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Vanessa Chan to Penn’s Class of 2018: ‘Failing is like farting’

“Everyone does it,” the entrepreneur told Penn grads last week. “We just don’t like to admit it.”

The University of Pennsylvania. (University of Pennsylvania by f11photo via Shutterstock)

Investor, professor and entrepreneur Vanessa Chan wanted to leave the University of Pennsylvania’s Class of 2018 with a pungent reminder that they’re bound to encounter failure no matter where they go.

“Failing is like farting,” Chan said in her commencement address last Monday. “Like when my Ph.D. defense was delayed because I missed a deadline. Pothole. Or when my factory messed up my order for QVC. Crevice. Or when I was forced out of a client situation that felt impossible to recover from. Deep abyss.”

In her 15-minute speech, Chan urged the graduating class to do away with GPA as a success metric and measure new things, like impact and hard work. Especially when the going gets tough.

“Don’t let negative results define you,” said the inventor of loopit, a line of tangle-free earbuds. “Rather, choose to be defined by how you muster the strength to do something even better.” Check out our failure tag for real-world examples.

(BTW, Chan offered a teaser from the central plot of her speech at our Introduced conference. She specifically asked for it to be off the record.)

Watch the full speech:

Companies: University of Pennsylvania
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