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Stay hungry, stay foolish…

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It’S been a while since I have graduated from university, but every May/June I travel back to a time when hopes and dreams were evergreen, the future lay ahead of us like a field of dreams, when we were not scarred, battered, tarnished by life and hardened by the hardships we stumbled on across that field which turned out to be more peaks and troughs.

Because every May/June, with graduation ceremonies across universities and colleges around the world, we are always guaranteed some great graduation speeches.

Granted I am no longer 20 and have long since dropped the rose-tinted glasses I had on looking at the world and all it has to offer.

And that is all the more reason to remember a time when we were young and there was far more of living to do ahead of us than we left behind and we were raring to go roaring into our twenties to change the world.

In the spirit of the season, from limited time to falling back to a GPS system for life, here are some of the bestnuggets of wisdom from some of the world’s greatest minds and talents.

John Legend, University of Pennsylvania

“I want you to live the best life you can. You can be world-changers. When you leave here today, you’re going to be looking for a lot of things: security, money, friendships, sex, all kinds of things. But the most important thing you’ll find is love.

So love yourself, love your work, love the people around you. Dare to love those who are different from you, no matter where they’re from, what they look like, and who they love. Pursue this life of love with focus and passion and ambition and courage. Give it your all. And that will be your path to true success.”

Octavia Spencer, Kent State University

“Ignore the stilly 30-Under-30 list that the internet throws at you before you’ve even had your morning cup of coffee. Those will be the bane of your existence post-graduation, trust me. Trust me. Comparing yourself to other’s success only slows you down from finding your own.”

Shonda Rhimes, Dartmouth

“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.”

Oprah Winfrey, Stanford University

“And how do you know when you’re doing something right? How do you know that? It feels so. What I know now is that feelings are really your GPS system for life.

When you’re supposed to do something or not supposed to do something, your emotional guidance system lets you know.

The trick is to learn to check your ego at the door and start checking your gut instead.”

Toni Morrison, Wellesley College

“Of course, you’re general, but you’re also specific. A citizen and a person, and the person you are is like nobody else on the planet. Nobody has the exact memory that you have. What is now known is not all what you are capable of knowing.

You are your own stories and therefore free to imagine and experience what it means to be human without wealth.

What it feels like to be human without domination over others, without reckless arrogance, without fear of others unlike you, without rotating, rehearsing and reinventing the hatreds you learned in the sandbox.

And although you don’t have complete control over the narrative—no author does, I can tell you—you could nevertheless create it.”

Denzel Washington, University of Pennsylvania

“Fall forward. This is what I mean: Reggie Jackson struck out 2,600 times in his career, the most in the history of baseball. But you don’t hear about the strikeouts. People remember the home runs. Fall forward.

Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn’t know that because the 1,001st was the light bulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Harvard University

“Procrastinating is a form of fear and it is difficult to acknowledge fear. But the truth is that you cannot create anything of value without both self-doubt and self-belief. Without self-doubt, you become complacent; without self-belief, you cannot succeed.

You need both. and there is also the fear of measuring up, of keeping up, which for you, might be heightened with the heavy weight of all your Harvard expectations.

I want to share a line from a lovely poem by Mary Oliver, ‘Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination.’

When you fall into the funk of competition, when you compare yourself with other Harvard graduates, when you’re worried that you didn’t get that job at Goldman or Mackenzie or in Silicon Valley right after graduation, or didn’t win a Pulitzer at 30 or didn’t become a managing director or partner of something at 35, think of literature.

Think of the early bloomers and the late bloomers.

Think of the many experimental novels that do not follow the traditional form. Your story does not have to have a traditional arc.

There is an Igbo saying, Mgbe onye tete bu ututu ya. It translates literally to ‘whenever you wake up, that is your morning.’”

Steve Jobs, Stanford University

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.


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