Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Neil Gaiman Commencement Address & Wisdom Imparted

I came across recently a commencement address by writer Neil Gaiman to graduates from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and it's pretty remarkable wisdom from Gaiman that echoes some themes I've been seeing from other writers recently.

The speech transcript is posted on the University website and video from the graduation speech is below...

It's completely worth watching or reading and to grossly paraphrase/generalize/pick fruit from Gaiman's address, below are the three concepts from it that stood out most to me...

1. When you know what you want to do, should just start doing that thing... and you'll both figure out your path (concept from Gaiman of walking towards his goal represented as a mountain) and improve as you go along. For Gaiman, it was writing, but could be anything for anyone. This idea of spending time on and living in pursuit of something that personally resonates brought to mind the same (or at least similar) principle expressed in both the James Altucher book I Was Blind But Now I See and Mark Sundeen The Man Who Quit Money biography of Daniel Suelo.

2. It's often best to not know the rules of the thing you're trying to accomplish as the rules can be the restrictions on your ability to reach the goal. Concept reminded me of Tim Ferriss writing in his book The 4-Hour Work Week about setting less realistic goals so you'll be more excited and motivated to reach them.

3. You may well copy others in the beginning of your efforts, but continually try to find your own voice and unique thing that you can contribute. This idea echoed very much a recent missive from singer/songwriter Ben Folds.

Gaiman himself is an interesting guy (biography details on both his website and Wikipedia page) who initially trained as a journalist and has done significant writing in the mediums of comic books/graphic novels, traditional books, theater and film.