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Scott Galloway@profgalloway

Published on May 31, 2024

To: Grads

From: Prof G

Subject: You got this

America, and the Western alliance it leads, is dysfunctional. It’s also less dysfunctional than any other society. Why? America’s alchemy of individualism, rights, education, innovation, capital, diversity, entrepreneurship and generosity creates a substance found elsewhere but not at this potency. I spend a great deal of time digesting data and media. And there’s a fissure between them. The data reflects a cold but comforting truth: The hand you’ve been dealt is better than you’ve been told.

There are paths to prosperity in our imperfect economy. There are paths to love and lasting relationships in our imperfect society. There are paths to fulfillment and meaning in our imperfect culture. The paths are there, and we collectively have an obligation to make the investments to ensure they stay broad and illuminated. However, you must walk them. Much of your future is outside of your control, but if you’re a graduate of an American university (the finest in the world), then more of it is in your control than nearly anybody else. What ultimately dictates your success relative to your environment is the choice you make to walk, and the resilience you find to keep moving. In a word, agency.

Agent You

Agency is the capacity to take the actions of your choosing, and through those actions shape your future and the world you live in. More than that, it is the recognition that you have the potency to make it happen. Agency is a fundamental aspect of human autonomy and identity. Individuals who perceive themselves as agents are more motivated, capable, and resilient. A society made up of immigrants has superior genes — they have DNA that naturally connects risks, and a propensity toward action, with better outcomes. I think, as a dad, one of my responsibilities is to help my sons connect actions, good and bad, with outcomes. To help them develop pattern recognition between action and reaction.

Gen Data

Pundits and policymakers have a fetish for statistics. “Women between 25 and 34 eat three times more yogurt than men older than 45 who make under $62,000 per year.” “The lowest income quartile of U.S. households use debit cards at Walmart on holiday weekends more often than the top three quartiles combined.” I spend much of my professional life looking at data sets and making broad generalizations. Many of which are not encouraging. However, you are one data point … not the set.

You are not your cohort. You are not sentenced to be the average of your peers, the median of your race, or the mean of your gender. Agency begins with this insight. Within the mass of humans lumped together by statisticians, on several dimensions, you are an outlier. Your range of possible outcomes is invisible to the statistician’s eye. Statistics are observations, not conclusions.

Big Pie

The pie of economic prosperity is not sliced evenly. It skews toward certain fields and backgrounds, and increasingly toward incumbents. Ours is a winner-take-most economy. Jeff Bezos’ net worth ($200 billion) is 100,000 times that of the median cardiologist ($2 million). Bezos is a brilliant entrepreneur, but he’s not 100,000 times more so than a doctor who literally holds patients’ lives in their hands. And while Bezos is the prime mover, Amazon’s value creation requires the work of 1.5 million employees, of whom only a handful enjoy a net worth 1/10,000th the size of Bezos’ ($20 million).

Yet even as our system allocates $200 billion to Bezos, there is more pie to go around. The U.S. economy generates $27 trillion in annual output, and more every year. That’s a prosperity volcano. In 2019 less than 10 million U.S. families had more than $1 million in wealth. In 2022 it was 16 million. We increased the number of millionaire households by 60% in just three years. This is mainly self-made wealth. Only 21% of American millionaires have received any inheritance, the same percentage as the population at large. There are 600,000 millennial millionaire households, and “while the average millennial has 30% less wealth at the age of 35 than baby boomers did at the same age … the top 10% of millennials have 20% more wealth than the top baby boomers at the same age.” In sum, we have inordinate income inequality, and that’s bad. However, the silver lining is the scales are tipped toward those who bring a sense of agency. If the previous sentence sounds as if I’m putting lipstick on a pig, trust your instincts. Still, there’s a lot of prosperity.

Paths to Prosperity

Many cultures and economic systems suppress agency, pushing people toward conformity, often to the benefit of existing elites. Ground zero for a lack of agency is the culture supported by the zombie apocalypse of useful idiots on campuses. But I digress. Last week on Prof G Markets, my co-host Ed Elson made a powerful point about the U.K., where he grew up. His school gives two kinds of grades, one for the quality of the work and one for effort. Officially, the “best” grade was to score at the top in both categories. But the culture rewarded something else: The true best grade went to the student who got the highest mark on quality and the lowest mark for effort. Success should be accidental; striving is uncouth. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson personified this — a man of undeniable brilliance who was utterly committed to the culture of non-effort, reflected in a highly manicured image of dishevelment.

