Motivate your next workout—or day—with a little help from some inspirational speeches.
For the last few weeks, graduates have been tossing their caps, saying goodbye to college and looking ahead toward what the future holds. But before they have a chance to rush off into summer, graduates are given words of motivation and inspiration by successful—and often famous—people.
Those words of wisdom aren’t just for grads. They still inspire—and apply—later in life. Maybe you need to courage to take the leap and start your own business. Maybe you want to take the next big step in your relationship, or move across the country. Maybe you just need a little motivation to make it through the day, or through your hour-long workout.
Here are some of our favorite commencement speeches from some of the world’s greatest minds and celebrities.
On following your heart
Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005
Steve Jobs was one of the most inspiring, innovative minds to have ever lived. He shared some of that inspiration and innovative thought with the graduating class of 2005 at Stanford University, saying, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. … 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.”
On living life well
J.K. Rowling, Harvard University, 2008
It’s not about how long you live, it’s about how you live. This was author J.K. Rowling’s final point in her commencement address to Harvard University graduates in 2008. “I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom: ‘As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.’ ”
On fear and taking risks
Jim Carrey, Maharishi University of Management, 2014
While Jim Carrey may be known for his comedy (of which there is plenty in this commencement address), the actor also had some serious words to share with the Maharishi University of Management about fear-based living, saying, “Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. … 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 dare to ask the universe for it.” He adds, “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance at what you love.”
On committing to the journey
Joyce DiDonato, The Juilliard School, 2014
Most of us are impatient when it comes to seeing results. Musician Joyce DiDonato addressed this impatience during her address at The Juilliard School: “One of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself, right now, right here, in this very single, solitary, monumental moment of your lives is to decide, without apology, to commit to the journey, and not the destination.” DiDonato continues, “the work will never end,” and that is not a bad thing.
On developing muscle from struggle
Michelle Obama, The City College of New York, 2016
Michelle Obama didn’t sugar-coat the truth when she told the graduates of The City College of New York, “Graduates, let me tell you, you should never, ever be embarrassed by [your] struggles. You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages. … as you all know, life will put many obstacles in your path that are far worse than a bad grade. … But unlike so many other young people, you have already developed the resilience and the maturity that you need to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep moving through the pain, keep moving forward. You have developed that muscle.”
On defining success
Octavia Spencer, Kent State University, 2017
Known for her roles in award-winning films such as “Hidden Figures” and “The Help,” Octavia Spencer is more than familiar with the term success. So when the incredibly successful actress spoke to graduates of Kent State in May about what success means, she had much wisdom to share. “It’s your turn to choose and define what success means to you. Now, others will try to define it for you, but yours is the only voice that matters. The journey you take now will be led by you alone. … Don’t let that scare you, let that liberate you. Remember, no one came here the same way, and you won’t all achieve success the same way … don’t let yourself get caught up in the trap of comparison. You know what I’m talking about. Ignore the silly ‘30 under 30’ lists that the internet throws at you before you’ve even had your morning cup of coffee. Those will be the bane of your existence … comparing yourself to other’s success only slows you down from finding your own.”
Much thanks and credit to Graduation Wisdom for curating many of these speeches.
Photo credit: bieshutterb, Thinkstock