In this month’s NOtivational Article, we share pieces from three wonderful commencement speeches because let’s fact it: when it comes to developing yourself – you never really graduate. You always need the reminders, reinforcement and inspiration to continue to go after what you want.
We highly recommend you go watch the entire presentation online because these pieces, as great as they are – don’t do the whole speech justice.
“I didn’t get the job. But here’s the thing, I didn’t quit. I didn’t fall back. I walked out of there to prepare for the next audition, and the next audition, and the next audition. I prayed and I prayed, but I continued to fail, and I failed, and failed but it didn’t matter because you know what? There’s an old saying, you hang around a barbershop long enough, sooner or later you will get a haircut. You will catch a break.
Last year I did a play called Fences on Broadway and I won a Tony Award. And I didn’t have to sing, by the way. And here’s the kicker, it was at the Court Theater; it was at the same theater where I failed that first audition thirty years prior. The point is, and I’ll pick up the pace, every graduate here today has the training and the talent to succeed but do you have guts to fail?”
Denzel Washington, University of Pennsylvania 2011
“You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.”
J.K. Rowling, Harvard, 2008
“But the only failure is the failure to rescue something. I took away ideas and experiences and relationships with people that profoundly changed what I was able to do when I finally found the place that was for me, which was in medicine.
So you will take risks, and you will have failures. But it’s what happens afterwards that is defining. A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it—Will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right?—because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue.”
Atul Gawande, Williams
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