4 amazing and Inspiring Graduation Speeches

Commencement speeches are filled with pearls of wisdom, and some of the most valuable life lessons ever

After listening to Steve Jobs‘ Stanford commencement speech in 2005 (my own graduation year from Business School!) I have consistently collected the graduation speeches which I found empowering and am delighted to share with you here some of my favorite when it comes to being inspiring.

These speakers are all successful in their respective spheres of influence.

The lessons they share are applicable to anyone in any time, beyond just graduating students.

1) Steve Jobs, Stanford University, 2005

“Remembering you’re 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.”

Whenever people talk about inspiring graduation speeches, Steve Job’s speech immediately comes to mind. The messages he conveys in this speech echo my deepest beliefs, life values and sense of purpose with One Life & You.

“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 importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

One Life & You Tip: Our life and time on earth is a non-renewable source, and we all have 86,400 seconds in each of our days … 8760 hours each year in this beautiful world: spend your precious One Life and time where you have the highest leverage and enjoyment, where your can cultivate your greatest potential, the One You, and flourish in all aspects of your life.

2) Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emory University, 2010

“You’re going to find naysayers in every turn that you make. Don’t listen. Just visualize your goal, know exactly where you want to go. Trust yourself. Get out there and work like hell. Break some of the rules and never ever be afraid of failure.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger is an international movie star (Conan, Terminator, Commando) and was Governor of California. His speech very inspiring, and he’s living proof of how one can overcome all odds to achieve one’s dreams, as long as you set your heart and mind to it. In this talk, he shares his personal stories of how he overcame resistances from everyone and achieved his dreams, one after another, by visualizing what we wanted, then working hard to bring these goals to reality.

One Life & You Tip: The combination of the dreaming and visualization + the doing is the magic formula to enjoy the beautiful adventure of this thing we call life.

For more inspiration on following your dreams, check these quotes!

3) JK Rowling, Harvard, 2008

“You might never fail on the scale I did. But some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.”

JK Rowling is the famous author of the highly successful Harry Potter series, and is also well known for her rags-to-riches story, where she grew from living in poverty to a multi-millionaire in 5 years, and billionaire today.

In this speech, she shares her story and how she hit the rock bottom when she was 27. Her marriage had failed after just 1 year, she was a single parent, had a very little money and jobless. It was at her lowest point in life, and she even considered suicide.

Yet this failure ended up being a blessing to propel her to success. Because she had failed on such an epic scale, she had to cut away the inessential, and decided to refocus on her 2 true purposes: her daughter, and writing her fantasy novel, the Harry Potter series, which would later propel her to success.

She closes on a beautiful quote by Seneca “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”

This talk is incredibly inspiring to reflect on what matters the most to you in life, your WHY, your sense of purpose. Are you pursuing that? Or are you letting the fear of failure prevent you from doing what you love?

One Life & You Tip: Do not stop dreaming and believing in magic when you wake up. Without dreams, life is like a little bird with a broken wing which cannot fly or like a rose bud without water to help it blossom …
Remember, you have only one life and there is only one you, here on earth to serve a purpose and accomplish your dreams!

We do not need magic to change the world and our lives, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already… The power of choice lies in us.

For more inspiration on why your WHY matters, read this article on Simon Sinek.

4) Oprah Winfrey, Stanford University, 2008

“I consider the world, this Earth, to be like a school. And our life, the classrooms, and sometimes on this planet Earth school, the lessons often come dressed up as detours, or roadblocks, and sometimes, as full blown crises. And the secret I’ve learned to getting ahead, is being open to the lessons – lessons from the grandest universe of all, that is the universe itself.”

Oprah is arguably the most influential woman in the world, and owner of the most successful TV talk show in the world, The Oprah Winfrey Show. In this heartfelt speech, she shares 3 powerful lessons from her life.

The first is about the importance of being true to who we are.

The second lesson is to learn lessons from failure. Every failure, every experience is there to teach you something.

The third lesson is on finding happiness. What makes you happy? In Oprah’s speech, she shares that happiness is achieved when you give something back to others.

One Life & You Tip: We rise by lifting others. There is no exercise better for the heart than lifting people up

For more inspiration on how giving without expecting anything in return helps us succeed and be happy, check this article referring to Give and Take by Adam Grant.




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