Who succeeds in a culture that discourages agency? The incumbents, those who already have wealth. Agency is churn, the essence of upward mobility. Caste systems are meant to relieve you of existential stress, because agency has a dark side. In America, the view/belief that you can accomplish anything implicitly whispers in your ears that, if you don’t, it’s your own fault.

America offers unprecedented agency. That is why millions of people walk across continents to reach this place, and why we spend billions militarizing our southern border to keep the inflow manageable. Pro tip: America has not only benefited from immigration, but illegal immigration specifically, because the undocumented do dirty jobs at modest wages, pay taxes, and use fewer resources. Anyone who tells you immigrants are here for a handout is taking you for a fool. People don’t walk through jungles and traverse rivers for a welfare check. They come for the same reason my parents crossed the Atlantic in a steamship: to exercise their agency. Open borders are unacceptable, and a security threat, but we need to have a sober conversation re why we have turned a blind eye to illegal immigration for 40 years. Hint: money.

Nowhere can a business idea attract so much funding ($260 billion in VC last year, $50 billion in SBA loans) or recruit so much talent (nearly 60,000 new Ph.D.s per year, 120,000 MBAs). These resources attract high-agency individuals — 5.5 million small business applications were filed in the U.S. in 2023, a record number that’s nearly doubled in the past eight years. Living in London, when speaking at an event, people usually ask me to compare/contrast the U.S./U.K. It’s fairly simple. Some people thought it was a good idea to leave everything behind, and get on a boat. Others thought it was a stupid idea and stayed. Fast forward a couple centuries and Americans are 25% more likely to start a business with access to five times the venture capital.

We live in an era of unprecedented reach. This is not limited to the U.S., but the U.S. is the epicenter. If you have something to say and a compelling way to say it, you can reach hundreds of millions of people without gatekeepers or sponsors. In 2012, Jimmy Donaldson was a 13-year-old with a YouTube channel. Today, MrBeast is 26 and has a YouTube channel … with a $48 million production budget reaching hundreds of millions and generating $700 million in annual revenue. Entertainers, activists, and commentators from Greta Thunberg and Liza Koshy to X González and Charli D’Amelio have exercised their agency to achieve global influence without relying on traditional gatekeepers.

This is a profound shift. Before he became “the most trusted man in America,” Walter Cronkite edited his high school paper, worked on his college paper, called baseball games on the radio for two years, spent nearly a decade reporting on WWII from Europe for UPI, and worked for another decade hosting a slew of news and opinion shows for CBS before finally getting the anchor chair of the CBS Evening News in 1962. He was 52 years old. Before Samuel L. Jackson became the highest-grossing actor of all time, he performed Off-Broadway for 16 years; then another unknown, Spike Lee, started casting him in small film roles; and it was another six years of minor parts before Pulp Fiction made him a star. He was 46 years old. You can get further, faster in the U.S. in our era than in any place or time in history. Until tomorrow. The bad news is there are more people with more agency (i.e., competition) and a crowding of spoils to the winners.

Agency is not individuality. You exercise agency whenever you make a choice to shape your own life. Choosing marriage is exercising agency. Asking for more responsibility at work, or volunteering at a local institution, or putting $100 a month into an IRA — these are all choices to act and shape the world. Using social media to connect to people and share ideas can be an exercise of agency; scrolling TikTok all evening is not. The stoics taught us to focus on what is in our control. Agency is an embrace, and broadening, of what is in our control.

Passivity Party

America rewards agency, but American politics is experiencing a crisis of passivity. For generations, conservatism served as a bulwark of personal responsibility against the left’s nanny-state tendencies. The modern Republican party, however, has embraced the brand of victimhood. Its leaders have figured out the best way to be heard is to claim they’ve been censored. Censored … give me a fucking break.

It’s an act. The leader of the GOP owns his own social network. The nation’s self-appointed protector of free speech from the woke mob owns another. The wealthiest and most powerful tech bros find common cause in their victimization. Meanwhile, on the left, cataloging and obsessing over every historical wrong ignores our progress and (worse) robs young people of their agency, leaving too many believing the die has been cast re their fate. No, it hasn’t.

Besides being no way to govern, leaning into the rhetoric of victimhood suppresses agency. If you tell people from an early age they are doomed, you will suppress their confidence and increase the likelihood they won’t try. Why would they? Agency and democracy go hand in hand, and the first task of the authoritarian leader is to diminish agency. The likely misinformation lollapalooza surrounding this fall’s election won’t be advocating for a specific candidate or position, but flooding the zone with so much misinformation that people feel overwhelmed and decide just to stay home. The Biden team has stated that their real competition is the couch.


