World's Youngest Female Billionaire at Pepperdine: 'Find your Non-Negotiable'

Pepperdine University Seaver College Commencement, May 2nd

Elizabeth Holmes


Holmes is the founder and CEO of Theranos, which is developing cheap tests for the diagnosis of disease; Holmes is also the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire and one of TIME’s 2015 100 most influential people.

There’s an anecdote I’ve always kept very close to my heart. It’s often associated with the great Nelson Mandela, who became the leader of South Africa on this exact day you’re graduating twenty one years ago.

It’s not tweet-sized, so bear with me.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous.

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. 

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do.”

It goes on, “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us. It is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So the first point I want to share is to take time to think about what it is you would do if you knew you could not fail, and to do what you’re afraid to do. When that happens, watch. You’ll be amazed what you can do and by how man people want to walk with you. So dream big. Do not be afraid to go and do the hard things in this world. To achieve them all we need is already within us....

When I started my company someone said to me, define what is non-negotiable for you. What you’re willing to fight for, die for, and most importantly live for. For me, that non-negotiable is our mission, and realizing a change in a world and in an industry that has stagnated for decades and resulted in so much loss and pain. A change that would mean that one day people wouldn’t have to say goodbye too soon to those they love.

I started Theranos because I believe that building a business is a vehicle for making a difference in the world. That you can do well by doing good. It is what I wanted to do with my time in our world, no matter what.

The genesis of our work began with the incredible sense of injustice I felt every time I saw someone battling cancer, the pain I felt watching how objectified the people we love become when they have to find the strength to take one more needle, or to give one more tube of blood, when all their veins have already collapsed. How they struggle to find the courage to keep fighting as their bodies grow weaker. How I wished we had a system that would empower people to find out they were sick before the cancer spread or the heart grow weaker or the diabetes made them lose a limb. As too many of us all know all too well, how helpless we feel when there’s nothing we wouldn’t do to make someone we love well again. I knew I wanted my work, my life to be about trying to change all of that.

That is my non-negotiable. That is my calling. I know all of you have a calling, and that it’s completely different and unique for all of you, which is what makes it so profound. Take the time to find it. Keep focusing on it, until you can hear it. If you keep focusing, trust me, you will find it. And when you do, you’ll change the lives of people around you. You’ll change the world.

It’s that thing you’d do if no one was paying you, if no one was applauding you. You’d do it over and over again even if you lost your job. It’s that thing you do when you lose track of time. It’s what you love. It’s hidden in the science experiment you fail at over and over again but just can’t give up on. It sits in that painting you’ve looked at a million times. It’s in the long hours you put in for a summer job. It resides in the story you tell your best every chance you get. That wisdom, that passion. We all have it. Everything you need to find it is within you....

Holmes' talk can be seen in full here

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

Father Michael Nixon and parishioner work a volunteer table at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Panama City, Fla. Photo by Atena Sherry.
Much like New Orleans’ Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina, the low-income neighborhoods east of Panama City, where St. Dominic is located, were especially hard-hit by the storm. Now residents here are desperate for help.
Atena SherryOctober 18, 2018
“I believe there are adequate, alternative options for true women’s health care out there, and Planned Parenthood is not needed,” said Alisha Fox, a health and wellness coach at a Catholic fertility center in Chicago.
Colleen ZeweOctober 18, 2018
 Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa checks out the name badge of Nathanael Lamataki, a youth delegate from the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, as they leave a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Souraphiel highlighted the role globalization plays in connecting young people in unjust ways.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 18, 2018
The pope said he would visit North Korea “if an official invitation arrives.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 18, 2018