To the Class of 2020: “Generosity will always make everything better.”

From commencement advice that Yale professor and author Amy Chua would give to college graduates today:

I know this is a difficult and anxious time for you, so I thought I’d share a story. My first year teaching at Yale Law School, I was in my office when I got a call telling me that I was late for the annual faculty photo—which I’d totally forgotten about. Mortified, I sprinted downstairs and burst outside. At the other end of the courtyard, I saw my entire faculty—mostly men at the time, in suit and tie—lined up in three distinguished rows, along with a photographer, looking impatient, plus students everywhere.

“Amy, there you are!” the dean called out. All eyes turned in my direction.

“Coming,” I shouted back feebly and started to run toward them, in my heels. When I was about fifteen yards away, I tripped. I tried to regain my balance but couldn’t. I stumbled forward once, twice, arms flailing, then fell sprawling all over the grass. With everyone watching, I’d executed a perfect flying face plant.

I remember lying there, thinking, “You know, Amy, I’m not sure you can recover from this one.” I actually thought about just running away and never coming back. But somehow I survived that nightmare. And you will too. So hang in there, try to focus on how lucky you are compared to so many others, and you’ll not only make it through, but be stronger for it.

As you prepare to take on the world, I’d like to give you a few tips:

Go for it. Never avoid doing something because you’re afraid to fail. Everything in my life that’s been valuable and precious is something I was almost too scared to do.

Don’t make excuses. If something goes wrong, don’t blame others. Start with yourself.

Find your comparative advantage. I believe that every one of you has a slightly different gift to offer the world. Embrace it, and play to your strength.

Reject pettiness and bitterness. It’s a waste of valuable energy. Generosity will always make everything better. It will lighten your burdens and help you see the way.

Congratulations, Class of 2020, and good luck!

From the May 2-3 Wall Street Journal.

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