In his commencement speech at Duke University on Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook told graduates they should “be fearless” in using their power to change the world.
“No generation has ever had more power than yours,” Cook said at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium. “And no generation has had a chance to change things faster than yours can. The pace at which progress is possible has accelerated dramatically. Aided by technology, every individual has the tools, the potential and reach to build a better world.”
Cook offered a few examples of what being fearless means.
“Fearlessness means taking the first step even if you don’t know where it will take you,” Cook said. “It means being driven by a higher purpose, rather than by applause. It means knowing that you reveal your character when you stand apart more than when you stand with the crowd.”
Cook, who earned an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in 1988, went on to mention the #MeToo movement and student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“Fearless, like the students of Parkland, Florida, who refused to be silent about the epidemic of gun violence and have rallied millions to their cause,” he said.
“Fearless, like the women who say “me too” and “times up.” Women who cast light onto dark places and move us to a more just and equal future,” Cook continued. “Duke graduates, be fearless!”
Cook also seemed to take a swipe at Facebook, which has endured a barrage of negative press following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, by saying that Apple rejects the idea that privacy and technological innovation are mutually exclusive.
“…we choose a different path, collecting as little of your data a possible, being thoughtful and respectful when it’s in our care because we know it belongs to you.”
In many ways, Cook’s message of fearlessness was similar to Steve Jobs’ now-famous commencement speech at Stanford University from 2005 titled “How to live before you die.”
But there’s one key difference in how the two leaders framed the concept of fearlessness: Cook thinks you should be fearless about improving the outside world, while Jobs focused more on the idea that you should be fearless about maximizing your own life.
To Jobs, that meant living with the knowledge that you’re going to die someday, and that all your fears of failure or embarrassment will fall away in the face of death.
“Avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose,” he said. “You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”