Larry Ellison explains why life isn’t about money: ‘At some point, you can’t spend all of it. Trust me, I’ve tried’

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Larry Ellison at USC.
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Business Insider

On Friday, self-made billionaire Larry Ellison gave a funny and poignant speech filled with life advice to the University of Southern California’s class of 2016.

Ellison’s commencement speech was quite the coup for the USC class, but there’s a good reason why he was there.

He was granted an honorary doctorate by USC, a Doctor of Humane Letters. He has just donated $200 million to the university, one of the largest donations in USC’s history, to establish a first-of-its-kind holistic cancer-treatment and research center.

It will be run by Dr. David Agus, the famed cancer-research doctor and best-selling author. Agus is known for treating the cancer of many tech elite, including Ellison’s best friend, Steve Jobs.

During the speech, he revealed something about himself that puts that donation into perspective.

“When I was your age, I used to dream about this place. My dream was to go to med school at USC,” he told the class.

Instead, Ellison went to two different colleges, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Chicago, and dropped out of both. But he learned enough about computers to move to Northern California to find work in the tech industry. He then helped create a new kind of database, cofounded Oracle, and built it into one of the world’s biggest software companies.

He was born of modest means but is now the seventh-richest man in the world.

Ellison’s commencement speech was filled with quotable tidbits and words of wisdom. Here’s a few:


“At some point, it’s not about the money. At some point, you can’t spend all of it. Trust me, I’ve tried.” Ellison is known for his lavish lifestyle and collection of cars, airplanes, art, and real estate — including the Hawaiian island of Lanai.


“When people start telling you that you’re crazy, you just might be onto the most important innovation in your life.”


“Deep inside all of us there is a primal desire to do something important in life.”

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“There’s a TV advertisement for the military that says it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure. That’s exactly how I feel about my years in Silicon Valley.”

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“Like any ongoing adventure, I have no idea how it ends. But I know it will.”

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“Your generation will change the world, as every generation does. You will invent new technologies and new forms of art.”

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“In a constantly changing world, what is possible is a moving target — challenge the status quo.”

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“You will change the world and the world will change you.”


“Don’t let the experts discourage you when you challenge the status quo. Like Mark Twain says, what’s an expert anyway? Just some guy from out of town.”

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“Each of you has a chance to discover who you are and not who you are supposed to be.”

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“Each of you has an obligation to commit to a righteous cause — one that improves the lives of humanity and the planet.”

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“Keep searching until you find a job that ignites your passions. Like I did.”