CMU School of Drama

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What the Best Commencement Speeches Teach Us About Failure

lifehacker.com: If there’s one common thread amongst some of the best college commencement speeches out there, it’s failure. College, it turns out, is easy compared to the rest of life, and to prepare you for that, everyone from Denzel Washington to JK Rowling have dedicated their time in front of graduates to help us all remember that.

4 comments:

Kelly Simons said...

How coincidental that this article mentions J.K. Rowling when I just read the article about “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child”. Failure is such an interesting topic to ponder. Obviously we all have to fail in order to improve with anything. I especially liked Rowling’s quote: “So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me…. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” I think that at least once in our lives we must all truly fail in an extreme way. Whether that failure includes losing a job, or breaking up with a partner; these failures help us understand us. We need to learn how to rebuild ourselves.

Cosette Craig said...

The pressure of this program makes it very hard to accept/have time to process failure. The only chance I had time to ponder my failures was when I took a moment to think during Christmas break when the excitement of the semester had died. There also is an expectation in this program from faculty and other students that failure is not an option. Failure is shamed and not treated as an opportunity to learn. This is not across the board but the general attitude is that failing makes you a disappointment. Regardless, we should all try to embrace our wrongdoings and mistakes and turn them into mistakes you won’t make in the future. Failure IS a basis for reinvention. This reminds me of my elementary art school teacher who used to always say, “there are no mistakes in art, just creative opportunities.” Even though she was talking about our weak, tiny child hands scribbling outside the lines, the basic concept is still relevant.

Lauren Miller said...

Junior and senior year of high school I interned with channel 18 – the local government-funded cable channel servicing the Detroit-metro area. Aside from getting coffee (and having the creepiest introduction to drone usage ever – it was literally an “I have something cool in my trunk, want to see?” situation to which I said yes and wasn’t murdered as a result), I acted as a cameraperson for every graduation speech for all the high schools and colleges in the area. I got excellent experience working cameras and seeing the process of live production, and, as a bonus, I have heard far too many commencement speeches. And the only thing I have to say about this is that no matter how amazing the speaker or great the school, all commencement speeches essentially say the same thing. Also, in my experience as a student, I don’t even remember the commencement speech from high school (the same speaker actually worked two other graduations so I heard the speech three times). So, I guess I’m trying to say that the article has some great talking points, but, in reality, commencement speeches kind of suck. Try a TED Talk about the purpose of failure instead.

Helena Hewitt said...

It is really, really easy to talk about how failure is the building block to success, however putting it into practice across your entire life if very hard. Perhaps you think you are adhering to this advice because you have integrated failure as a learning tool into your education, your work, or your professional life, but you cannot bring yourself to apply to the same advice and take the same risks in your interpersonal relationships. I believe everyone has a big blind spot when they are nodding along knowingly to a speech about accepting failure and learning from it. We all have an area in our lives where we are terrified to fail, but it is probably that area where it is most important for us to try, fail, and try again. To truly implement this advice we have to push towards the fear. Only then can we rebuild and reinvent, we can understand how and why that fear of failure existed in that particular part of our lives.

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