Nvidia founder Jensen Huang says he wishes ‘pain and suffering’ on Stanford students. Here’s why and what to learn from his rise

Commonwealth Magazine 
CC™ PerSpective

By Jing Pan

Words of wisdom from the self-made billionaire.

Huang’s light-hearted remark elicited laughter from the audience.

He continued, “I don't know what to tell you, that's life, and so you can't show me a task that's beneath me.”

Huang emphasizes his willingness to help others by sharing his approach to problem-solving. He states that his assistance is not about whether a task is beneath him but about being of service: by demonstrating his reasoning process on various challenges — whether they're ambiguous, incalculable, or seemingly daunting — he empowers others.

Resilience matters

Huang doesn’t hesitate to make bold statements. During another Stanford event, he made some intriguing remarks about expectations, pain and suffering.

Speaking at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research last month, Huang was asked what advice he’d give to students to enhance their chances of success.

Rather than prescribing specific actions, he shared this insight: "One of my great advantages is that I have very low expectations."

Huang went on to note that low expectations aren’t typical among Stanford graduates — even though he himself is an alumnus.

“Most Stanford graduates have very high expectations, and you deserve to have high expectations because you came from a great school. You were very successful. You were top of your class. Obviously, you were able to pay for tuition. And then you’re graduating from one of the finest institutions on the planet. You’re surrounded by other kids that are just incredible,” he elaborated.

However, Huang highlighted a significant drawback to this mindset, stating, “People with very high expectations have very low resilience. And unfortunately, resilience matters in success.”

‘I hope suffering happens to you’

Huang believes that the ability to endure setbacks and suffering is crucial for success. However, he’s unsure how to effectively teach this resilience to students — it may be something they need to experience firsthand.

“I don’t know how to teach it to you except that I hope suffering happens to you,” he said.

He shared that, although he grew up in an environment that fostered success, he also faced many challenges. Within his company, he uses the term "pain and suffering" with glee, seeing such challenges as opportunities to strengthen and refine the character of the organization.

For Huang, true greatness in individuals comes from character, not intelligence, and character is shaped by experiences of adversity.

“And so if I could wish upon you — I don’t know how to do it — but for all of you Stanford students, I’d wish upon you ample doses of pain and suffering,” he said.

Put simply: no pain, no gain.


About the Author

Jing Pan

Investment Reporter

Jing is an investment reporter for MoneyWise. He is an avid advocate of investing for passive income. Despite the ups and downs he’s been through with the markets, Jing believes that you can generate a steadily increasing income stream by investing in high quality companies.