Inspiration from Commencement Speeches

August 26, 2022

Several weeks ago, I noticed myself slowly going towards a slump again. I recognized those little bad habits starting to come out again. I know, very well now, that if I don't consciously pull myself towards the right direction early at this point, I would be walking off road, far far away from my goals, and from the right path.

So, I did something that I was unable to do before -- I gave myself the acknowledgement that I was feeling this way, and I honored every emotion that I was going through. Reaching that level of self-awareness allowed me to hold space for myself.

To give myself some motivational energy, I decided to rewatch Taylor Swift's commencement speech during the New York University graduation rites this year. When I heard it the first time, it triggered something within me. I knew it would take more than one watch for me to absorb all the golden lessons her speech contained. And so that day, I watched it again. I paused the video and took down notes so that the message would really stick with me.

And here's the output of that activity. I present to you, this blog's first ever infographic.

It was a joy to listen to her, especially because I am familiar with her life experiences. I feel like I was listening to Taylor Swift the human being, not Taylor Swift the pop star. I enjoyed every minute of her wonderfully crafted speech.

I ended up watching more of the iconic commencement speeches (thanks to YouTube's algorithm). I also watched the commencement speeches of Steve Jobs and JK Rowling. Here are my notes from each of their speeches.

  • Connecting the dots.
  • Love and loss -- find what you love. Keep looking, don't settle.
  • Death. Time is limited.
  • Stay hungry, stay foolish.

  • Benefits of failure -- it strips away the inessential. It sets you free.
  • It is impossible not to fail in life.
  • Living cautiously, like you have not lived at all, means you fail by default.
  • Importance of imagination -- the power of human empathy.
  • Life is not about how long we live, but how good our experiences are.
These are some of the notes I hurriedly scribbled down in my journal as I watched these speeches. These words of wisdom came straight from the people who first-hand learned it in life. It is an honor to learn from these people. I aim to live the words that they have spoken. ✨

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