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Jim Carrey’s Commencement Speech Warns Against Playing It Safe

The comedian said he was also concerned as a young man about going out into the world and "doing something bigger than myself"

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Jim Carrey might have made a career out of his funny lines and even funnier faces, but on Saturday he took a moment for some serious reflection while speaking to graduates at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.

In the speech, the comedian dared graduates to ask the universe for big things.

“Fear is going to be a player in life, but you get to decide how much,” Carrey said. “So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.”

Carey also talked about the lessons he drew from his father about about pursuing one’s dreams.

“My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. When I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job, and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. 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.”

TIME Education

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Let Motown Be Your Commencement Speaker

Graduation advice
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Forget all the controversies. Let Marvin Gaye and the other greats be your true guide to life with Kareem's commencement mix tape.

So, you’re graduating this month and school administrators feel a sudden desperate need to hire someone famous to toss advice at you like over-engorged water balloons of wisdom. When it’s over, you will be soaked with insight and inspiration. After four years of intense studying, what new understanding can be offered in 20 minutes under a hot sun in a stifling rented gown worn by a thousand other sweaty grads with itches of unknown origin? Or is parading some celebrity speaker merely an eleventh-hour attempt to convince your parents that you got their money’s worth?

Harvard, Yale, Stanford, let me save you some money on speaker fees. I’ve put together a mix-tape of four Motown songs that will tell graduates everything they need to know to march forward happily and successfully through life. Get the party started by playing these songs at graduation, maybe with the Dean of Students holding a boom box over his head like John Cusack in Say Anything.

1. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye

The first song is “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, which came out in 1971 and quickly sold more than 2 million copies. Rolling Stone ranked it as the fourth greatest song of all time. Inspired by one of its composers witnessing an incident of police brutality, the gentle song evolved into a national anthem calling for people of differing viewpoints to put aside their biases about race, age, and politics, and talk things over in a civilized and compassionate way.

Sample Lyrics: “You know we’ve got to find a way/To bring some understandin’ here today.”

Life Lesson To Be Learned: When it comes to important social and political issues, much of the media seems to focus on roid-rage rhetoric rather than respectful discourse. Unfortunately, this only builds the walls higher. An Emory University study centered on the 2004 election, using brain scans of people with opposing political candidates, concluded that when the subjects were told that their candidates had reversed a stance on a key issue, they ignored it. The part of their brain that used reasoning wasn’t activated. Worse, by embracing their biases, their brains’ reward centers lit up similar to what was seen when addicts got a fix. Basically, our brain rewards us when we ignore facts and wrap our selves in the blankie of our prejudices.

That means we have to fight the inclination toward biased thinking and be more open-minded. Let’s give Marvin’s way a chance: “Picket lines and picket signs/Don’t punish me with brutality/Talk to me.”

2. “Shop Around” by The Miracles (featuring Bill “Smokey” Robinson)

This 1960 song was Motown’s first record to sell 1 million copies. In 2006, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named it as one of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.” While the lyrics feature a mother’s advice to her son not to marry too soon, but to “shop around” for the right woman, we can all read between the lines to see that this is just a metaphor for embracing life by trying new experiences.

Sample Lyrics: “Just because you’ve become a young man now/There’s still some things that you don’t understand now/Before you ask some girl for her hand now/Oh yeah, you better shop around.”

Life Lesson To Be Learned: According to a 2013 Harris Poll, only one in three Americans say they are very happy. And that’s fewer than reported feeling that way in 2011. Smokey isn’t just saying shop around for a spouse, he’s saying don’t be too quick to jump into a long-term relationship with a career, with a mortgage, with overwhelming responsibilities. Take some time to find out what’s important to you, not just what’s expected of you.

3. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye

This song was first recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles in 1966, but it was Marvin’s 1968 version that became the biggest Motown hit of the time. The song is included in Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” On the surface, it’s about some poor guy agonizing about a rumor he heard that his girlfriend is going to dump him. But, really, it’s a subtle meditation on both the advantages and dangers of the inter-connectedness of contemporary society — even more relevant today in a world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Sample Lyrics: “People say believe half of what you see/son, and none of what you hear./I can’t help bein’ confused.”

