Recent talk of the correspondence bias (here) reminded me of possibly the best commencement speech that I’ve not yet written about (and I’ve written about quite a few): David Foster Wallace’s commencement address to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005.
The speech, often cited as Wallace’s only public talk concerning his worldview,Â was adapted following his death into a book titled This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life and is essential reading for anyone interested in personal choice: the choice of thinking and acting in a way contrary to our self-centered “default” worldview.
Actually, scrap that, it’s just essential reading for everyone.
Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is. [â€¦]
If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the centre of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.
To read the speech I recommend the version from More Intelligent Life linked above as it is true to the speech as it was given. If you prefer a slightly more edited read, The Wall Street Journal‘s copy and The Guardian‘s copy may be more to your taste.
Truth is, the great value in most MBA and JD programs can be boiled down to 5 to 10 talks, presentations, classes and conversations that changed the way you experienced the world.
Following up on this comment, Jonathan Fields presents The Seven Keynote MBA: seven keynote speeches, from a diverse group of people, that together Fields believes will provide you as much real-world advice as an MBA.
The talks (videos, length inÂ parentheses):
- Guy Kawasaki, TiECon 2006: The Art of the Start (39:46)
- Malcolm Gladwell, TED 2004: What We Can Learn From Spaghetti Sauce (18:16)
- Gary Vaynerchuck, Web 2.0 Expo NY: Building Personal Brand Within the Social Media Landscape (15:27)
- Annie Leonard: The Story of Stuff (21:16)
- Jimmy Valvano, 1993 ESPY Awards: Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award acceptance speech (9:59) (transcript)
- Seth Godin, TED 2009: The Tribes We Lead (17:24)
- Tony Hsieh, Web 2.0 Summit 08: Building a Brand that Matters (16:46)
I’m not a Flash designer, but Jonathan Harris’ inspiring and rousing speech from Flash on the Beach 2008 really got me thinking about the longevity of my work.
It appears that some attendees of the conference felt Harris was admonishing the Flash community. However, after reading this speech I feel inspired and I can’t help but think this was the intention.
You will become known for doing what you do. This may sound obvious, but it is a useful thing to realize. Many people seem to think they must endure a “rite of passage” which, once passed, will allow them to do the kind of work they want to do. Then they end up disappointed that this day never comes. Find a way to do the work you want to do, even if it means working nights and weekends. Once you’ve done a handful of excellent things in a given way, you will become known as the person who does excellent things in that given way. And that’s the person you want to be, because then people will hire you to be that person.
Earlier this week I listened to and read Ted Kennedy’s eulogy for his brother, Robert Kennedy. I had never heard this speech before and it is a fantastic oration worth listening to in full. Howeverâ€¦
- I would advise listening to the speech on the embedded video while reading along so that you can hear the emotion in Ted Kennedy’s voiceâ€”fantastic!
- Don’t just listen to the speech using the embedded video as the overlaid music is horrendous and occasionally distracting.
- The recording of the speech is 9:45 in length, seven minutes of which is an excerpt from Robert Kennedy’s own Day of Affirmation Address to the students of the University of Capetown, South Africa (June 6, 1966).
via Ben Casnocha
American Rhetoric is a “speech bank” holding over 5,000 full text, audio and video on some of the most famous speeches, lectures, debates and interviews of all time. Recently they released a list of the top 100 speeches in American 20th century politics (complete with transcript and audio).
- Martin Luther King, Jr. – “I Have a Dream”
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy – Inaugural Address
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt – First Inaugural Address
If that got you inspired, these 22 personal development videos are a great compliment.
- Jim Rohn – “Your Best Year Ever”
- Steve Jobs – Stanford Commencement Speech
- Tim Ferriss – Authors@Google with Marci Alboher