The Best Motivational Speeches

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I have been completely obsessed with listening to commencement speeches while I get ready for work in the morning. A lot of times I wake up kind of bummed and I need a kick in the ass to get going and kill the work day. These are my favorite speeches I’ve listened to so far. If you get obsessed like I am NPR has a giant list of commencement speeches you can check out here.


commencement speeches for recent grads



“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.”


“As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotised by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master”.”


 

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”


“Anyway, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and the way I ended up on this path was from a very tragic event. I was maybe nineteen, and my girlfriend at the time was killed in a car accident. And I passed the accident, and I didn’t know it was her and I kept going and I found out shortly after that, it was her. And I was living in a basement apartment; I had no money; I had no heat, no air, I had a mattress on the floor and the apartment was infested with fleas. And I was soul-searching, I was like, why is she suddenly gone, and there are fleas here? I don’t understand, there must be a purpose and wouldn’t it be so convenient if we could pick up the phone and call God and ask these questions.And I started writing and what poured out of me was an imaginary conversation with God, which was one-sided and I finished writing it and I looked at it and I said to myself, and I hadn’t even been doing stand-up, ever, there was no club in town. I said, “I’m going do this on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” at the time he was the king “and I’m going be the first woman in the history of the show to be called over to sit down.” and several years later, I was the first woman in the history of the show, and only woman in the history of the show to sit down, because of that phone conversation with God that I wrote. And I started this path of stand-up and it was successful and it was great but it was hard because I was trying to please everybody and I had this secret that I was keeping, that I was gay. And I thought if people found out they wouldn’t like me, they wouldn’t laugh at me. Then my career turned into, I got my own sitcom, and that was very successful, another level of success. And I thought, what if they find out I’m gay, then they’ll never watch, and this was a long time ago, this was when we just had white presidents but anyway, this was back many years ago and I finally decided that I was living with so much shame, and so much fear, that I just couldn’t live that way anymore and I decided to come out and make it creative. And my character would come out at the same time, and it wasn’t to make a political statement, it wasn’t to do anything other than to free myself up from this heaviness that I was carrying around, and I just wanted to be honest. And I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen? I can lose my career”. I did. I lost my career. The show was cancelled after six years without even telling me; I read it in the paper. The phone didn’t ring for three years. I had no offers. Nobody wanted to touch me at all. Yet, I was getting letters from kids that almost committed suicide, but didn’t because of what I did. And I realized that I had a purpose. And it wasn’t just about me and it wasn’t about celebrity, but I felt like I was being punished and it was a bad time, I was angry, I was sad, and then I was offered a talk show. And the people that offered me the talk show tried to sell it. And most stations didn’t want to pick it up. Most people didn’t want to buy it because they thought nobody would watch me.Really when I look back on it, I wouldn’t change a thing. I mean, it was so important for me to lose everything because I found out what the most important thing is, is to be true to yourself. Ultimately, that’s what’s gotten me to this place. I don’t live in fear, I’m free; I have no secrets and I know I’ll always be ok, because no matter what, I know who I am. So In conclusion, when I was younger I thought success was something different. I thought when I grow up, I want to be famous. I want to be a star. I want to be in movies. When I grow up I want to see the world, drive nice cars, I want to have groupies. To quote the Pussycat Dolls. How many people thought it was “boobies”, by the way? It’s not, it’s “groupies”.

Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which 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 dare to ask the universe for it.”


Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which 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 dare to ask the universe for it.”

P.S.
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