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Official portrait of Federal Reserve Chairman ...

In his commencement speech at Princeton, Ben Bernanke offered the following ten observations that he described as “road-tested” in real-life situations:
1. “Life is amazingly unpredictable; any 22-year-old who thinks they know where they will be in 10 years, much less in 30, is simply lacking imagination.”
2. “Whatever life may have in store for you, each of you has a grand, lifelong project, and that is the development of yourself as a human being… If you are not happy with yourself, even the loftiest achievements won’t bring you much satisfaction.”
3. “The concept of success leads me to consider so-called meritocracies and their implications. We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair…But fair in an absolute sense? Think about it. A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate–these are the folks who reap the largest rewards. The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world, and to share their luck with others.”
4. “Who is worthy of admiration? Those most worthy of admiration are those who have made the best use of their advantages or, alternatively, coped most courageously with their adversities. I think most of us would agree that people who have, say, little formal schooling but labor honestly and diligently to help feed, clothe, and educate their families are deserving of greater respect–and help, if necessary–than many people who are superficially more successful. They’re more fun to have a beer with, too. That’s all that I know about sociology.”
5. “But my experience is that most of our politicians and policymakers are trying to do the right thing, according to their own views and consciences, most of the time. If you think that the bad or indifferent results that too often come out of Washington are due to base motives and bad intentions, you are giving politicians and policymakers way too much credit for being effective.”
6. “Economics is a highly sophisticated field of thought that is superb at explaining to policymakers precisely why the choices they made in the past were wrong. About the future, not so much…”
7. I’m not going to tell you that money doesn’t matter. [But] a career decision based only on money and not on love of the work or a desire to make a difference is a recipe for unhappiness.”
8. Nobody likes to fail but failure is an essential part of life and of learning. If your uniform isn’t dirty, you haven’t been in the game.
9. “I spoke earlier about definitions of personal success in an unpredictable world. I hope that as you develop your own definition of success, you will be able to do so, if you wish, with a close companion on your journey…remember that physical beauty is evolution’s way of assuring us that the other person doesn’t have too many intestinal parasites…But while important, [physical beauty and sexual attractiveness]…are not the only things to look for in a partner. The two of you will have a long trip together…I can’t imagine any choice more consequential for a lifelong journey than the choice of a traveling companion.”
10. “Call your mom and dad once in a while. A time will come when you will want your own grown-up, busy, hyper-successful children to call you.”

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