria and Iran and North Korea, is you go through that

  • list, you know it makes me want to sweat and not just because I'm wearing this robe that

  • has no natural fibers in it. I think this was synthesized from tractor fuel three days ago.

  • So instead, what I implore you to do is believe that if you make courageous choices

  • and bet on yourself, and put yourself out there that you will have an impact as a result

  • of what you do and you don't need to know now what that will be or how it will happen because nobody ever does.

  • So I like to think of you guys in the metaphor of my early improv days as having been backstage preparing

  • and you are here now and look at everything you've accomplished. It's remarkable.

  • You are just also amazing to me and I'm so proud of everything you've done.

  • But as you get ready to walk out under the bright lights of the improvisational stage of the rest of your life,

  • I implore you to remember those two lessons I learned years ago, be bold,

  • make courageous choices for yourself. Be in the Keebler Elf Factory, what are you afraid of?

  • And secondly, don't always worry about what your next line is supposed to be,

  • what you're supposed to do next, there's no script. Live your life, be in this moment,

  • be in this moment, now be in this moment.

  • Twenty years from now, you will be sitting in a different seat in this stadium and

  • you will be lying in a field looking up at the clouds and you will be holding a patient's

  • hand walking into surgery, and you will be grading or evaluating a student's essay,

  • and you will be sitting on the sidelines of your daughter's soccer practice and

  • you will be standing behind this podium.

  • Be right there and nowhere else in that moment, soak it all in and remember to say,

  • Thank you. Thank you, hashtag, go blue!

Richard Costolo: I love you too. You know I have to start with by tweeting this, so