Wise Words For Graduates – Or Anybody, Really

On May 15th, I’m launching The Post College Survival Kit, a guide to growing up without effing up. You can see the course outline here or even download a sweet 14-page free ebook here. And if you sign up for my newsletter, you can get the course earlier and cheaper than everybody else!I’ve graduated from three schools – Aitkin High School, The University of Minnesota – Morris, and The University of Victoria, Wellington.  Each time I expected to be overwhelmed with emotion.  Each time I spent the majority of the ceremony staring into the middle distance and wonder how I would fit my worldly belongings into five boxes.

Maybe I would have felt differently if I would have been listening to commencement speeches like these.


There are few things more liberating in this life than having your
worst fear realized. … Your path at 22 will not necessarily be your
path at 32 or 42. One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and
falling, changing course.

After I graduated from here, I moved down to Chicago and did improv.  Now, there are very few rules to improvisation, but one of the things I was taught early on is that you are not the most important person in the scene.  Everybody else is. And if they are the most important person in the scene, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them.  But the good news is, you’re in the scene, too.  So hopefully to them, you’re the most important person and they will serve you.  No one is leading,  you’re all following the follower, serving the servant.  You cannot win at improv.

And life is improvisation.  You can no idea what’s going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along.

Really when I look back at it I wouldn’t change a thing. I mean it was so important to me to lose everything because I found out what the most important thing is – To be true to yourself. Ultimately that’s what’s gotten me to this place. I don’t live in fear, I’m free, I have no secrets, I know I’ll always be okay because no matter what, I know who I am
Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. No one is here today because they did it on their own. Okay, maybe Josh, but he’s just a straight up weirdo. You’re all here today because someone gave you strength. Helped you. Held you in the palm of their hand. God, Allah, Buddha, Gaga.

How did/do you feel about graduation?



Kinda boring actually lol. We didn't have a class valedictorian (or at least I don't think we did). There didn't seem to be that much that happened. We had to stand for the national anthem (and very few sang along)

Then we had to form a line and take our turns to shake the deans hand and then stop for a picture then walk along the other side of the hall.


It was really long!

And I totally agree about the whole 'life isn't defined' thing. I graduated in 2008 with a degree in Sports Management, and have worked in Accounting firms ever since, and next year am off back to Uni to do Primary Teaching!

The direction I thought I was going at 21 is totally different to now. But I think at 24 I finally know exactly what I want to do in life!

Erica Talley

I graduate from college tomorrow morning. I feel almost the same about it as I did leaving high school: it was comfortable, all I knew, but it was time to leave. At the same time, I am now faced with deciding how I am to make my living. I quite my job to focus on my studies my last semester (more like a treat to myself since I've worked the whole way through and have no debt staring me in the face.) I am trying to start up an organizing business, while blogging, and trying to start my life with my love. I am confused, excited, and more than ready. I cannot expect to have the answers, but I have enough faith in myself to be able to figure it all out.

As for the ceremony itself, I am not exactly looking forward to being wrapped in black plastic while I bake in the sun. . . I should have chosen a school with the dominant color being white.

Taylor Roades

I've finished two years of university and have taken the last two to run my photography business but I am in constant conflict with myself about going back or not. I do know that if I ever go back and graduate (I hate my school so much, I would never no to the graduation ceremony.) Though those speakers are amazing (have you seen the JK Rowling one…it was awesome too.


I didn't have to go to my college graduation, so I didn't. I was just glad to graduate with honors! High school graduation was cool, though. I got to sing the national anthem in the choir group and I remember we were all really nervous. Just the knowledge that you're moving on and up in life is enough!


First off, I love Amy Poehler. So much. I want to be best friends with her and Will Arnet.

Secondly, I think commencement ceremonies are awful. If I could have chosen not to walk in high school, I would have. I'm graduating from community college this semester and I chose not to walk. When I graduate from the University of Utah, I probably will, just to have a day when I know I made it through. Overall though, graduation is mainly for family.

laura fox gill

Mostly just terrified of falling flat on my face! And a bit sad that the chancellor is no longer Richard Attenborough (that's right, if I'd graduated a few years back I would have got to shake hands with the old man from Jurassic Park!)

I think I'll actually be a bit sad and scared, and wishing to do it all over again.



I graduated last week from university (or college for you USians) and loved it. It was so exciting. The culmination of five years hard work recognised. My nana came down for it and we made a family day of it. It was a big deal for my mum's family because I am the first to graduate ever from her side. But the next day I was so upset. There had been this big build up to this great occasion and now it was over. Everyone was back at work or school and I was home alone crying because I have no job and no idea what to do next. I should also note I do have emotional swings and there is almost always a big awful come down associated with any emotional high.


high school graduation meant very little to me. but when i graduated college, oh man. it took me 5.5 years to get my bachelors degree. various obstacles sprung up over the years and i became very focused on completing my degree before i turned 25. i did, and it was amazing. i was also fortunate to be the invocation speaker at my commencement ceremony, so there was a little extra excitement in that honor. i have honestly never been happier to hear my name be called and to shake the hands of people i didn't personally know.


This will be me next week! Is it terrible I'm watching commencement speeches instead of finishing assignments to finish classes to actually get to commencement?


Our uni graduation was possibly the most patronising few hours I've ever endured. One of the speakers was flown in from another planet, I'm sure of it. It's the only explanation I can think of for his seeming ignorance of the situation outside the university doors. Ok, we weren't in the midst of a recession but the graduate jobs market was still rather tricky and to hear him tell it, you'd think it was all sunshine and daisies. Don't worry about a things, you'll all the best thing since sliced bread, people will be falling over themselves to employ you.

I really hope that someone was breathing down his neck saying "You will be positive or else". I don't like to think that he was choking with laughter behind the scenes or that he genuinely believed what he was saying. We certainly didn't believe it. What we needed to hear was that "It's tough out there but you're tough too, you're equal to it so long as you don't give up."

That, at least, would have been honest. And useful. A graduation speech should be inspiring but too many people confuse "inspiring" with "sickly sweet".


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