Life Lesson To Be Learned: The “grapevine” is now a vast network of Facebook “friends,” web trolls, and other random individuals that create a virtual life that may be interfering with us living actual life. A University of Michigan study of college-aged adults concluded that the more they used Facebook the sadder they felt. They also found that using Facebook led to less moment-to-moment happiness and less overall life satisfaction. Part of the reason for this is that it creates a competitive social situation in which the user compares his or her life with what seems like the rich, active, happy lives of those posting their every kiss and knish.

The subtext of Marvin’s song is that we need to tend our grapevine the way a loving gardener tends his plants. Pull the weeds (the “friends” that don’t matter) and nurture the roses (those friends that do matter). Be selective, avoid the trolls of despair, and develop a grapevine that can support your weight.

4. “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & the Pips

Although Gladys and the Pips actually recorded this song after they left Motown, this 1973 release was their first number one recording and was #432 on Rolling Stone’s list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” In 1999 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The song tells the story of a Georgia man who comes to L.A. to become a star, fails, and returns back home “to a simpler place and time.” His girlfriend decides to give up her life in L.A. to follow him because she’d rather “live in his world than live without him” in her world. To the untrained eye, this is a simple song of love conquering all. But fellow college graduates know that everything is a metaphor for something else that only English majors can understand.

Sample Lyrics: “He kept dreaming (Dreaming)/Ooh, that some day he’d be a star (A superstar, but he didn’t get far)/But he sure found out the hard way/That dreams don’t always come true, oh no, uh uh.”

Life Lesson To Be Learned: American children have been encouraged to dream big and follow those dreams — because there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished with determination and grit. Probably a couple hundred commencement speakers are saying the same thing across America this spring. Whether or not that’s true you’ll have to figure out on your own. What definitely is true is that even those who succeed usually stumble along the way and have to face failure. Fortunately, Gladys and her Pips have belted out some soulful guidance on how to cope: Go back to Georgia, they say, back to that simpler place and time. What they mean is that, following an epic fail, we should go back and re-examine who we are, what we want, and what our values are. Maybe the original goal isn’t what we really want or need. Maybe we need a new plan to accomplish our original goal. But don’t keep charging head-first into the brick wall. Take a step back — back to Georgia.

Now you are prepared to stagger out into a world that wants to both swaddle and swallow you. But when that confusing world has you muttering Marvin Gaye’s words: “Mercy, mercy me/Ah, things ain’t what they used to be,” then it’s time to jam the earbuds in your ears and crank up these four songs. If nothing else, you’ll be able to dance into your future.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time National Basketball Association champion and league Most Valuable Player. Follow him on Twitter (@KAJ33) and Facebook (facebook.com/KAJ). Mr. Abdul-Jabbar also writes a weekly column for the L.A. Register.

TIME commencement speeches

This Is the Only Commencement Speech Anybody Needs to Hear Ever

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There’s been a lot of hoopla over commencement season this year. Protests have sent some would-be speakers packing in a huff. And, at the moment, many people (on the island of Manhattan anyway) are wondering what the recently departed New York Times editor Jill Abramson is going to say during her speech at Wake Forest today. But, for its content and clarity, this 2005 Stanford commencement by the legendary Steve Jobs remains hugely popular. Here’s the full video above and a transcript, courtesy of Stanford, below.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

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.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

TIME Education

Commencement Speaker: Students ‘Immature’ for Protesting Another Speaker

William Bowen, former president of Princeton University, delivers his second commencement speech to the 2014 graduates of Haverford College, on May 18, 2014.
William Bowen, former president of Princeton University, delivers his second commencement speech to the 2014 graduates of Haverford College, on May 18, 2014. Clem Murray—The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP

William Bowen, a former Princeton University president, criticized Haverford College students who rallied against a former University of California, Berkeley chancellor as their speaker because of his management of a 2011 protest that led to police force

A commencement speaker at Pennsylvania’s Haverford College called college students “immature” and “arrogant” Sunday for protesting a different speaker who ultimately withdrew.

Former Princeton University President William Bowen criticized those who protested Robert Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, the Associated Press reports.

