Although Neil Gaiman never attended college, he gives one of the best commencement speeches ever. This is right up there with the Steve Jobs and David Foster Wallace commencement speeches.
People who know the rules know what is possible and what is impossible. You do not and you should not. The rules of what is possible and impossible were made by people who have not tested the bounds of possible by going beyond them – and you can.
The speech was so good it was turned into a book, Make Good Art.
The full talk runs about 19 minutes. If you can’t spare the time, openculture offers this distilled version:
- Embrace the fact that you’re young. Accept that you don’t know what you’re doing. And don’t listen to anyone who says there are rules and limits.
- If you know your calling, go there. Stay on track. Keep moving towards it, even if the process takes time and requires sacrifice.
- Learn to accept failure. Know that things will go wrong. Then, when things go right, you’ll probably feel like a fraud. It’s normal.
- Make mistakes, glorious and fantastic ones. It means that you’re out there doing and trying things.
- When life gets hard, as it inevitably will, make good art. Just make good art.
- Make your own art, meaning the art that reflects your individuality and personal vision.
- Now a practical tip. You get freelance work if your work is good, if you’re easy to get along with, and if you’re on deadline. Actually you don’t need all three. Just two.
- Enjoy the ride, don’t fret the whole way. Stephen King gave that piece of advice to Neil years ago.
- Be wise and accomplish things in your career. If you have problems getting started, pretend you’re someone who is wise, who can get things done. It will help you along.
- Leave the world more interesting than it was before.
Still curious? Here are some other awesome commencement speeches: Michael Lewis — Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie; David Foster Wallace — The Truth With A Whole Lot Of Rhetorical Bullshit Pared Away; and Steve Jobs.