My Graduation Speech on How to Fail (Successfully)

By Max Londberg on May 23, 2013

Congratulations class of 2013!

Want to know the key to not failing in the next ten years? This may sound strange, but I think the key to not failing is to fail, and fail often. In those failures, you will find that you will stop worrying about the trivialities, about appearances and paychecks and pleasing other people. In those failures, you will be rejuvenated, and you will earn an appreciation for hard work that will make you more prepared to succeed the next time around.

I want you all to close your eyes.

For some reason, as we’ve gotten closer and closer to graduation, I sense that most of us feel like we’re getting closer and closer to a great termination, an end to this most blissful time in our lives. I bet every one of you has something that is consuming you–practically debilitating you with worry. This includes me. Yet here we are, on this day to celebrate our achievement, and we can’t close our eyes in peace!

We must learn to detach our worries from ourselves. Put them someplace close by to access when necessary, but somewhere that they won’t hamper our ability to enjoy occasions such as these. Take a moment every day to be grateful for all that we have, including this invaluable education.

Of course, the American dream is dead, and the chance that you buy that home on the beach is smaller than my savings account at the moment. But do you know what we have that so many others don’t? Naivety. We’re still naive enough to pursue our passions, whether they are to be a writer or an astronomer or a geologist.

So many people take the first job they can after college, the one they don’t truly want. It may have a decent starting salary and room for growth. These people will make their money in order to pay for a life they don’t enjoy living. When they retire, they’ll spend all their time resenting themselves. They’ll regret a career wasted for fear of change, for trying something new, something they love.

I implore you to not fear what you are drawn to, for rejecting that is to stymie the very patterns that make you, well, you. Imagine the torture of putting yourself through that. No matter how much money you make, you will not be happy spending your time imagining the path you wished you’d chosen.

Do not be that person. Instead, pursue your dream without hesitation, and ooze confidence in the process.

You will fail. You will be brought to your knees when you think you’re not good enough. You may even be shamed by people who are better than you. But you will not give up, not because you’re irrational or stupid, but because you’re happy even as you struggle. You’ll realize that you would rather fail at what you love than achieve at what you hate. This will motivate you in ways a number on a paycheck never could.

And eventually you will succeed. If you find something you truly enjoy, your work will not confine you–it will enthrall you. If you engage with your passion, your work will become you, and you will be able to transcend any obstacle along the way, and at night, you will finally be able to close your eyes in peace.

Photo courtesy of Anthony J Fasano on

Max is a senior journalism student at the University of Oregon. He likes books, astronomy and Kobe's footwork but loves to write. Follow him on Twitter @MaxLondberg

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