Words of Wisdom From Jeff Hoffman, Founder of Priceline.com

For the Entrepreneurship classes that I am taking this semester, we are required to attend at least six out-of-class events put on by the University’s entrepreneurship program. Most of these out-of-class events are idea pitches and guest speakers. This means I am spending a lot of time listening to some of the most successful, wise, innovative entrepreneurs speak on how they made it big. Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Jeff Hoffman, one of the founders of Priceline.com, share how he made his dreams a reality. What I thought was going to be a boring academic lecture actually turned out to be some real life lessons, and the more I think about them, the more I want to put my thoughts on his words into my own.

There were several times where his words struck me as interesting or important, so I wrote down a few direct quotes to reflect on later. Here are my unfiltered thoughts on his words of wisdom.

“What kind of precedent are you setting for your life when you quit the first time it gets hard?” 

At the beginning of his speech, Mr. Hoffman started off by talking about his struggle to pay Yale tuition his freshman year. He was able to work hard and get into Yale, but the minute he got there the reality of paying for his education at the prestigious university began to set in.

Hoffman said that his parents urged him to come home. But instead, he realized that if he gave up and went home, he would be setting a precedent for his life that could not be undone. Quitting meant giving up, and he was never going to accomplish any of his goals by giving up. It is so much easier to quit than to keep going– especially if it is something that is going to bring you great stress. But at the same time, it takes incredible strength to push through and attempt to achieve those goals. You are the only one in control of your success, and it begins with the the first challenge you are given.

“Is it growing up or giving up?”

In his speech, Mr. Hoffman emphasized that many adults choose to do something mediocre with their lives because it’s what they’re “supposed to do”. They suppress their creativity in hopes of finding something better and more practical. Yet as anyone who has come across success in their life can tell you, that success did not come from playing it safe. It came from embracing their creativity and taking the road less traveled. They took risks, refused to “grow up”, and eventually came across what they were ultimately looking for.

At this point in my life, this quote is incredibly applicable. I am focused on obtaining a degree, scoring a job, and making enough money to support myself. Some days, it seems like my only focus is growing up. Does that mean I’m giving up? Sometimes. There have been many times where I have told myself that my dreams are not attainable because eventually I need to grow up. However, I thought that Hoffman’s speech came at the perfect time. He reminded me that although I probably can’t have it all, I can continue to pursue the things I truly want.

“The world is already telling you what you can’t do.”

We are always told what we can and can’t do. When did that begin? In kindergarten, when our artwork was graded? (Maybe I’ll write a blog on that– “the suppression of my creativity by the American education system”) What about when we were just babies, lying on our backs, while our parents thought that we wouldn’t roll over? How does anyone expect the dreamers to dream and the doers to do if they are constantly being told that they can’t? Hoffman emphasized this point and encouraged us to look beyond those who tell us we can’t do what we want.

Nobody in this world is going to get what they want unless they stand up and fight for it. With any distinctive idea, there will come criticism. Yet it is important to realize that although the criticism can be somewhat valid, it is also just another roadblock on your path to success.

“Don’t chase money, chase excellence.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the money game– especially when your future is so undefined. Yeah, I’ll admit, I do hope that someday I will make enough money to travel the world and eat something other than ramen noodles and buy a decently nice car, but at the end of the day, that’s not what I’m chasing. I want to be the best. I want to be satisfied. I want to go to bed knowing that the work I put out that day was my very best and that my job brings me fulfillment.

Although the words of Jeff Hoffman are not the be-all and end-all of career advice, I did get a lot out of his speech. I realized that I am able to make my dreams a reality with hard work and perseverance. I hope that by sharing some of his wisdom with the world, I am able not only to put my thoughts into words, but to empower others to chase their dreams as well.

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