Three professors and 40 students had campaigned against Birgeneau’s invitation to speak, citing his management of a 2011 campus clash between police and Occupy movement protestors that resulted in police using force against the demonstrators. The Haverford students and professors wanted Birgeneau to apologize, support victim payments and explain what he learned about the events in a letter to the student body.

Birgeneau refused to do so and canceled his Haverford visit, joining a group of college commencement speakers who backed out of speaking engagements this spring following protests from students.

“I am disappointed that those who wanted to criticize Birgeneau’s handling of events at Berkeley chose to send him such an intemperate list of ‘demands,’” Bowen said, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “In my view, they should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counterarguments.”

Bowen’s speech was met with a standing ovation.

[AP]

TIME Education

Caving on Commencement Speakers Is Censorship, Not Scholarship

Merkel Meets With World Finance, Economic And Labor Leaders
World finance, economic and labor leaders met with the German chancellor. Adam Berry—Getty Images

Christine Lagarde withdrew as Smith College's commencement speaker under student pressure, but a true “marketplace of ideas” must be open to hearing from people from different walks of life, professions, experiences and philosophical and political points of view.

It’s the time of year when efforts heat up by students and faculty to get speakers they dislike disinvited from campus. Every spring, the campus “disinvitation” movement seems to get more intense, and this year its participants have claimed some high-profile scalps.

On Tuesday, former University of California Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced he would withdraw from his address at Haverford College in the face of student protests. Dr. Birgeneau, who seemed to most like a safe choice, was apparently unwelcome because of his alleged mishandling of Occupy Wall Street protests on his campus.

One day earlier, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, withdrew from Smith College’s commencement after an online petition by students blamed Lagarde as being “a primary culprit in the failed developmental policies implanted in some of the world’s poorest countries.”

The highest profile “success” of a campus disinvitation movement this spring was when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice withdrew from Rutgers University’s commencement after months of intense protest by faculty and students. The faculty objected primarily to Rice’s role in the Iraq war and the execution of the War on Terror.

While Birgeneau, Rice and Lagarde reportedly “withdrew,” it strikes me as unlikely this took place without some encouragement by administrators who got cold feet in the face of angry students and faculty. If the speakers had refused to withdraw, they might have suffered the fate of Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis University earlier this year. Hirsi Ali, an atheist, activist and fierce critic of the treatment of women in Islamic countries, was set to be honored with an honorary degree from the Massachusetts university. When students rallied against her, she refused to bow out. So Brandeis made the decision for her by officially disinviting her in April.

Not all disinvitation movements are successful. Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs successfully spoke at his alma mater, Howard University, on Monday, despite some objections. And, last year, big names, including Fareed Zakaria (a TIME columnist) and Greta Van Susteren, weathered a push by students at the University of Oklahoma and Georgetown, respectively, to get them disinvited as commencement speakers.

Students and faculty have the right to protest speakers and to criticize their colleges for choosing speakers they dislike. Yet to function as a true “marketplace of ideas,” the university community must be open to hearing from people from different walks of life, professions, experiences and philosophical and political points of view. When students (or faculty, who should definitely know better) work to exclude a speaker from campus, they are thinking like censors, not scholars. A scholarly community should approach speakers with even radically different points of view as opportunities to be engaged, not as a political loss that must be avoided at all costs. Exercising a little intellectual humility might lead students and faculty away from asking “what can I do to get rid of the speaker?” and towards “what might I learn if I hear this person out?” After all, if you’re only willing to hear from people with whom you agree, it’s far less likely you will learn new things.

Universities have only themselves to blame for this mess—not just for caving to pressure, but for teaching students the wrong lessons about the value of free and robust discourse. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), of which I am the president, has found speech codes—policies that heavily restrict speech that is protected under the First Amendment—at 59% of the more than 400 colleges we survey, and deals every day with campus censorship of often even mildly offensive speech. Colleges have taught a generation of students that they have a “right not to be offended.” This belief has inevitably morphed into an expectation among students that they will be confirmed in their beliefs, not challenged. It’s no wonder, then, that they apply increasingly strict purity tests to potential campus speakers.

