Graduation Quotes

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It doesn't matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping.


Sucess is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it... Err in the direction of kindness.


You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing, but what you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself.

graduation quotes

As you start your journey, the first thing you should do is throw away that store-bought map and begin to draw your own.


The person who you're with most in life is yourself and if you don't like yourself you're always with somebody you don't like.


Don't always worry what your next line is going to be.



The great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.


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.


If your uniform isn't dirty, you haven't been in the game.


It's hard not to be afraid. Be less afraid.



You will never see a U-haul behind a hearse. You can’t take it with you.


You'll find out that nothing that comes easy is worth a dime. As a matter of fact, I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face. Never.


Last but not least, I would say you should have big dreams, full dreams, not half dreams. You know, it's very simple. You can't put a large box in a small box. Well, you cannot put a full life in a small dream box.


Fear is primarily a creation of the mind. I create it in my mind—it doesn’t really exist outside the mind. I can dissolve it there as well.


Take action. Every story you've ever connected with, every leader you've ever admired, every puny little thing that you've ever accomplished is the result of taking action. You have a choice. You can either be a passive victim of circumstance or you can be the active hero of your own life.


My favorite animal is the turtle. The reason is that in order for the turtle to move, it has to stick its neck out. There are going to be times in your life when you’re going to have to stick your neck out. There will be challenges and instead of hiding in a shell, you have to go out and meet them.


We all go through life bristling at our external limitations, but the most difficult chains to break are inside us.


I know that luck has a way of happening to people who shoot high, who never sell themselves short.


Don't be afraid of fear. Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self.


And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.


When people tell you not to believe in your dreams, and they say "Why?", say "Why not?"


Just remember, you can't climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.


You will have failures in your life, but it is what you do during those valleys that will determine the heights of your peaks.


For the most important decisions in your life, trust your intuition, and then work with everything you have, to prove it right.


Nobody else is paying as much attention to your failures as you are... To everyone else, it's just a blip on the radar screen, so just move on.


This is your time and it feels normal to you but really there is no normal. There's only change, and resistance to it and then more change.


Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course... We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television.

graduation quotes images

Life is not about warming yourself by the fire, life is about building the fire. And generosity is the match...If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap, but if you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.


Life has a very simple plot: first you're here and then you're not.


You're biggest risk isn't failing, it's getting too comfortable.


We're not just gathered here on a lovely May day in an ordinary auditorium at SF state. We're all strapped in, seated together on a gigantic ball whirling around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, nested in a galaxy hurtling through the depths of space and time at 1.3 million miles per hour.

- Kirk Schneider

That diploma you hold in your hands today is really just your learner’s permit for the rest of the drive through life. Remember, you don’t have to be smarter than the next person, all you have to do is be willing to work harder than the next person.

- Jimmy Iovine

Pursue whatever it is that you want to do with your life. It is the only secret to happiness that I know except for maybe true love, that and maybe having the amazing health insurance plan that our congressmen have.

- Lewis Black

Pursue whatever it is that you want to do with your life. It is the only secret to happiness that I know except for maybe true love, that and maybe having the amazing health insurance plan that our congressmen have.

- Lewis Black

Respect people with less powe then you. I don't care if you're the most powerful cat in the room, I will judge you on how you treat the least powerful. So there.

- Tim Minchin

It’s harder to build than destroy. To build is to engage and change. In jazz, we call progressing harmonies changes. Changes are like obstacles on a speed course. They demand your attention and require you to be present. They are coming...they are here..... and then they are gone. It's how life comes. Each moment is a procession from the future into the past and the sweet spot is always the present. Live in that sweet spot. Be present.

- Wynton Marsalis

By all reckoning, the bumblebee is aerodynamically unsound and shouldn’t be able to fly. Yet, the little bee gets those wings going like a turbo-jet and flies to every plant its chubby little body can land on to collect all the nectar it can hold. Bumblebees are the most persistent creatures. They don’t know they can’t fly, so they just keep buzzing around. Like the lowly bumblebee, honored graduates, never give in to pessimism. Don’t know that you can’t fly, and you will soar like an eagle.

- Earl Bakken

I could tell you that when you have trouble making up your mind about something, tell yourself you’ll settle it by flipping a coin. But don’t go by how the coin flips; go by your emotional reaction to the coin flip. Are you happy or sad it came up heads or tails?

