On May 14, 2018, Michael Dubin, Co-founder and CEO of Dollar Shave Club gave a commencement speech for Emory University graduates. In it he credited improv classes for his ability to meet the marketing needs of his new enterprise.
This excerpt starts at 7:43 but the entire speech is worth a listen if you have the time. Below is a rough transcript of what he has to say:
“…yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back so you have choices about where to spend your time and then you have choices about your state of mind. Choices about your mindset, how do you choose to frame a tricky situation… is it a problem or is it an opportunity? Choices about your thoughts themselves… which thoughts do you ignore which thoughts do you dwell on and choices about your attitude… will you choose to bemoan a stroke of bad luck or blame someone else or will you choose to scrutinize the choices that might have brought you there be mindful that these little choices about mindset and attitude are just as important as the big ones maybe more be thoughtful about the ripple effects of these little choices now I realize all of that is a bit abstract and that you’ve all come here today hoping to come away with the secret to life so without further ado here is the secret to life stop going to the store to buy your razors shampoo hair styling cream and aftershave instead go right now to dollarshaveclub.com we have everything you need to look smell and feel your best so you can get out there and be confident and live a successful life I’m kidding that’s not the secret to life but right now you can get started with a starter set for just dollars and they’re amazing ok let’s get back to choices as you leave this place to seek your path let us not be abstract here are a few specific choices I recommend choice number one choose to try new things you are not done expanding your horizons in fact you’ve only just begun something funny happens to people when they get older they start narrowing their field of vision they stop inviting new things into their lives just because you’ve chosen the next step on your path do not become a one-dimensional creature I advise you to invest time getting exposure to new things even if especially if you can’t draw a straight line between that thing and whatever it is you think you want to do with your life which I promise you will change new things new people and most importantly new perspectives if ever there were a time in our history that we needed access to perspectives different than our own than it is now seek new things out and say yes just for the hell of it you cannot foresee how such things will cross pollinate other areas of your life I believe very much in this principle of cross pollination that expertise our perspective from one discipline can be exponentially valuable when applied to something else now maybe that’s obvious coming from a liberal arts major but here’s an example from my life when I was living in New York City after college and I was a page at NBC I had heard that all the great writers and performers on Saturday Night Live have been trained in improv and sketch comedy and I loved comedy that sounded interesting so I signed up for a class which led to another class which led to eight years of classes and hundreds of hours of training there was no plan to become a professional improviser or a comic or a writer no direct line between in my career in media and marketing or my goals in media and marketing I just fell in love with the art form and I wanted to learn it and it is only because of that improv and sketch training that I had the skills to write and perform in the first Dollar Shave Club commercial or any of the subsequent commercials for that matter without those commercials Dollar Shave Club would not have become the game-changing force in American business that it is we may not have sold that company for a billion dollars in without that improv training I would have had to hire somebody else probably wouldn’t have been any good and the final product wouldn’t have been any good so if I don’t just say yes to that first improv class on a whim with a full time job then there is no Dollar Shave Club and my poor mother would still be flying coach furthermore my improv skills have proved in value and valuable in business improv taught me how to think quickly on my feet to distill key thoughts from a live discussion and to synthesize them into a course of action and this is what I do in business all day every day so by simply saying yes to something that I thought was interesting totally changed my life.”