Wisdom is in abundance in this world, if you know where to look and are willing to listen. This is especially true as spring ends and summer begins, and universities across the nation release their eager graduates into the world with knowledge from their courses and inspiration from commencement day.
Here are 24 inspiring quotes (in no particular order) – and links to the noteworthy, recent commencement speeches from which we sourced them. (Check 24Life.com in June for our updated top 10 from 2016.)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology | June 7, 2013
The hardest-working people don’t work hard because they’re disciplined. They work hard because working on an exciting problem is fun.
Tulane University | May 20, 2009
It was so important for me to lose everything, because I found what the most important thing is. The most important thing is to be true to yourself.
University of California, San Diego | June 20, 2013
Pursuing your dream: I believe that is the path you should follow; that is why you have the dream to be on the road that you should be on. If you follow that road, you might not end up at your dream, but you will end up doing something that gives you immense satisfaction.
Princeton University | May 30, 2010
Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life – the life you author from scratch on your own – begins. When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.
Smith College | May 16, 2010
Believe anything is possible and then work like hell to make it happen.
Wellesley College | May 27, 1983
I would urge you to be as imprudent as you dare. BE BOLD, BE BOLD, BE BOLD. Keep on reading. (Poetry. And novels from 1700 to 1940.) Lay off the television. And, remember when you hear yourself saying one day that you don’t have time any more to read – or listen to music, or look at painting, or go to the movies, or do whatever feeds your head now – then you’re getting old. That means they got to you, after all.
Austin Community College | December 11, 2014
When you go fishing, the best places to drop your line are at the transition points, where light meets dark, shallow meets deep, fast meets slow. The same is true for human life.
University of Southern California | May 13, 2011
Be tenacious. I actually prefer the word irrepressible, but everybody I ran the speech by says it’s too hard for people to get. But, irrepressible is kind of tenacious, but with optimism. You just have it in you. You keep going and going. You could say, isn’t that the same as passion. It’s not. Passion is the ability to get excited about something. Irrepressibility and tenacity is about the ability to stay with it. If you take a look at all of the companies that have been started in our business, most of them fail. If you take even a look at the companies that have succeeded, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, you name it, all of these companies went through times of hardship. You get some success. You run into some walls. You try a formula for a new idea, a new innovation, it doesn’t work. And it’s how tenacious you are, how irrepressible, how ultimately optimistic and tenacious you are about it that will determine your success.
Williams College | June 14, 2012
The difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue.
University of Pennsylvania | May 16, 2011
I found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Never be discouraged. Never hold back. Give everything you’ve got. And when you fall throughout life and maybe even tonight after a few too many glasses of champagne, remember this: fall forward.
Goucher College | May 19, 2012
I wish that someone had said to me that it’s normal to feel lost for a little while.
Tulane University | May 23, 2013
Despite difficulties, always keep optimism. “I can overcome these difficulties.” That mental attitude itself will bring inner strength and self-confidence.
David Foster Wallace
Kenyon College | May 21, 2005
The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
Harvard University | June 5, 2008
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.
Stanford University | June 12, 2005
Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Harvard University | May 25, 2011
You can’t do it alone. As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, and spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.
Adm. William Mcraven
University of Texas at Austin | May 15, 2014
If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
Maharishi University of Management | May 24, 2014
The decisions we make in this moment are based in either love or fear. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never ask the universe for it.
Juilliard School | May 23, 2014
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life, is to decide, without apology, to commit to the journey and not to the outcome.
University of the Arts in Philadelphia | May 23, 2012
And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.
Jill Bolte Taylor
Butler University | May 7, 2016
We do have the power to pick and choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world…. Your left brain would rather be right than happy, your right brain would rather be happy than right. I wish for you the perfect balance.
University of Redlands College of Arts & Sciences | April 23, 2016
Every single one of us makes an impact on the planet every single day, and we get to choose what sort of impact that is.
University of Michigan | May 2, 2016
[Your greatest achievements] will owe an awful lot to the people around you. If there’s a secret to success beyond hard work and good luck, it’s that the more we say “we” and the less we say “I,” the farther we go.
Loyola University | June 16, 2015
Foster your creativity. And then, protect it. Your creativity is the greatest gift you will ever be given, and it’s the source of the greatest things you will achieve. It’s the part of you that is the most you. So care for it, the way you would a child or a beloved pet. Be firm, don’t let it just sit around. Make it do things. Toilet train it, be patient with it and it will grow and mature and get better and better and better. It will become the part of your life that you enjoy the most.
Photo credit: Thinkstock, iStock – stockce.