Power Point: Write it down

May 5, 2009, 2:35 AM UTC
Fortune

“You know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream? And you know how, if you don’t have a pencil and pad by the bed to write it down, it will be completely gone the next morning? Sometimes it is important to wake up and stop dreaming. When a really great dream shows up, grab it!”

–Google co-founder Larry Page in a commencement address given at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, on Saturday. The speech was an ode to the school that spawned him–his parents met there as students in 1962–and later educated him. Page’s central theme was the importance of family: He shared several heartfelt anecdotes about his late father and referenced the impending birth of his own first child. “Just like me, your families brought you here, and you brought them here. Please keep them close and remember: they are what really matters in life.”

But Page also had some stories for the grads about seizing moments of inspiration: “I had one of those dreams when I was 23. When I suddenly woke up, I was thinking: What if we could download the whole web, and just keep the links and… I grabbed a pen and started writing!” Obviously that idea never panned out, but another one did. “Amazingly, I had no thought of building a search engine. The idea wasn’t even on the radar. But, much later we happened upon a better way of ranking webpages to make a really great search engine, and Google was born.” The world would be a much different place if that idea had never been written down, wouldn’t it? –Jessica Shambora