This time of year we see many celebrities giving commencement speeches around the country, hopefully imparting nuggets of wisdom to the graduates who are about to embark upon the rest of their adult (and professional) lives. Shonda Rhimes recently gave an amazing speech that I’d like to share with you, dear reader, because I think her lesson is one that we at CareerBuilder fully believe in.
Rhimes, born and raised in Chicago, is an American screenwriter, director, and producer. Rhimes is best known as the creator, head writer, and executive producer of the medical drama television series “Grey’s Anatomy,” its spin-off “Private Practice” and political thriller series “Scandal“. In May 2007, Rhimes was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 people who help shape the world. It’s hard enough making it in television. It’s even harder succeeding with several projects and being the boss. Add in being a woman of color and you have an example of someone who knows how to get things done.
Beyond her business success, she has three daughters who she mentions in the speech and probably inspired some of these life lessons–as if she didn’t already have enough wisdom to impart from her career.
Check out a portion of her speech below:
When people give these kinds of speeches, they usually tell you all kinds of wise and heartfelt things. They have wisdom to impart. They have lessons to share. They tell you: Follow your dreams. Listen to your spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big. As a matter of fact, dream and don’t stop dreaming until all of your dreams come true.
I think that’s crap.
I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing.
The dreamers. They stare at the sky and they make plans and they hope and they talk about it endlessly. And they start a lot of sentences with “I want to be …” or “I wish.”
“I want to be a writer.” “I wish I could travel around the world.”
And they dream of it. The buttoned-up ones meet for cocktails and they brag about their dreams, and the hippie ones have vision boards and they meditate about their dreams. Maybe you write in journals about your dreams or discuss it endlessly with your best friend or your girlfriend or your mother. And it feels really good. You’re talking about it, and you’re planning it. Kind of. You are blue-skying your life. And that is what everyone says you should be doing. Right? I mean, that’s what Oprah and Bill Gates did to get successful, right?
Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.
So, Lesson One, I guess is: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do. So you think, “I wish I could travel.” Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious.
You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing. You don’t have a job? Get one. Any job. Don’t sit at home waiting for the magical opportunity. Who are you? Prince William? No. Get a job. Go to work. Do something until you can do something else.