As high school graduation season winds to a close in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been in a reflective mood about my own future. I still feel young enough that I could do something crazy – I could switch career pathways or we could move across the country. While I only expect one of those two things to happen and while I’ve likely already sat through all of my own graduations, I still find an incredible excitement to this time of year with the wide horizon of possibilities that graduations embody. Here are five of my favorite quotes from graduation speeches (many via A Cup of Jo) that I find myself coming back to, rereading and reflecting. I hope they spark a bit of inspiration for you as well.
“There were many a night where in my L.A. apartment, I would sit down to a meal of spaghetti topped with mustard, with only $20 in my checking account… Yes, I was afraid. You’re never not afraid. I’m still afraid. I was afraid to write this speech. And now, I’m just realizing how many people are watching me right now, and it’s scary. Can you please look away while I deliver the rest of the speech? But my fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of what if. What if I never tried at all?” — Will Ferrell to University of Southern California
“Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started. If I had to understand everything about connecting people before I began, I never would have started Facebook. Movies and pop culture get this all wrong. The idea of a single eureka moment is a dangerous lie. It makes us feel inadequate since we haven’t had ours. It prevents people with seeds of good ideas from getting started. Oh, you know what else movies get wrong about innovation? No one writes math formulas on glass. That’s not a thing. It’s good to be idealistic. But be prepared to be misunderstood. Anyone working on a big vision will get called crazy, even if you end up right. Anyone working on a complex problem will get blamed for not fully understanding the challenge, even though it’s impossible to know everything upfront. Anyone taking initiative will get criticized for moving too fast, because there’s always someone who wants to slow you down. In our society, we often don’t do big things because we’re so afraid of making mistakes that we ignore all the things wrong today if we do nothing. The reality is, anything we do will have issues in the future. But that can’t keep us from starting.” — Mark Zuckerberg to Harvard
“We are not born with a certain amount of resilience. It is a muscle, and that means we can build it. We build resilience into ourselves. We build resilience into the people we love. And we build it together, as a community. That’s called ‘collective resilience.’ It’s an incredibly powerful force – and it’s one that our country and our world need a lot more of right about now. It is in our relationships with each other that we find our will to live, our capacity to love, and our ability to bring change into the world” — Sheryl Sandberg to Virginia Tech
“As you grow, you’ll realize the definition of success changes. For many of you, today, success is being able to hold down 20 shots of tequila. For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure to try to be something that you’re not. To live your life as an honest and compassionate person, to contribute in some way. 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.” — Ellen Degeneres to Tulane
“There will be blind alleys and one-night wonders and soul-crushing jobs and wake-up calls and crises of confidence and moments of transcendence when you are walking down the street and someone will thank you for telling your story because it resonated with their own.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda to University of Pennsylvania0