Laugh and Learn: Commencement Speeches

One thing I like to do as a source of inspiration and ideas is watch talks and speeches. I think by doing so you reap a lot of benefits: be inspired, motivated, educated, and a bunch of other positive things ending in -ed. But you also get an access to the speaker's mind, his/her experiences, lessons learned, and frustrations. I love a good inspirational speech but I love it even more when it's funny. Yes, the term "funspirational" is a thing. 

Which is why I'll be sharing a "Laugh and Learn" blog post series. For the first edition we'll have commencement speeches. The thing about them is they are usually delivered by famous and successful people so that could be an added bonus. Commencement speeches are often an unfailing source of inspiration and optimism. Below is a list of some of my favorite graduation speeches. Check them out, watch, laugh, and learn.

1. Steve Jobs, Stanford 2005

"You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."

"You’ve got to find what you love, and that is true for your work as it is for your lovers.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."

2. JK Rowling, Harvard 2008

"There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you."

"So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential."

"The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive."

3. Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane University 2009

"I didn’t really have a plan, my point is that, by the time I was your age, I really thought I knew who I was but I had no idea. Like for example, when I was your age, I was dating men."

"It was so important for me to lose everything because I found out the most important thing is to be true to yourself."

"So to conclude my conclusion, follow your passion, stay true to yourself. Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path and by all means you should follow that."

"Life is like one big mardi gras, but instead of showing your boobs, show people your brain."

4. Meryl Streep, Barnard 2010

"If you have been touched by the success fairy, people think you know why."

"Pretending is not just play. Pretending is imagined possibility. Pretending or acting is a very valuable life skill and we all do it."

"Being a celebrity has taught me to hide but being an actor has opened my soul."

"You know you don't have to be famous. You just have to make your mother and father proud of you and you already have."

5. Amy Poehler, Harvard 2011

"Take your risks now. As you grow older, you become more fearful and less flexible. And I mean that literally."

"Just because you are in high demand, you are still allowed to say, "Let me get back to you." This will come in handy when your parents ask when you plan to move out of their basement and you answer, "I don't know. Let me get back to you.”

6. Tim Minchin, University of Western Australia 2013

"You don’t have to have a dream. I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Just be aware the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery, which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out of the corner of your eye."

"We didn’t evolve to be constantly content. Contented homo erectus got eaten before passing on their genes."

"Respect people with less power than you. I don’t care if you’re the most powerful cat in the room. I will judge you on how you treat the least powerful."

"Define yourself by what you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro stuff not just anti stuff."

7. Natalie Portman, Harvard 2015

"Achievement is wonderful when you know why you’re doing it. And when you don’t know, it can be a terrible trap."

"You can never be the best, technically. Someone will always have a higher jump or a more beautiful line. The only thing you can be the best at is developing your own self."

"Your inexperience is an asset, and will allow you to think in original and unconventional way. Accept your lack of knowledge and use it as your asset."

8. Mindy Kaling, Dartmouth 2018

"Remove “Proficient at Word” from your resume. That is ridiculous. You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel of competency there. This is how you become proficient at Word: You open Word on your computer."

"I didn’t think I’d have a child before I got married, but hey, it turned out that way, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I didn’t think I’d have dessert before breakfast today, but hey, it turned out that way and I wouldn’t change a thing."

"Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world. Just remember this: Why not you? You made it this far.”