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You Want Some Real Life Advice? Forget That Generic Commencement Speech You Sat Through and Read This

It’s graduation season. That means sitting through speeches while you sweat and argue with yourself about having to go to the bathroom or not. They will ask you to believe in yourselves and remember that you are the future and this is not the end but the beginning and blah…blah…to the blah.

Nothing the former candidate or local banker’s son have to say will be actually helpful in life. Even if you manage to remember what they said, their commencement speeches will be full of half-truths and platitudes. You want some real life advice? Here you go, two movie scenes and a speech that have taught me real life lessons.

The first is from the movie Pump Up the Volume. ‘Harry’ says stuff that I had heard before, but says it here in a way that I finally got.

Listen, we’re all worried, we’re all in pain. That just comes with having eyes and with having ears. But just remember one thing, it can’t get any worse, it can only get better. I mean High School is the bottom. Being a teenager sucks! But that’s the point, surviving it is the whole point! Quitting is not going to make you strong, living will.

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The second is from 1991’s Boyz N the Hood. The three rules that Furious teaches to Tre are an excellent foundation to build grown-up life on. Especially number 3!

1) Always look a person in the eye. Do that, they respect you better.

2) Never be afraid to ask you for anything. Stealing isn’t necessary.

3) Never respect anybody who doesn’t respect you back.

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The last thing I want to share with you a speech by writer Merlin Mann that he made at MaxFunCon, a creative seminar put on by Jesse Thorne. Mann talks about doing creative work and getting yourself to do that work. For me there is a literal before and after in my life with this speech. I learned basic stuff that I didn’t know I didn’t know. Like abandoning perfection and learning to love ambiguity. It’s my kind of motivational talk; motivational talk without the motivational talk.

I highly recommend listening to Mann speak, watch out though, he does use some grown-up words AKA it’s kinda NSFW.


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