Life is a great gift, however it doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Sometimes we have noble and great dreams, but the path to fulfil them is not clear. What to do when you don’t know what to do?
Luckily, we are not alone. Others have come before us, often leaving their wisdom as a legacy. Wether you want to start your own business, or solve a difficult personal problem, many have likely undertaken your quest before.
I’ve put together 14 of the most inspirational speeches I’ve ever seen. The topics cover following your dreams, overcoming failure, and triumphing over adversity against all odds. I hope you find them as insightful as I do.
I recommend watching one video per day over 2 weeks. You may choose to take notes and ponder over each video as you watch them. I’m sharing my own short notes along. Wish you success in accomplishing your goals.
Day 1: Steve Jobs
Stanford commencement speech 2005
My notes: Pursue your dreams, use challenges in life to your advantage, never give up. Most importantly, focus on what’s important. We all will die one day, perhaps sooner than we expect. Let’s make it count.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish — Steve Jobs.
Day 2: J.K. Rowling
Harvard commencement speech 2008
My notes: Failure has its benefits, imagination is crucial. If you don’t follow your own ambitions to accomodate to other people’s expectations, then you won’t achieve your dreams. Don’t let others live your life.
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you fail by default — J.K. Rowling.
Day 3: Stephen Hawking
Paralympics opening ceremony, London 2012
My notes: Here is a man who has defied all expectations in both professional and personal life. If Stephen Hawking can create so much inspiring work despite his fragile physical condition, so can I achieve whatever I set forth.
However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do… and succeed at — Prof. Stephen Hawking.
Day 4: Bill Gates
Harvard commencement speech 2007
My notes: It’s possible to enjoy massive success and wealth yet remain a candid person, a philanthropist. Bill Gates early career shows the importance of stepping out of the comfort zone, taking initiative, and leading a vision. There are bad things in the world, but we can make a difference.
Day 5: Martin Luther King
I have a dream speech, Washington 1963
My notes: A strong will and vision can make the world a better place — for real. It takes just one person’s passion and dedication to influence a whole nation for the better. Big things often come out of big personalities.
I have a dream, that people will one day not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character — Martin Luther King.
Day 6: Jack Ma
Stop complaining, you can find opportunities, South Korea 2015
My notes: the richest man in China failed innumerable times before succeeding — with the largest IPO in history. Successful people are always optimistic, they never complain, and they always try to solve problems.
Day 7: Hyeonseo Lee
My escape from North Korea, TED 2014
My notes: There is always hope. If this brave lady managed to survive such brutal regime, so can I fix my small-in-comparison issues. Never give up. Also, check your worldview is accurate periodically. You may live in an isolated state where the outside world is but a inaccurate sketch.
Day 8: Steven Spielberg
Academy of Achievement, 2013
My notes: Start small. Do something, don’t try to make your first attempt perfect. You’ll get to improve it later. Passion and dedication fuel the desire to generate great w0rk. You don’t need the best tools, you can start now.
The hardest thing to listen to: your instintcs, your human personal intuition… It always whispers, it never shouts. It’s very hard to hear. So you have to every day of your life be ready to hear what whispers in your ear — Steven Spielberg.
Day 9: Cameron Russell
Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. TED 2013.
My notes: Appearance doesn’t tell an accurate story. Superficial achievements may not bring the happiness others assume you have. Vanity metrics do not represent the truth. Focus on what is important.
Day 10: Sir Ken Robinson
Do schools kill creativity? 2007
My notes: Do what you are passionate about. Let’s champion creativity. Don’t be a cog, shine instead. Find ways to educate yourself in the skills that are lacking in school curricula. Never stop learning. Never stop creating.
Day 11: Larry Page
Inspiring Google story, 2013
My notes: One or two people, good idea, a lot of hard work, really can make a difference. It’s good not to forget that.
Day 12: Alan Watts
Living in the present, 1972
My notes: We are not our past, we are our present. It is ridiculous and inefficient to blame the past and others for who we are now.
Day 13: Dame Stephanie Shirley
Why do ambitious women have flat heads, 2015
My notes: You can achieve incredible success even against all the odds. Both in personal and professional life there can be challenges. Perseverance, and love lead to greatness. Circumstances are not an excuse not to try.
Day 14: Warren Buffet
Success principles, 2010
My notes: Integrity has a value even greater than that of intelligence and energy in business and life success. Pick up the best qualities that make up the people you admire like honesty and generosity; then acquire them (author’s suggestion: start with this list of 14 people if you wish).
What a privilege it is to have the internet — It is truly the Alexandria Library of the XXI century. To have the wisdom of so many talented people one click away is something to be grateful for. Hope you’ve enjoyed my personal selection of speeches and that they inspire you to accomplish your goals.
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