There’s no bigger pep talk than a college commencement speech. Someone who has achieved an admirable level of success takes the stage to give advice to those just starting their journey. This year, several speakers took the opportunity to get political, but there were also nonpartisan gems of wisdom that those of us without a brand-new diploma can appreciate.
Here are six commencement speeches with the takeaway you can use to become as inspired as a new graduate.
“You’re never not afraid.”–Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell admitted to students at the University of Southern California that he wasn’t confident when he was going after his dream of being an actor. “I would think to myself, ‘Oh well, I can always be a substitute schoolteacher,’” he said. “I was afraid.”
Ferrell later realized that fear is a natural part of growth. “You’re never not afraid. I’m still afraid. I was afraid to write this speech,” he joked.
Instead of being controlled by fears, do it anyway. “My fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of what if. What if I never tried at all?” he said.
It helps to try to enjoy the process without succumbing to the pressure of the result, he said. “Trust your gut; keep throwing darts at the dartboard,” said Farrell. “Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.”
“Never give up is bad advice.”–Adam Grant
“Never give up your dreams” is common advice for graduates, but Adam Grant, Wharton School management professor and coauthor of Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, told students at Utah State University that sometimes quitting is a virtue.
“Grit doesn’t mean ‘keep doing the thing that’s failing,’” he said. “It means, ‘Define your dreams broadly enough that you can find new ways to pursue them when your first and second plans fail.’”
Grant had to give up on his dream of being an NBA player, but he didn’t give up his dream of becoming a halfway decent…