ouTuber and former NASA engineer Mark Rober gave MIT's Class of 2023 three bits of life advice in a humour-filled commencement speech Thursday.

Rober is known for his YouTube channel and recent spinoff CrunchLabs, which focuses on popular science and make-it-yourself gadgets for kids.

Embrace naive optimism: Approach the future positively, even when you don't have all the answers. Rober suggests that sometimes, not being the expert can be an advantage, as it allows you to be more open to new experiences and possibilities.

He encourages graduates to take risks and embrace the unknown with curiosity and wonder.

"Think back on the first week at MIT. How naïve you were about the number of all-nighters and cans of Red Bull that would be required to be sitting where you are right now," he said. "…If you truly understood what would be required, that discouragement might have prevented you from starting it. Sometimes, it's an advantage not to be the expert."

Frame your failures: Rober shared an anecdote about creating a computer programming puzzle for his YouTube viewers where he secretly manipulated the results to study how people react to failure.

He observed that those who viewed failures as learning opportunities were likelier to persevere and succeed. He advises graduates to see challenges and setbacks as stepping stones on their path to growth rather than reasons to give up.

Imagine a world where challenges don't exist. There are no hurdles to overcome, no obstacles to face. How satisfying would that be? The truth is, we need challenges to appreciate the feeling of achievement truly.

Like in video games, where the young players never give up, we must approach life with the same mindset. Embrace the challenges, frame your failures as lessons, and learn faster. Don't be afraid to fight for what you want, just like Mario never gives up.

Because it's through the challenges that we grow, learn, and become more robust versions of ourselves. Embrace the game of life and let it inspire you never to give up.

"If you want to cross the river of life, you'll get wet. You're going to have to backtrack. And that's not a bug, a feature," he said. "Frame those failures and slips like a video game, and not only will you learn more and do it faster, but it will make all the successful jumps along the way that much sweeter."

Foster your relationships: Rober acknowledges that making close friends becomes more difficult as we age but emphasizes the importance of nurturing existing relationships.

He suggests using confirmation bias to your advantage by assuming good intentions in others. He also shared a personal story about how his mother's influence continues to impact his life even though she is no longer with him.

But Rober would only leave with a flourish. He delivered a fourth piece of advice, urging them to "engage in occasional playful anarchy." To illustrate this, he sent his graduation cap skyward, not with a throw, but with the help of a hovering drone.

This playful act encapsulated his message beautifully: even in the face of tradition and convention, there's always room for a bit of calculated mischief and creative spirit.

Here are some key takeaways young people can glean from Mark Rober's commencement speech at MIT.

Embracing Curiosity and Passion: Rober's journey from NASA engineer to YouTube success story proves that pursuing one's interests can lead to unexpected but fulfilling paths. Young people can learn to:

  • Identify their passions: What subjects captivate them? What sparks their curiosity? Encourage them to explore various fields and delve deeper into what excites them.
  • Turn passion into projects: Rober wasn't just fascinated by science; he experimented, creating videos and sharing his knowledge. Guide young people to channel their passions into projects, learning valuable research, presentation, and problem-solving skills.

Taking Risks and Embracing Failure: Building a YouTube channel, like any entrepreneurial venture, involves calculated risks and learning from failures. Young people can know to:

  • Step outside their comfort zone: Be bold and try new things, even if they seem daunting. Encourage experimentation and calculated risks, reminding them that failures are stepping stones, not dead ends.
  • Find creative solutions: Rober's YouTube projects often involve inventive solutions to unconventional problems. Encourage young people to develop their problem-solving skills and embrace innovative approaches to challenges.
  • Build resilience: Rober acknowledges the struggles of building a successful YouTube channel. Young people can learn from their perseverance and develop the strength to overcome setbacks and keep moving forward.

Building a Community and Collaborating: Rober's YouTube success is partly due to his active online community and collaborations with other creators. Young people can learn to:

  • Connect with like-minded individuals: Encourage them to join online communities or clubs related to their interests. Collaboration and sharing ideas can fuel creativity and learning.
  • Seek partnerships and mentors: Rober has collaborated with scientists, researchers, and fellow YouTubers. Encourage young people to seek mentors and partners who can guide and support their endeavours.
  • Foster positive online relationships: Remind them to be respectful and supportive in online communities, building a network of valuable connections.

Continuously Learning and Adapting: The digital landscape constantly evolves, and Rober emphasizes the importance of lifelong learning. Young people can:

  • Maintain a thirst for knowledge: Encourage them to stay curious, explore new concepts, and adapt to changing trends. YouTube is a learning platform offering diverse content and educational channels.
  • Develop critical thinking skills: Rober's scientific background shines through in his videos. Encourage young people to critically analyze information, ask questions, and form conclusions.
  • Embrace lifelong learning: The journey doesn't end with a degree or certification. Remind young people that learning is a continuous process and new skills can be acquired at any stage of life.

By remembering that Mark Rober is a YouTube entrepreneur sharing his experience at MIT, young people can apply his advice to their personal lives and consider potential career paths in the digital world.

They can be inspired to turn their passions into online businesses, create engaging content, and build thriving communities around their interests while remembering the importance of hard work, perseverance, and learning from every experience.

Jan 17, 2024
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