More than elections, or your career, your well-being and happiness are a function of your relationships. One of my biggest mistakes, something that’s stood between me and a sense of peace and reward, is not recognizing that I had the power to protect, repair and enhance my relationships. More than “find your passion” (bullshit), or other advice some formerly important person, dressed up as a kitchen utensil vomited at you at commencement … this is what I wish I had known post-graduation:

Don’t keep score.  

Whenever I felt I was in the minus column re a relationship (i.e., giving more than I was getting), I would be frustrated and inject disappointment and anger into the relationship. However, we all naturally inflate our contributions and diminish the other party’s. In addition, relationships are a give-and-take and rarely in perfect balance. Decide what type of friend, lover, son, colleague you want to be … and put away the scorecard. Rather than constantly revisiting if/when my dad was there for me as a kid, I now just focus on being the son I want to be. It’s liberating.


Your job in an intimate relationship is to show up, to give witness to someone’s life. That you notice. Sometimes you need to push back, or offer a solution. However, I’ve found, most of the time, our job is to notice. To care that the person is upset, to listen, to empathize with their upset and register how much their happiness and well-being mean to you. I am exceptionally rational, and this has been a superpower professionally. But it’s been a weakness personally, as I believe there are a series of steps to fix and understand everything. When the better solution is just to listen … and notice.

Forgive/check yourself. 

You do have agency, more than you think. But a cruel truth is that much of what happens to you is in fact out of your control. My best decision was to be born in 1960s California. So try hard and be kind. But when things go poorly and you are hurt, really hurt (heartbroken, laid off, make poor investments, lose someone you love), realize there are millions of people who’ve experienced the exact same thing and gone on to live wonderful lives. On the flip side, realize that when you get promoted, register professional success, or find yourself in a good relationship, you should acknowledge (again) much of this isn’t your fault, and you should be grateful and lower your risk profile. You are never more susceptible to a big mistake than after a big win, as you fall under the delusion that it’s (all) you … vs. good fortune.


“Wow, life has gone SO slowly,” said nobody, ever. My superpower is atheism … no kidding. I believe, at some point, I will look into my son’s eyes and know our relationship is coming to an end. And that’s OK. I like what the great philosopher Mae West said: “You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough.” This belief in the end has unlocked the courage to take risks and (mostly) ignore social constructs that get in the way of coloring outside of the lines or risking embarrassment expressing my emotions. I got emotional on the Chris Wallace show yesterday. I was discussing some of the men who mentored me when I was a boy, and felt a rush of embarrassment. Jesus Christ, who cares? When on my deathbed, I will find comfort in having lived out loud, even if that meant shedding a few tears on CNN.

We are a mite on an unremarkable rock circling a pedestrian star in one of 200 billion solar systems that make up billions of galaxies. You are insignificant and remarkable all at once. To dwell on your failures, not take risks, and not love and register the beauty around you with reckless abandon fails to recognize a universal truth: Everything and everyone you’re worried about will be gone soon, really soon. This is your instant, your moment. Why wouldn’t you be kind to yourself, love others, forgive yourself, forgive others and create joy for you and your loved ones wherever, whenever possible? Your heartbreak, disappointment, and grief will be the receipts for the joy and the agency you forge. Heartbreak, disappointment, grief, joy … I wish for you all of these things.

Life is so rich,

P.S. This week on the Prof G Pod I spoke with London Business School Professor Andrew Scott about the road to a healthier, longer life. Listen here

P.P.S. Section is sitting down with Superhuman’s Zain Kahn next week to talk about Supercharging Your Career With AI.



  1. Alone says:

    I thought I’d let you know that the fine folks (sarcasm) at Psychology Today posted another winner! There’s some Joni E. Johnston who’s writing about how you should treat people who’ve been humiliated at work as a problem to be neutralized by psychologists. It helps the company to further humiliate the victim by treating them as a problem, after all. If that got published in psychology’s professional rag, that means psychologists really have it in for human beings. I hope anyone who considers themselves human will avoid these psychologists.

    • Alone says:

      To sum up, if there’s a psychological industry trying to handle the people who’ve been hurt by bullying by pretty much stigmatizing them and figuratively beating their brains into a horrible lonely submission, that’s potentially a danger to every worker, not just incels or other men that elites don’t care about.

      Its presence has to be playing a part in that society where so many men are non-starters that Scott rails against.

  2. B Danner says:

    “We are a mite on an unremarkable rock circling a pedestrian star in one of 200 billion solar systems that make up billions of galaxies. You are insignificant and remarkable all at once.” Perfect, PERFECT Prof G.

