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Five pearls of wisdom from noteworthy commencement speeches.

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‘Tis the season of graduations where notable entertainers, politicians, business owners, leaders, artists and authors impart words of wisdom and advice to the graduating class.

  • Do you remember your commencement address?
  • Do you recall the wise words passed along to you to help you navigate your way forward into the world?

My mind draws a blank when reflecting back to my own commencement ceremony from college.  I cannot recall any profound words of wisdom that have stuck with me through the decades.

This caused me to go back and look at some of the advice commencement speakers are telling young graduates.

Below are 5 pearls of wisdom that I captured from several commencement speeches:

  1. “All over the world, girls are raised to be make themselves likable, to twist themselves into shapes that suit other people. Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it. If someone likes that version of you, that version of you that is false and holds back, then they actually just like that twisted shape, and not you. And the world is such a gloriously multifaceted, diverse place that there are people in the world who will like you, the real you, as you are.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Author, Commencement address, Wellesley College, Class of 2015

2. “Build resilience in yourselves.  When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything.  I promise you do.  As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined.”  Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook, Commencement address, UC Berkeley, Class of 2016

3. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.  Steve Jobs, CEO Apple Inc / Pixar, Commencement address Stanford University, Class of 2005)

4. Before you finished getting out of bed, brushing your teeth with clean tap water, putting on clothes, making breakfast, turning off the light, walking out the door, you are benefiting from the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals from all around the world. They all deserve your spirit of generosity. So walk with humility and reverence for the human endeavor, and know it’s your job to help take that endeavor forward.   Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen Founder, Commencement address to Gettysburg College Class of 2012

5. What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness….  There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness.  But there’s also a cure.  So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – see out the most anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life. George Saunders, Author, Commencement address to Syracuse University Class of 2013

 

Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self?

Would you have heard it?

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