Colleges could stem the tide of disinvitation season by encouraging intellectual curiosity, humility, the reservation of judgment, recognition that one does not know everything and the simple act of granting the benefit of the doubt. Not coincidentally, these are precisely the lessons universities should be teaching students. Their failure to instill these habits has led to campuses that have become depressingly intolerant. If this trend is not reversed, disinvitation season will only end when campuses give up on inviting speakers who have anything to say.

Greg Lukianoff is the President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the end of American Debate.

TIME Education

The Best Advice for New Grads From People Who Will Never (Again) Be Invited to Speak at Your Graduation

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Speaks To Troops In Italy
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks to troops in Italy. Getty Images—Getty Images

If only these people had followed their own words of wisdom.

Graduation season is upon us and, with it, platitude-filled speeches. Sometimes students get upset about the speakers; Rutgers students are currently protesting the school’s selection of Condoleezza Rice. But more often, no one is aware of the speakers’ demons until long after the graduation is over. These graduation speakers—and others—would have fared a lot better had they themselves paid attention to the wisdom they provided to students, and the public at large.

“When you know what you are talking about, others will follow you because it’s safe to follow you.” – Richard Fuld

It’s hard to imagine it now, but there was a time when Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld was someone colleges were excited to book as a commencement speaker. In 2006, he returned to his alma mater, University of Colorado at Boulder, to deliver a commencement address—in which he told students about the leadership opportunities that would come with knowing what you were talking about.

Less than two-and-a-half years later, Lehman Brothers became the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.

“I believe happiness . . . comes when you extend yourself and reach out to others. When you reach out with the loving, caring hand of concern to help someone find their way or to give them a little guidance or support along the way.” – Jerry Sandusky

Penn State football’s defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky promoted himself as a philanthropist and mentor with his Second Mile foundation. To bolster his image, he wrote a self-serving memoir called Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story. A decade after its publication, Sandusky was indicted and then convicted on 45 counts related to child molestation. He’s currently incarcerated. While his book is out of print, it has become a collectible of sorts: a signed copy recently sold on eBay for $129.99.

“I’ve never been a passive person. I’ve always felt that, if you think something should be changed, it’s your responsibility to actively pursue that change.” — Bob Filner

When California Congressman and later San Diego mayor Bob Filner made those comments, he was reflecting on the volunteer work he’d done as a Freedom Rider, helping to integrate buses when he was a teenager. Unfortunately, as an adult, Filner applied that same can-do spirit to his interactions with women. In 2013, Filner pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment “by violence, fraud, menace and deceit” and two counts of misdemeanor battery. He had already resigned as mayor because of the allegations, which began with his former communications director alleging that he had demanded kisses and asked that she work without panties, and that he had put her in a headlock.

“It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.” –Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld was fond of circulating his own lists of folksy advice to his subordinates back when he was head of President Ford’s transition team, and later as a White House Chief of Staff. Unfortunately, even the best-laid aphorisms couldn’t save Rumsfeld from a string of legacy-ruining blunders during his service as President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense. On February 7, 2003, Rumsfeld spoke to troops and explained that the conflict in Iraq they had just begun would not last long. “It is unknowable how long that conflict will last,” he said. “It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.

“The only barriers in your career are self-imposed.” – Al Dunlap

“Chainsaw Al” Dunlap was, at one time, one of the most respected CEOs in America. His tough, take-no-prisoners approach to cost cutting made him an icon of the 1990s, and his book Mean Business: How I Save Bad Companies and Make Good Companies Great was an instant bestseller. When he was hired as CEO of Sunbeam in 1996, the stock surged close to 50% in a single day. But in 1998, the whole thing collapsed under the weight of management mistakes and aggressive accounting. Dunlap was fired, and the company went into bankruptcy. In 2002, Dunlap settled SEC fraud charges by paying a $500,000 fine and agreed not to serve as an officer or director of a publicly traded company for the rest of his life. Not that anyone was asking him to.

Zac Bissonnette is the author of Debt-Free U and New York Times bestseller How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents. His new book, GOOD ADVICE FROM BAD PEOPLE: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong was released by Portfolio/Penguin in April. He has written for various media outlets including Glamour, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg, and The Daily Beast. In August 2013, he was blocked on Twitter by Donald Trump.

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