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Steve Ballmer’s keys to success


I knew it was going to be a different kind of commencement speech when I saw him come out with the cheek mic on.

Steve Ballmer, just retired head of Microsoft, had just been decorated with the velvet stole and purple cap for his honorary doctorate from the University of Washington.

After that, it was buckle your seat belts.

“I have to say, I’m a little fired up to be here today!” he shouted in his Steve Ballmer form.

So the velvet cap had to go, “This hat gets in the way. Sorry about that.”

“Seize the day! Have a point of view! Be hardcore!”

Those were his main points.

Seize your opportunities, like the day IBM came to Microsoft needing software; have a point of view, like believing software could change the world; and be hardcore, which means stick with your vision.

All spoken with the confidence of a man who could single-handedly pay off the college loans and home mortgages of all 40,000 people in that stadium, and still have enough to buy an NBA team.

But he also sprinkled in a little humility.

“I’ve had an amazingly fortunate and lucky journey,” he said. “Fortunate and lucky journey.”

He talked about balancing work and family.

“I have a life partner. I have kids. I have family.”

And he said he shared the same uncertainty as most of the audience. “I am 58 years old, and I, too, don’t know what I’m doing again.”

But I think the real message, and the one that other speakers would do well to remember, is that when you stand in front of thousands of people who’ve been sitting there for two hours…

“It’s been a little low-key in here for my taste!”

For God’s sake, bring a little energy to the stage!

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