Make Life Better for People and Ask: Why Not?
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Swati Pandey

So what drives an unreasonable man to do unreasonable things?

I’ve had four distinct careers—accounting, homebuilding, retirement savings and philanthropy—but across all of them, I’ve been driven by one goal: to make life better for people. I wanted to build affordable homes for families, create a secure future for retirees, generate high-performing returns for shareholders and employees, boost the education of American children, improve the health of people around the globe, and inspire the public through art.

As you’ll read in my new book, “The Art of Being Unreasonable,” I never thought any of those pursuits was unreasonable—even though I was told countless times that I couldn’t do what I was attempting.

I’m giving the commencement address this Saturday to graduates of the Otis College of Art and Design. My advice to them is to ignore conventional wisdom and close their ears to the negative whispers of the naysayers.

It’s hard to hold fast to what you believe can be done—especially in the face of people telling you you’re crazy. I remember how eager I was to graduate from college—I was so impatient that I changed my major from pre-law to accounting so I could graduate in three and a half years and then get to work.

Starting this month, there will be thousands of graduates facing a lifetime of possibilities. My advice to you is when someone tells you something can’t be done, ask: Why not? Continually ask questions, pursue your passion, do your research so you’re armed with facts and knowledge.

When I started my first Fortune 500 company, I was told it was crazy that a 23-year-old kid could build houses. But we did it.  When we acquired a sleepy insurance company and wanted to transform it into a retirement savings company, I was told that was a crazy idea. But we did it. Time and time again, I was told something couldn’t be done. And I proved the critics wrong.

The world is counting on you to do it, too.

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