Best-of commencement quotes about work to get you to the long weekend

On the tedium of daily life

“And I submit that this is what the real, no-bull- value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out. … There happen to be whole large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. … The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing comes in. … The fact is that, in the day-to-day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have life-or-death importance.  … You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College 2005 (This whole speech is one of my favorite pieces of writing. Read it here.)

Lesson: We’re all in the same boat. If today doesn’t feel like a grand, extraordinary, “Oh the places you will go!,” choose-your-own adventure, that’s OK. Most days won’t. Just keep swimming. You choose. Choose love. Even when life fucking sucks.

On why we go to work when we could be focused on the side hustle

“Your job is not always going to fulfill you. There will be some days that you just might be bored. Other days you may not feel like going to work at all. Go anyway, and remember that your job is not who you are. It’s just what you are doing on the way to who you will become. With every remedial chore, every boss who takes credit for your ideas — that is going to happen — look for the lessons, because the lessons are always there.”

Oprah Winfrey, USC 2018

Lesson: Don’t freak out. Dreams take time. And the time will pass anyway. Sometimes you have to hustle for the side hustle.  


On not succumbing to power-hungry workaholism

“Acknowledging the wisdom and experience of a forklift operator or security guard with 30 years on the job doesn’t diminish your own experience. Acknowledging the sacrifice of others that enabled you to be in this position does not diminish the sacrifices you made on your own.

Founder & CEO of Chobani Hamdi Ulukaya, Wharton MBA 2018

Lesson: Value all work. See yourself in others and things will go a lot easier. Be grateful; constantly. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

On being happy with what you have

I’m Batman.

Michael Keaton, Kent State 2018

Lesson: Don’t settle, sure, but also know you can’t ever have ***the*** dream job. That belongs to Michael Keaton.

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