If You Gave a Commencement Speech, What Would You Say?

It’s graduation season, which means we get to see commencement speeches on YouTube from a variety of celebrities and dignitaries. I’ve enjoyed watching a few of them, including most recently Marques Brownlee’s 7-minute speech.

I’m now curious: If you had 7 minutes to give a commencement speech to your college or high school, what would you say? Let’s assume someone already introduced you, so you need to spend time explaining who you are.

I like Brownlee’s approach: He doesn’t try to say too much or to spout a series of axioms that everyone will forget (do you remember anything from the speaker at your graduation said?). Rather, he picks two specific things–one for now, one for later–and keeps them simple and impactful, with a touch of humor.

So what would I say that might actually stick with people? I think I might try to give one small nugget of wisdom–the type of thing you can apply that same day–and one big suggestion tied to a concrete example.

I’m going to think about this and maybe add to this post later, but here are two things that come to mind:

  • If there’s something you’re putting off until some arbitrary future date, instead start it today. You don’t need to finish it today or tomorrow or this year. But you can start it. Start writing your novel. Start recording your podcast. Start your side hussle. Execution is the heart of creativity–it is infinitely more valuable than an idea you never act on. This also ties into goal setting: You can’t control if you’ll win an Academy Award, but you can control if you ever put yourself in front of or behind the camera.
  • Find your people. You may have made some lifelong friends in high school or college, which is wonderful. But I also encourage you to keep looking for your people. Find the people with whom you can speak your mind, especially if you don’t agree on everything. Find the people who share your love of things that are too niche or nerdy for others. Find the people who make you laugh, who you never have to impress, and who you can’t wait to see again.

I just remembered that I wrote a blog post on the Stonemaier Games blog somewhat along these lines a while ago; I might refer to this for a commencement speech too.

Let me know what you would say! What have you learned about yourself that you wish you could have heard at your graduation?

4 thoughts on “If You Gave a Commencement Speech, What Would You Say?”

  1. I am not sure what I what I would say, but I would have loved for you to give all of my comencement speeches. Just this blog post was better than all the ones I heard at my graduations.

    • Thank you! I must admit my graduation speech wasn’t memorable either. I wish something from it could have stuck. Maybe I just wasn’t listening well enough.

  2. I think my most important message would be:

    Today doesn’t define you. This graduation is only one step in your life. You chose a study, you succeeded that study (congratulations), but you didn’t determine the rest of your life with that choice. Your degree doesn’t define you. You can be whatever you want, whoever you want to be. Dream big. The future is yours.


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