You Can Learn A Lot From Someone Who Makes Comic Books

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Why didn’t they have commencement speeches like this when I was growing up?

In the past couple of years, it seems like more and more amazingly powerful commencement speeches have been making their way online. The Steve Jobs one still gets its fair share of million of views each and every year (watch it here: Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005). This week, Julien Smith (author of The Flinch and co-author of Trust Agents with Chris Brogan), directed me over to this beautiful twenty minute speech by famed comic book artist, author and renaissance man, Neil Gaiman.

Listen to Neil Gaiman.

The University of the Arts made the right choice in having Gaiman speak to their graduates. I’m usually the first one to cringe at anybody standing at a lectern and reading a speech, but Gaiman is one of the very few who can pull it off in a human way. Beyond his personable performance, the gold lies in his content. I hope you extrapolate the same two key messages from his presentation that I did:

  1. Be happy. The best advice he ever received came from horror author, Stephen King, at the peak of Gaiman’s popularity (when his comic book series, Sandman, was taking off). King told Gaiman to "enjoy this moment." Gaiman’s reasons for not following the best piece of advice that he ever received is classic: he was too busy worrying and trying to push things forward. We often don’t "stop and smell the roses." It’s a massively powerful moment of the speech and one that I hope you will self-reflect on it as much as I did.
  2. Make mistakes. Like you, I hate making mistakes. We all know that making mistakes is how we grow, yet we dread making mistakes more than anything. We all know that making mistakes (many, many, many mistakes) is what gets us to that one, unique result that creates a true breakthrough and/or innovation. I’m hopeful I can follow Gaiman’s advice to make mistakes, but it could well be the best piece of advice that I ever received and ignored as well… sadly.

You must have twenty minutes?

I know you’re busy. I’m busy too. I found twenty minutes to watch this masterful commencement speech from Neil Gaiman and it’s in your best interest to find the time too.

Watch this…


  1. incredibly inspiring – it’s giving me another needed push out there. Thanks so much Mitch!

  2. Hi Mitch,
    I’d like to suggest that a fear of making mistakes isn’t inherent in human nature, but is the result of a few beliefs (formed usually in childhood) that are shared by most people: mistakes and failure are bad, and if I make a mistake or fail I’ll be rejected. We’ve helped thousands get rid of those beliefs, after which they no longer feared making mistakes.

  3. I found 20 minutes and it was certainly worth it!
    I’m a big fan of the Steve Jobs’s 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech and took a lot of away from that.
    Neil Gaiman’s speech is very different but equally as inspiring for completely different reasons.
    Thanks for making us aware of this speech, Mitch (and please let us know of more when you see them).

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