  3. JC Wandemberg says:

    You are a better Christian than many Scott, even if you choose to ignore it.

  4. Rob B says:

    This is a good post. But denying censorship happened? C’mon. At this point it’s a fact with evidence.

  5. Richard McCue says:

    your best work in quite a while. direct yet nuanced. thank you

  6. Gary Bertoline says:

    I read a lot and rarely comment. This post by you really moved me. Thank you!

  7. RJ Rowland says:

    Simply superb! Why can’t we find political leaders like the good Professor who can speak truthfully and rationally about the issues that separate us? And who have well-thought-out views supported by facts? And who can be such an excellent communicator? Please keep up the good work.

  8. Chris Shimojima says:

    Great paper, Scott. Your message reminded me of Tom Peter’s article he wrote for Fast Company 20 years ago – “Brand Called You” – which I still reference today. While his work focused on career management and yours on a more holistic human view, the message of shunning “victimization” is a shared thesis.

  9. Medinis says:

    One of your best yet. Thank you…. And the job is, to be healthy and fit and a decent person who shares and honors the social contract (the social contract insists that the information you share is accurate and proven) and looks out for the other people in their proximity, a behavior which is quite natural to our nature.
    We each also have a practice for ourselves, something that we care about and which adds meaning to our life. We get good at it with consistent practice and experience…
    and all the while wë practice our most basic need; social human interactions…..
    which includes gaining status… which is only increased when the group wins… We gain genuine status from our actions, not from the possessions we own.

  10. Jose Manuel Ortiz says:

    Thank you for your thought Scott; fully agree. Since my holly comunion (I m also 1960) I have in my night table “IF” written by Rudyard Kiplling which has been leading my actions for the last 50 so years. Similar concepts. Regards Jose M.

  11. Rick Fullard says:

    Great Advice! I’m 73 years old and have never heard such an enlightening definition of “Agency”. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Amber says:

    Great read! Recent college grad here. When you mentioned parties portraying how we are doomed from the start, it really resonated with me. Being double minority and watching statistics, videos, or laws that seem to hurt us really does just make you think “why try?” I’m glad I countered the idea similar to how you did in my head, but I know others who do feel like their life is set according to the statistics. Very interesting read!

  13. Michael says:

    Speaking of agency, you deserve the success that has been coming your way at an accelerating rate, Scott.

    Well written, well stated, well done!

  14. Robin Dale says:


  15. Sandra V says:

    One of your best! thank you for writing this.

  16. Drew says:

    This is relevant to everything you wrote, but since you mentioned Boris Johnson, it’s worth mentioning that when he went on Top Gear’s Star in a Slow Car he drove slower and worse than an actually blind man.

  17. John L Penman says:

    Thank you Scott Galloway. Brilliant! Very relevant, logical, common sense, inspiring and uplifting from a sage . Yes a wise man. From our little corner of the Pacific, in New Zealand, we are facing a similar set of challenges , as the World decides how to reinvent itself for our long term survival or not. I will be sharing this to my loved ones and friends . Thanks again Scott.
    Best wishes John L Penman, NZ.

    • Okeke says:

      “When on my deathbed, I will find comfort in having lived out loud…”

      Prof, you talk about death as if you know when, where, and how it will arrive for you. You expect to be on your deathbed at the ripe old age of 100, surrounded by your sons and grandsons, waiting for the grim reaper to come take you. And this is just the thing with us humans. We live our lives everyday as if death cannot be a few seconds or minutes away, as if death is something far off in the horizon and only when we’re aged and dying do we get to meet with the inevitable. This is why we express shock at the death of a friend, a loved one, a relative. While this is the type of death everyone wants, many do not get that wish. You know death can come all of a sudden, at anywhere, and at a time you do not expect.

      Which makes it all the more important Prof, that you give your life to Jesus because you do not know when you’ll leave this mortal plane. You don’t want to pass away only to discover that there’s a God waiting on the other side, with you having to explain to him why you didn’t accept his son as your Lord and saviour

  18. Paul Lubitz says:

    Your Friday message was inspired, inspiring, beautifully written and TRUE. Thank you for your clarity and honesty. Paul

  19. JP says:

    Thank you, Prof. This one was really good…

  20. Manish says:

    Beautiful and brilliant. Thank you Scott for penning and sharing.

  21. Tsering says:

    I have been receiving your posts via email each week and enjoy reading your perspective and analysis of the state of the American economy and society(though I live in India !). Your authentic and honest reflections on life and relationships are inspiring and comforting. Thank you.

