It’s graduation season, and that means commencement addresses are making the rounds from high-profile Americans.
The speeches will undoubtedly be full of wise insights and life tips. But rare is the speech that offers original, concrete, and practical advice that you’ll remember and find useful for the rest of your life.
MONEY went back through the past seven years and found the speeches were the speakers left students — and the rest of us — with real, hard-earned lessons that are truly helpful for the long haul.
5) Failure is inevitable, so at least fail while doing something you love — Jim Carrey, Maharishi University School of Management, 2014
“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality…I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which, was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
4) The career ladder is dead, and that’s okay — Sheryl Sandberg, Harvard University, 2012
“There is no straight path from your seat today to where you are going. Don’t try to draw that line. You will not just get it wrong, you’ll miss big opportunities. And I mean big—like the Internet. Careers are not ladders, those days are long gone, but jungle gyms. Don’t just move up and down, don’t just look up, look backwards, sideways around corners. Your career and your life will have starts and stops and zigs and zags. Don’t stress out about the white space—the path you can’t draw— because there in lies both the surprises and the opportunities.”
3) Always be honest, to yourself and others — Henry Kravis, Clarement McKenna College, 2010
“In order to have professional integrity, you must begin with personal integrity. You cannot get away with the idea ‘our product has fewer defects than the competitors’ or our service is not as bad as others.’ Nor can you tell yourself ‘I cheat on my taxes less than most people.’ There is no room for relativism when you are striving for authenticity, honesty and loyalty.”
2) Ditch your dreams and focus on working hard — Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth University, 2014
“Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change… Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer… My dreams did not come true. But I worked really hard. And I ended up building an empire out of my imagination. So my dreams? Can suck it.”
1) Make your bed — Adm. William McRaven, University of Texas, 2014
“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”