I strongly recommend watching graduation speeches. I do it when I’m glum and when I’m not. My favourite speech is Tim Minchin’s occasional address at the University of Western Australia, it blessed the world in 2013 and since then has gained over 2.5 million views on YouTube… Watch the video, then read this article (and then watch it over and over again until every sentence is etched in to your brain). The video and transcript can be found here.
Therefore, in the style of Minchin himself, here are 9 reasons I love his 9 life lessons.
- THE STRUCTURE
Before I begin my analysis of what I think is the most inspiring speech ever written, let’s think about the structure.
It’s only 12 minutes long. Many I have heard are 20, even 30 minutes of unstructured waffling from one audio paragraph to the next. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I’ve listened to it over 20 times since discovering it earlier this year. It’s easy to listen to; I can do it while getting ready in the morning, while making my lunch.
The other reason it’s enjoyable is the listing technique he uses. We all love lists. It makes the speech easier to read/listen to and separate everything in to ‘chapters’. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ speech is beautiful and has a loose listing structure, but during the twenty minutes it’s still easy to become lost in the endless rambling inspiration.
- IT SHOWS YOU THAT GOALS AREN’T NECESSARY
As a teenager who is up to her eyeballs in university prospectuses and application forms, lesson one (You Don’t Have To Have A Dream) and 9 (Don’t Rush) are deeply reassuring. I’ve never had a vision for the future (I still don’t), so I live by his idea of “passionate dedication to the pursuit of short term goals”… and if that doesn’t numb my craving for a life plan, I consider his opinion that people who had dreams as teenagers end up having breakdowns as forty year olds.
- IT’S BRUTALLY HONEST
Minchin’s criticism of the audience makes it easier to take his words as truth. If you flourish a speech with happiness, how wonderful and easy life is, I’m not going to believe most of what you say. However, by telling the audience that they need to stop giving themselves props for graduating university, that their achievement is worthless, it I hang on to his every word. By equalling positivity with negativity, I trust his opinion a whole lot more.
- #7 – DEFINE YOURSELF BY WHAT YOU LOVE
Pretty self-explanatory, hating less stuff makes you a happier person. For example, the Grinch.
- IT’S AN ENGLISH TEACHER’S DREAM
There are enough metaphors, similes and references to keep the speech fascinating and amusing, it is of course one of Minchin’s jobs, to be funny, and throughout the speech he definitely lives up to expectations. It’s one thing to inspire and motivate, it’s another to do that and still talk about soufflé. Any speech that involves food is a good speech in my books.
When I began writing this article, I thought it would be really smart to mirror his 9 lesson structure. However, I’m not quite as clever as Tim Minchin is, so it’s proving quite difficult to create 9 separate points that aren’t “THE WHOLE THING IS JUST AMAZING ASDFGHJKL” so for this point, I’m just going to list (goodness, a list within a list about a list…. how exciting) three short quotes from it that I elle-oh-vee-ee LOVE. These are the quotes I would plaster my walls with if I had enough artistic talent.
“Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate.” (#3, 5:07)
“Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privileges.” (#5, 6:57)
“Leave it to humans to think the universe has a purpose for them.” (#9, 10:45)
- “LIFE IS MEANINGLESS”
One of the things I find most comforting in the whole world is that we are a tiny speck on the crumb-filled plate that is our universe. One of my favourite aphorisms is by Michael A. Singer, “Walk outside on a clear night and just look up into the sky. You are sitting on a planet spinning around in the middle of absolutely nowhere.” I interpret both Singer and Minchin to mean that nothing really matters. Which is a good thing.
- “FILL IT”
After being told that our existence is pointless, it’s nice to be told what to do in our meaningless time here on lil’ old Earth.
- TIM FLIPPING MINCHIN.
Perhaps the reason I love the speech so much is my love for Tim Minchin himself. He’s ridiculously witty and I melt at his cabaret piano music (he’s also annoyingly good looking and I doN’T UNDERSTAND IT).
If you don’t know of Tim Minchin, Google him, YouTube him, Netflix him, I highly recommend it.
I wrote this article not to tell you why I enjoy the speech as much as to spread it to more people. Please do watch it and find your own interpretations and sanctuary in it.