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Michael Lewis, author

Princeton (2012)

Michael Lewis, author of bestselling books including "Liar'sPoker," "The Big Short," "Moneyball" and "Flash Boys," talked about his time at Princeton — and recalls asking a professor what he thought of his thesis.

"What did you think of the writing?" Lewis asked.

"Put it this way: Never try to make a living at it," the professor replied.


Lewis talked about dabbling in writing but being unsure what to write about. By chance of a seating arrangement at a dinner, he wound up with a job at Salomon Brothers. And that, he said, gave him something to write about.

"Wall Street had become so unhinged that it was paying recent Princeton graduates who knew nothing about money small fortunes to pretend to be experts about money."

"I called up my father. I told him I was going to quit this job that now promised me millions of dollars to write a book for an advance of 40 grand. There was a long pause on the other end of the line. 'You might just want to think about that,' he said." Lewis did think about it — then quit and wrote "Liar's Poker."

The speech was titled "Don't Eat Fortune's Cookie." Lewis talks about a psychology experiment where a group of three people was tasked with a problem to solve, then brought a plate of four cookies. Every time, the person designated the leader would eat the extra cookie — and with gusto! Lips smacking, the whole nine.So Lewis's parting advice was this:

"All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you'll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don't."

Watch the commencement speech
Read the full transcript

Source: Denise Applewhite | Office of Communications | Princeton University