- David Brooks

Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less planning and more living— to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just do stuff, even if you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead, because you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead.

- Daniel Pink

Creativity is a consequence of action, not its motivation. Do what needs to be done and then ask whether it was possible.

- Wade David

You get to make your own luck. 80% of success in your career will come from just showing up. The world is run by those who show up…not those who wait to be asked.

- Steve Blank

You have nothing to lose. Everything you have acquired of value is locked inside you.

- Jerry Zucker

You cannot authentically live anyone's life but your own. That is the deal life offers us.

- Gabrielle Giffords

To be your own person, you need good friends. Friends are the treasure of your life.

- Garrison Keillor

Here's the thing: the world is not going to issue you an engraved invitation to this life.

- Sarah Heidt

Whatever blocks you encounter, you have learned that there is a way over, around or through them. It is not those obstacles that inhibit your progress but your confidence, and will to break the inertia of fear and doubt. 

- Douglas Smith

Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire. Let the barriers you face—and there will be barriers—be external, not internal. Fortune does favor the bold, and I promise that you will never know what you’re capable of unless you try.

- Sheryl Sandberg

And the corollary to carpe diem is gratitude, gratitude for simply being alive, for having a day to seize. The taking of breath, the beating of the heart. Gratitude for the natural world around us — the massing clouds, the white ibis by the shore. In Barcelona a poetry competition is held every year. There are three prizes: The third prize is a rose made of silver, the second prize is a golden rose, and the first prize: a rose. A real rose. The flower itself. Think of that the next time the term “priorities” comes up.

- Billy Collins

You’re going to be doing things and you are going to be scared. It’s natural. Everybody is. And when that happens, and it’s going to happen more than once, do me a favor: go back to the days of your childhood, go in the 100 Acre Wood, take a deep breath and just say, “I’m stronger than I seem, I’m braver than I believe, and I’m smarter than I think.” And then go do it, that’s what it is.

- James Carville

graduation quotes

I was blessed with a mother who was in a constant state of wonder...And whenever I'd complain or be upset about something, my mother had the same advice: "Darling, change the channel. You are in control of the clicker. Don't replay the bad, scary movie.

- Arriana Huffington

Creativity is a renewable resource. Be as creative as you like, as often as you like, because you can never run out!

- Biz Stone

Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what's going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along.

- Stephen Colbert

Don't ever aim your doubt at yourself. Laught at yourself, but don't doubt yourself.

- Alan Alda

We have the choice, the ability to acknowledge that being 'scared' is not who we are.

- Paul Glaser

Live in that sweet spot. Be present.

- Wynton Marsalis

Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead.

- Nora Ephron

Don't treat your heart like an action figure wrapped in plastic and never used.

- Amy Poehler

There's no there. That elusive 'there' with the job, the beach house, the dream, it's not out there. There is here. It's in you... right now.

- Brian Kenny

Success leads to the greatest failure, which is arrogance and pride. Failure can lead to the greatest success, which is humility and learning.

- David Brooks

Be Santa Claus when you can.

- Jimmy Buffett

The opposite of love isn't hate. It isn't even indiference. It's fear.

- Mary Karr

There will be times when your best isn’t your good enough. There can be many reasons for this, but as long as you give your best you’ll be OK.

- Robert DeNiro

Some life lessons don’t ever change. But how you embrace them will distinguish you from the pack.

- Brooke Shields

In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself. In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself.

- David Brooks

You can’t control how smart you are, how funny you are, how good-looking you are. The one thing you can control in your life is how hard you work.

- Ian Brennan

As you get older, you realize that no one has all the answers. It turns out that life is an exercise in living with the certainty of uncertainty.

- Jason Kilar



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Graduation quotes with delightful metaphors and inspiring advice play a big role in why I end up staying late most nights to work on this website. Every time I discover another amazing commencement speech peppered with delicious, smart quotations, I can't wait to spread the word. I can't possibly abate my hope that many more people will find, read, and learn from this advice.

This is a growing collection of some of the best graduation quotes ever. They truly are spectacular. Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing the wisdom with those young graduates and all those young at heart.


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A few of the sketchnotes from were included in this book. This is only one of the many reasons to buy this amazing book!


The following books have been published based on original, amazing graduations speeches. Highly recommended:

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

You Are Not Special: ... And Other Encouragements

Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders


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