Every year university graduates are bombarded with a hail of advice from commencement speakers from the sublime (see classics of the genre like Steve Jobs at Stanford, or David Foster Wallace at Kenyon) to the mundane but useful (Admiral William H. McRaven telling UT Austin grads to make their beds) to the inane and overpriced (sorry, Matthew McConaughey but you're the most oft cited example).
So which speakers fall into which category? The 2016 season isn't over yet (here's a complete list of who is speaking if you want to follow along), but a few standouts are already starting to emerge. Amid lots of the usual talk about embracing failure and changing the world (as well as a particular focus on politics by many speakers due to the ongoing and very ugly presidential election), these nuggets of wisdom seemed particularly fresh and useful:
Sheryl Sandberg: Resilience is a muscle.
Perhaps the most raved about effort so far this year is Lean In author Sandberg's very personal speech at the University of California, Berkeley commencement. In it, she publicly opened up about the death of her husband Dave Goldberg.
"You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are--and you just might become the very best version of yourself," she said, referencing her personal tragedy. "When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything." My Inc.com colleague Peter Economy offers a deeper dive into her advice, or check out the complete speech below.
President Obama: Don't be cynical.
We live in a cynical age, but between jabs at the happy ignorance of presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump, President Obama reminded Rutgers grads that those with low expectations rarely accomplish great things. "So don't lose hope if sometimes you hit a roadblock," he said. "Don't lose hope in the face of naysayers. And certainly don't let resistance make you cynical. Cynicism is so easy, and cynics don't accomplish much."
Paul Feig: Don't be an a**hole.
Wise words from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig to USC's School of Cinema Arts grads: "Don't be an a**hole. You want to make something great, but be cool while you're doing it so people will hire you again. Because if you screw up and you're an a**hole, they won't hire you again. But if you're nice and you screw up, then they're like, 'Let's give him another shot.' It will buy you one free pass." That simple but practical advice applies well beyond the world of film.
Larry Ellison: Live your own dreams.
According to a much discussed post by a hospice nurse, one of people's top late-life regrets is living the life others expected of you, rather than following your own dreams and instincts. Oracle founder Ellison wants young people to start avoiding this mistake early. Recounting his own family's desire that he should become a doctor and his slow process of shaking off those expectations, Ellison explained that owning his own dreams was the foundation of his success.
"Each of you has a chance to discover who you are, rather than who you should be," Ellison told USC grads. "A chance to live your dreams, not the dreams of others."
Ivy Ross: Don't make long-term plans.
Ross certainly isn't the biggest name in this post (it's pretty hard to compete with the leader of the free world, after all), but despite her relatively low profile she's got an amazing gig -- heading up Google's wearable focused Project Aura. She told the commencement gathering at the Fashion Institute of Technology about the long and winding path that took her from designing jewelry to working at one of the world's biggest tech companies.
The experience taught her that what life throws at you is often infinitely cooler than anything you could plan yourself. "She told the FIT graduates that they should avoid five-year plans now more than ever because of the rapid pace at which industries are changing and new opportunities are arising. Instead, she recommends people early in their careers stay open and curious," Business Insider reports.