  22. Michael says:

    Really inspiring. Even for a 70 year old entrepreneur who had a great exit and now doing a startup with my 36 year son. Thank you Scott!

  23. Peter says:

    I graduated 53 years ago and these thoughts are valuable to read now. I wonder if hearing or reading them in 1971 would have changed my life for the better. If I had had the sense to heed them, I think they would have. There still is time.

  24. Roger D Plothow says:

    I am thinking you might have borrowed the gist of this post from Churchill’s observation about democracy.

  25. Katie Dunlap says:

    Incredible and insightful. Thank you! Immediately sent to my recent grads and the rest of the family. Great for all ages to hear.

  26. Nicholas says:

    Thank you Scott. This is beautiful. As a son of immigrants from the USSR, I grew feeling the need to not take risks and being afraid because the world will be against me at every turn. I should follow nicely placed out paths given by my parents to stay safe and never experience the pain and fear they did. I fear that the world will shut down and smother any action I take. Getting high everyday and watching TV would be my solace so I would never go out to take risks. But from this I learned that I will rarely experience the joy and prosperity you mentioned. If I continued this path, I would never reap the rewards of my courage for talking to that stranger or accepting to go out to some event.

    Now that I’ve reached a point in my life where I am able to delve into these fears and build courage everyday. This post inspires me to keep going and big deeper. To take risks and say “fuck it, why not” a little more often.

    Thank you.

  27. Lloyd says:

    I cried & immediately felt a peace wash over me. Reduced to a poem it reminds me of “Desiderata”.

  28. Rob says:

    Appreciate your work. Thank you.

  29. Rasmussen says:

    This was simple, eloquent, helpful and wonderfully true. Thank YOU for helping all of us to see outside of our own lives at stuff that really matters.

  30. TG says:

    Or, as Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia so eloquently phrased it:

    Think this through with me, let me know your mind
    Wo-oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?

    Ain’t no time to hate, barely time to wait
    Wo-oh, what I want to know, where does the time go?

  31. Ngaire Hartnett says:

    Exactly what I needed to read right here…. right now…. Sharing with my kids immediately. Thank you so much.

  32. Kratz says:

    The best college commencement content I have ever read. I will be sharing with my university students and sons. Thank you Mr Galloway!

  33. Dydactyl says:

    Conservatives are the party of victimhood? Put down the bong professor before you hurt yourself.

  34. Laurie schuster says:

    wonderful piece, much appreciated! Mom of two teenagers here. Thank you for the family weekend reading,

  35. Samantha says:

    Incredibly well balanced – you nailed this! Thank you for being so inspirational, I too, am “expceptionally rational”. I was born in ‘68 and have spent most of my life as an environmental scientist focusing on geo-statistical modeling and toxicology. The last 7 years, I switched to the ‘right side of my brain’ and have been studying philosophy (reference to Ian McGhilchrist). The interaction/integration between the subjective and objective experience is fascinating and key to us humans navigating our current crisis between ‘fantasy and reality’, etc. I hope this comment lends you more energy to keep fighting the good fight.

  36. Richard says:

    Phenomenal! In Prof G. We Trust.

  37. Sam says:

    “ Entertainers, activists, and commentators from Greta Thunberg and Liza Koshy to X González and Charli D’Amelio have exercised their agency to achieve global influence without relying on traditional gatekeepers.”

    Exactly what you are trying to gatekeep. The Gaza massacres are live-streamed throughout the world with no censorship and no editing direct to the masses

    That’s what Israel and its Zionist supporters are futile trying to stop. They can no longer gatekeep the truth.

    You on the other hand, are supporting the wrong side in this historic struggle. History will look back at Israel and its supporters land compare them with the Nazis.

    Good luck

  38. TN says:

    Absolutely love this, as the son of refugees to the US this strikes incredibly true.

    > If you tell people from an early age they are doomed, you will suppress their confidence and increase the likelihood they won’t try

    Hard not to point out the elephant in the room that a lot of your previous posts and guest appearances on shows are how the young people are being screwed in every direction.

  39. Christian Pfeiffer says:

    The Republican Party transforming from the party of self determination and agency into a party of victims has been difficult for me to witness. I now feel 1% better after you writing about it.
    Only 1% better not because of what you wrote. You nailed it. Just that I’m still depressed about it happening. The people responsible know better. They know we Americans can be exceptional, and yet they keep going down the same well trodden path our founders predicted and tried to prevent.

  40. John A. says:

    Wow, I like Prof G, but this post really resonated with me and almost brought me to tears. We love you Scott, we don’t deserve you <3

  41. Tim says:

    Well written, Scott. You are a great writer.

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