• Motto

How to Be Successful, According to 2016 Commencement Speakers

3 minute read

Graduation season is in full swing, with some of the world’s brightest minds doling out advice almost daily. Read on to learn about how people like Barack Obama and Anne-Marie Slaughter achieved success—and how you can, too.

1. Barack Obama: Aim for better, not perfection
“You have to stick with it. You have to be persistent. And success, however small, however incomplete, success is still success. I always tell my daughters, you know, better is good. It may not be perfect, it may not be great, but it’s good. That’s how progress happens—in societies and in our own lives.”

2. Madeleine Albright: Broaden your horizons
“I ask only that you make a real effort to keep learning more. And learning, by definition, means exploring areas of existence and opinion with which you are not already familiar. Instead of choosing to read or to listen only to the people whose views make you the most comfortable—which is becoming easier and easier to do—choose instead to study those who make you the most upset.”

3. Eboo Patel: Don’t be afraid to veer off-course
“I’m not telling you to throw away the road map you’ve sketched for your life. I’m just saying that your liberal arts education has given you the eyes to read the road signs along the way, and the ability to change direction when the original plan goes sideways. There is something to be said for reaching the milestones you set for yourself. There’s a lot more involved in re-charting your course when you miss them.”

4. Anne-Marie Slaughter: Take pride in others’ successes
“You will grow and learn and develop by investing in others just as much as by investing in yourselves. You will discover a new side of yourself, a side of yourself that takes as much pleasure and pride when others succeed as when you do.”

5. Michael Bloomberg: Think in terms of ‘we’
“If there’s a secret to success beyond hard work and good luck, it’s that the more we say ‘we’ and the less we say ‘I’, the further we go.”

6. Arianna Huffington: Stop glamorizing exhaustion
“So to further destroy our collective delusion that burnout is essential for success, another thing I ask you to change is our everyday language around sleep and burnout. Language matters. It both reflects and it guides how we think about the world and what we value. But everywhere we turn, sleep deprivation is glamorized and celebrated.”

7. Samantha Power: Get close
“If you want to have a deep impact on what matters to you, don’t do things at remove. Invest yourself fully. Get close.”

8. Mahershala Ali: Be patient
“The truth is there is no skill or craft of any real value where one can have a successful sustainable career with the snap of a finger. There are no genies. We have to endure the process, tolerate ourselves in real time through the wait, construct our vision, improve, reflect with comprehension, sacrifice and embrace the willingness to suffer.”

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