Top 10 Life Lessons (Last Lecture Series) | Summary and Q&A

May 27, 2010
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Top 10 Life Lessons (Last Lecture Series)


A former CEO shares ten lessons on leadership, personal renewal, and success, emphasizing the importance of learning from experiences, building meaningful relationships, and embracing change.

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Key Insights

  • 🎮 Life is a game, and playing it honorably and living by your values is crucial for success.
  • 👾 Endurance, resilience, and patience are essential in the long game of life.
  • ♻️ Saying no to unethical and abusive individuals protects your reputation and creates a positive environment.
  • 🥺 Taking ownership of your responsibilities and adopting an ownership mindset leads to discipline and accountability.
  • 🤔 Effective leaders manage relationships with peers and other team members, thinking beyond their immediate responsibilities.
  • 🫥 Recognize the importance of humility and avoid crossing the line from confidence to arrogance.
  • ❓ Learn from experiences and strive for continual personal renewal and growth.


[MUSIC] You know, I've had a lot of chance to interact with your class over the last couple of years, starting with admit weekend, I guess. About 27 months ago. So, we've had lots of interactions, large and small but never anything quite like a last lecture. Come in, come in. So I'm looking forward to it. I, I have assembled the list of of ten less... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How can I effectively pace myself in life and accomplish my goals?

Pacing yourself in life requires endurance, resilience, and patience. Focus on staying physically, mentally, and emotionally fit. Determine your values and play the game of life honorably, winning it splendidly and living by your rules.

Q: What is the significance of saying no to people who are unethical or abusive?

Saying no to people with bad behavior protects your integrity and reputation. It also helps create a culture of discipline and accountability. By refusing to associate with unethical individuals, you save yourself from unpleasantness and ensure a positive environment.

Q: How can I create an ownership mindset even if I am not the owner of a business?

Regardless of your position or role, you can adopt an ownership mindset by taking responsibility for the group or organization you are a part of. Treat your work as if it was your own or a small business you own. Pay attention to detail, understand the operation, and invest time in managing and leading effectively.

Q: How can I become a more effective leader and build strong relationships with my team?

Manage relationships with peers and other team members and focus on building a strong team overall. Think beyond your immediate responsibilities and consider the entire company or industry. Be curious, interested, and willing to ask great questions that connect with and motivate others. Leaders find the words that resonate with their audience.


In this video, the speaker shares ten important lessons that have been important to him in his life and that he wants to share with the audience. He discusses topics such as the importance of playing the game of life honorably, the need for endurance and stamina, the value of saying no to people with bad behaviors, the significance of running things as if you own them, the importance of managing sideways and building strong teams, the dangers of hubris and the need for humility in leadership, the power of fear in driving change, the importance of learning from experience and embracing challenges, the art of finding the right words as a leader, and the necessity of personal renewal to maintain meaning and purpose in life.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why does the speaker consider life to be a game that should be taken seriously?

The speaker believes that life is a game that should be taken seriously because he sees parallels between life and the game of cricket, which he describes as a long and challenging game that requires endurance, stamina, perseverance, and patience. He emphasizes that the rules of the game matter a great deal, and winning the game honorably and splendidly by living according to one's values is more important than just winning.

Q: How does the speaker suggest staying in shape physically, mentally, and emotionally?

The speaker advises the audience to prioritize their determination and drive just as much as their DNA in shaping their lives. He emphasizes the importance of pacing oneself, as life ebbs and flows, and reminds the audience that endurance is a virtue. To stay in shape physically, he suggests consistently working at it. To stay in shape mentally and emotionally, he encourages the audience to have determination and drive, which will have a significant impact on their lives.

Q: According to the speaker, what is the danger in treating life as a trivial game?

The danger in treating life as a trivial game, according to the speaker, is that people may not take it seriously and may not adhere to the rules. This can lead to dishonorable and less fulfilling lives. The speaker argues that life should be treated as the greatest of all games and worth playing honorably and splendidly according to one's values and rules. By doing so, individuals can find greater meaning and fulfillment in their lives.

Q: What point does the speaker make about the unpredictability of life and career planning?

The speaker argues that life and career planning are futile because the big opportunities and challenges in life often arise unexpectedly. He uses the analogy of the game of cricket, where there are periods where nothing happens, and then suddenly, everything happens. While individuals cannot plan their lives or careers, they can plan to be prepared. The speaker stresses the importance of being prepared and adaptable in order to seize opportunities and overcome challenges that come their way.

