While the Dalai Lama’s bio is familiar to millions: “Tibetan monk, exiled from home by China, winner of Nobel Peace Prize”; and many will know of Khosla’s legendary successes in the tech industry as founder of Sun Microsystems and a partner with Kleiner Perkins (which has invested in numerous household names like Amazon, Google and Genentech), some may not know the depth of Khosla’s interest in both green technology and microfinance, which he pursues both philanthropically and through Khosla Ventures. “His current passion” according to his bio there, “is social entrepreneurship, with a special emphasis on microfinance as a poverty alleviation tool. He is a supporter of many microfinance organizations in India and Africa. He has been experimenting with education and global housing. Vinod is also passionate about alternative energy, petroleum independence, and the environment.”

Both were speaking to groups mostly composed of recent, Indian MBAs graduates. Could these two men have more in common than it appears?

I wanted to share with you some of their wonderful points, and hope there might be some things that feel useful as you strive to have a positive impact on the world while preserving yourself in the process. (And I hope both of them will forgive me for this effort to unofficially reconstruct what they said!)

Vinod Khosla:

In the past few years I have become very interested in forecasting. People tend to believe what experts say too much. Experts are very often wrong. In fact, there was a study of macroeconomic forecasts and statistically the accuracy was equivalent to monkeys throwing darts at the wall.

The reason I am successful is because I don’t mind failing. If I fail I lose one time my money. But if I succeed I could win a hundred times my money. This isn’t taught enough.

People also tend to underestimate how fast things change, and how completely. Ten years ago would you have believed that it would be very difficult to buy a non-digital camera today? In May of ‘07 there was no such thing as an iPhone. About 50 million have been sold so far. The solution to climate is in the huge markets like appliances, cement, water, and buildings.

I have no doubt that in three years the steel in this building will be made of the same stuff, but will be three times as strong, because of nanoengineering. And the cement will be made of carbon dioxide.

The most powerful tool for innovation in the world is the power of capitalist greed.

H.H. the Dalai Lama:

All of us are human beings. You are a human being. I am a human being.  Each of us has the same potential for enlightenment.

Everyone has the right to feel happy. Everyone has the right to avoid suffering. So this is the basis of the feeling of compassion for the other person.

When you feel compassion for someone only when they are nice to you, that is biased compassion. When someone isn’t nice to you, they still have a right to be happy, to be free of suffering. When you feel compassion for the person when they aren’t nice to you, that is real compassion.

Fear. Some fear is useful. If there is a mad dog coming, it’s good to run away. There is another kind of fear. Fear that you have done something wrong. So avoid lying, cheating, exploitation of others. With compassion comes self-confidence. Trust of others. No fear.

When we feel compassion for others, our own serenity and inner strength grows. We are more powerful.


Neither one of them talked directly about how much people fear change. But we are  all living in the world Khosla is helping accelerate—the world all of us are helping to accelerate because we, like him, believe we must. So it just might be that developing our innate potential to remain happy—through deliberately cultivating our compassion for others even, or especially, when this is difficult– will be a key to our ultimate success.

And how best to get there? Maybe by trying, and failing, but remembering what Khosla says:

“Most failure doesn’t matter.”