Our Favorite Quotes from Nathan’s Commencement Speech

June 16, 2015

This past weekend, IV founder and CEO Nathan Myhrvold addressed UCLA’s 2015 graduation as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. In his speech, Nathan encouraged graduates to take chances and embrace failure.

“I think I’m here because of all my failures,” Nathan said. “Now that sounds weird. But it turns out that if you try to do anything interesting or hard in life, you’re going to fail sometimes. And I think one of the most important aspects of life is how you cope with failures.”

Video courtesy of UCLA. For Nathan’s remarks, please see the 1:19 mark.


For Nathan, the commencement was an opportunity to return to a school where he earned both a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s degree in geophysics and space physics.

Here are a few of our favorite quotes from his speech:

“The measure of a person is not whether you fail or not – because you’re gonna. The measure of a person is in what you do after that.”

“The most common approach to learning is called “trial and error.” Notice that it isn’t called trial and success.”

“Failure was an option. We even took that option, but we also found a way to make it work anyway.”

“Most advice on failure, including some of mine, is about how to persevere and continue to push ahead even in the face of failure. That is good advice but part of learning from failure is to step back and think. Sometimes that means not pressing on.”

“If you are beating your head against a wall, think about it a bit. Maybe give the wall a couple more good hard whacks. But then maybe you should find a softer spot on the wall. It’s fine to flirt with failure, but try not to fall in love.”

“A car has a very large windshield, and a very small rear view mirror. You need both, but the relative size is important – the things in front of you are much more important than those behind.”  

To hear more from Nathan on mentorship, check out what he had to say last year about his mentor, Stephen Hawking. And to learn more about Nathan’s many curiosities, take a look at The Economist’s article about him, “The Myth Buster.”

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