Reid Hoffman’s Commencement Address At Babson College

And, if we really want the playground metaphor to accurately describe the modern world, neither the playground or the jungle gym are fixed. They are constantly changing – new structures emerge, old structures are in constant change and sometimes collapse, and the playground constantly moves the structure around.

Modern careers need to deal with this constantly changing environment – where the playing field changes, your competition changes, and your tools change.

The mindset of committing yourself to the path of a ladder or escalator and working your way up the steps is now a bad strategy.

What are the tools and the mindset for the flexibility and adaptability of the new jungle gym and the career playground? Entrepreneurship! Everyone needs to think like an entrepreneur – even if still only a few will be starting new businesses.

Fortunately, for you here today, for you graduates of Babson, you have already focused on learning entrepreneurial skills. You have the bias to action rather than elaborate planning. You understand that you need to create your work, your jobs, your career.

These skills will serve you well – both for the businesses that you may start and also in helping others in society learn to think like entrepreneurs.

For entrepreneur-ing, there are hours of advice and insight – indeed you have already studied this for years. I have only one to highlight today.

Build your network and always think in networks. Networks help you find your way; they create a sonar map of intelligence, expertise, information, and insight. Your allies, your connections, can help you navigate the large number of challenges that can derail a startup company.

Networks also help amplify your chances and magnitude of success. Just as much as they can help you avoid minefields of potential failure, they are also essential to finding the path to success – where the opportunities are, how to achieve those opportunities, how to take the intelligent risks for breakout results.

And there are foundations of your network here in this tent, around you today. As a personal example, my first job came from the roommate of a good friend of mine (and who is now also a good friend) from my university; my serious career inflection at PayPal came from a good friend from my university who co-founded the company.

And your networks are not just the people you know and who know you; they are also they people that they know, and further the people that they know.

Life is a team sport. And, as much as entrepreneurs look like individuals who explore the desert by themselves in order to find riches, they are actually successful based upon their ability to find, build, connect, and collaborate with important networks. Entrepreneurs succeed based upon their connection with networks.

And, this leads me to our key theme for today. Entrepreneurs are massively important for society. Not just because they create companies and jobs – although those are both seriously important. Not just because entrepreneur-ism is the toolset for how all of us should pursue our work and careers – although the toolset is essential for modern professional success.

Entrepreneurs are massively important for society because they help build the institutions in which we live. And as the modern world continues to accelerate, adaptability and invention become even more important.

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