Commencement address by author Neil Gaiman at the University of the Arts Class of 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Video courtesy of the university. First saw this on TheStoryofTellingblog by brand strategist Bernadette Jiwa.
WERE YOU MOVED by the Stanford University commencement speech by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs a few years back? Then you'll love this one by author Neil Gaiman, speaking recently to the University of the Arts Class of 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. His words ring true for college students and working professionals alike. "And now go," Gaiman said, "and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art." (Full transcript.)
On balancing his dreams and the realities of life: "Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be . . . was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain."
On pursuing work that he loves: "I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work . . . Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me . . . The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality, have never let me down, and I've never regretted the time I spent on any of them.
On risk and failure: "You need to be thick-skinned, to learn that not every project will survive. A freelance life, a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back."
On the problems of success: "The problems of failure are hard. The problems of success can be harder . . . I watched my peers, and my friends . . . and watched how miserable some of them were . . . because now they had to earn a certain amount every month just to keep where they were. They couldn't go and do the things that mattered . . . and that seemed as big a tragedy as any problem of failure."
On creating unique, life-saving art: " . . . whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer . . . you have one thing that's unique. You have the ability to make art. And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that's been a lifesaver . . . Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health . . . And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art."
On listening to your voice and vision: "Do the stuff that only you can do . . . Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision . . . The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right."
On enjoying the long journey: "I worried about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story . . . And I didn't stop and look around and go, this is really fun . . . That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places."