Q: Why does the speaker suggest saying no to people who are abusive, dishonest, or unethical?

The speaker believes that life is too short to deal with people who have bad behaviors. He argues that individuals have the power and responsibility to say no to such people in order to protect themselves and maintain their own integrity. By cutting ties with abusive, dishonest, and unethical individuals, one can avoid unnecessary unpleasantness and protect their reputation, which the speaker emphasizes is everything. He also highlights the importance of saying no in banking and fundraising, where making the right choices is crucial.

Q: According to the speaker, why is it important to guard one's reputation scrupulously?

The speaker believes that reputation is everything and should be guarded scrupulously. He argues that one's reputation is a reflection of their values, ethics, and integrity. Maintaining a good reputation requires consistently adhering to one's values and making ethical decisions. The speaker emphasizes that a good reputation is essential for success and can open doors to opportunities. He warns that one's reputation can easily be damaged or tarnished, but by guarding it carefully, individuals can build trust and credibility.

Q: What does the speaker mean by "run it like you own it" and why is it important?

The speaker suggests that individuals should approach their responsibilities by adopting an ownership mindset. "Run it like you own it" means taking ownership of whatever one is in charge of, whether it's a business, a project, or a team, and taking responsibility for its success. The speaker argues that a sense of ownership leads to behaviors that can create a culture of discipline, accountability, and high performance. By treating whatever they are in charge of as if it were their own, individuals can make better decisions, pay attention to detail, and lead with greater integrity and responsibility.

Q: According to the speaker, what is the difference between leadership and fame or power?

The speaker believes that leadership is not about attaining fame, fortune, or power. Instead, he defines leadership as a responsibility for a group or organization. He emphasizes that leadership is about helping the group or organization to be better and do better. The speaker compares the responsibility of a leader to that of an owner, who feels a personal investment in their establishment's success. He argues that true leadership involves taking ownership of the group's goals and working towards their achievement while maintaining a sense of responsibility towards the individuals within the group.

Q: What does the speaker mean by "leaders cast long shadows"?

The speaker suggests that leaders have a significant influence on those around them. The phrase "leaders cast long shadows" means that people closely observe leaders and are influenced by their behavior, actions, and priorities. The speaker emphasizes that leaders are often judged by what they do and pay attention to, rather than what they say. By being mindful of their own actions and priorities, leaders can set a positive example and inspire those around them.

Q: According to the speaker, why is it important for leaders to manage sideways?

The speaker believes that leaders often focus on managing downward and upward in organizations, but they should not neglect managing sideways. Managing sideways means building and maintaining relationships with peers and other team members within the organization. The speaker argues that having strong relationships with peers is important for being part of a winning organization because all parts of the organization must perform well for overall success. Additionally, he suggests that leaders should think beyond their immediate unit or team and consider the entire organization or even the industry or world to have a broader perspective and operate in a way that benefits the greater good.

Q: What is the speaker's view on the danger of hubris and the importance of humility in leadership?

The speaker believes that hubris, or excessive pride and self-importance, is a common reason why leaders fail. He emphasizes the need for leaders to stay humble and maintain a sense of humility. The speaker argues that leaders should continue to learn and grow rather than becoming complacent in their success. He highlights the importance of being open to feedback and staying connected to people at all levels of the organization. The speaker suggests that humility combined with a focus on the needs of the organization and disciplined decision-making can lead to effective leadership.


In summary, the speaker's ten lessons provide valuable insights for living a meaningful and fulfilling life. These lessons include treating life as a significant and honorable game, cultivating endurance and stamina, saying no to people with bad behaviors, running things with an ownership mindset, managing sideways and building strong teams, avoiding hubris and embracing humility in leadership, using fear as a catalyst for positive change, learning from experiences and embracing challenges, finding the right words as a leader, and continuously renewing oneself to maintain meaning and purpose in life. These lessons serve as a guide for personal and professional growth, emphasizing the importance of values, integrity, resilience, and interpersonal skills in navigating through the game of life.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Life is like a game, and the rules matter. Play the game honorably, live by your values, and pace yourself for the long haul.

  • Say no to people who are abusive, unethical, or dishonest. Protect your reputation and guard it scrupulously.

  • Take ownership of your responsibilities, whether it is a small business or a large organization. Focus on attention to detail and lead by example.

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