Full text of Virtual Commencement speech by Ashton Kutcher for the honors program class of 2020, University of Iowa.
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Ashton Kutcher: American Actor, Producer, Entrepreneur
You’re on the clock. What’s your plan? I had a plan. My plan was probably a lot like yours. Actually, I had a plan of sitting exactly where you are today. Well, not exactly. I mean, technically speaking, I had a graduation in my plan, like there was an actual ceremony and stuff.
I was hoping to get biochemical engineering degree. I was going to become a geneticist. Go work at a company, make a decent, like six figure salary, move up over time, buy a house, get married once, have some kids, settle down and probably retire a little bit early. It’s a really solid, solid plan.
And the only thing that provide me with an opportunity to be where I am today was a willingness to throw out the master plan. Now, I didn’t throw out the hard work. I didn’t throw out the morals. I didn’t throw my goals. I didn’t throw all my ambition, my drive, my experience. I just threw out the master plan. I’m not saying you’re going to have to do that, but I’m saying having a willingness to do that goes a long ways.
You don’t ever have to know what you want to be when you grow up. And the truth is, even if you think you know who you are right now, you’re probably wrong because you’re not who everyone else thinks that you are. In fact, you’re probably not who you think you are and your life will definitely not go as planned.
I ended up going into modeling when I was an actor, then I was a producer, and then I acted some more than I started reality TV shows. Then I became a venture capitalist and the philanthropist was married twice, had kids later. Like, the whole thing was sort of like backwards to what the master plan was.
Life will throw you some crazy, crazy curveballs. It’ll send you opportunities and directions you couldn’t even imagine. And if you got the plan locked in, you might just miss the opportunity. Here’s the good news. There are very few choices that you’re going to make in your life that are permanent.
So try things. Try all kinds of things. And always be in pursuit of the better you. Now, there are some plans that are worth making. Plan on surrounding yourself with people that disagree with you without trying to convince them that they’re wrong. So that you can be right. The people that I disagree with when I was younger got a lot smarter when I got older. Now, I’m not saying that they got right. But I’m saying in in some cases, they get right. But in most cases, the justification behind their reasoning became a lot more intelligent.
plan on meeting as many people as you can, because we come in all shapes, sizes, ideas, backgrounds, and and we become the average of the 10 people that we spend the most amount of time with in our life. But as you meet, people take your time in finding generous, thoughtful, caring people to share your life and work with. And then once you find them, Give them all you got. Give them everything, because the only things that are worth anything in this life are the things that you can share.
Start to develop your plan around your moral foundation and your purpose. But never stop developing it. Figure out what you will do, what you won’t do. And most importantly, what you’re doing it for. And review it and revise it as life washes over you and augments your framework and assumptions for how the world works because it will change. I promise you.
Plan on working hard. It’s there’s just no replacement for hard work. You’ll read in the news and hear about people who have these overnight success stories. Trust me, everything you read in the news is an anomaly. That’s why it’s news. If it happened every day, it wouldn’t be news.
Most of the people that I know that are successful in this world got there the old fashioned way. And chances are you will, too. Plan on weird shit happening. I don’t know how many people say shit in commencements things, but I’ve just said it, so just big plan on having weird shit happens. It just a lot. Right now, I’m in quarantine in California. You don’t have a graduation. The world’s gonna throw curve balls. It’s just gonna happen that way.
So plan on it happening. And as a part of that plan, come up with big, giant, ambitious ideas. Because the world needs them.
But a word of caution. Ideas are cheap. Execution is expensive. So hold your ideas until you’re ready to defend them. And be ready for people to try to tear you down. Sometimes they will. It hurts. That’s why knowing what you’re doing it for matters. Goes back to that purpose piece.It’s really, really important.
Plan on time becoming your most valuable asset, because I can promise you that it will, no matter what endeavor you pursue, you’re going to discover that your partners and your bosses are going to be seeking leverage. And the greatest leverage of all is time. As you get older, you’re gonna realize the true supply demand curve of time and you’ll know that it’s only becoming a more limited supply and the demand is only becoming greater.
The clock starts now. What’s your plan?
– Ashton Kutcher