You may or may not have heard that Will Ferrell belted out Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” at USC’s recent commencement ceremony.
But before he started singing, Ferrell, a USC alumnus himself, had a lot of wisdom to impart on the class of 2017.
When he was first starting out as a comedian, not everyone thought he was funny. While some jokes were a huge hit, he faced plenty of criticism both when he first began doing stand-up, and when he eventually joined the cast of SNL. Journalists wrote horrible reviews, fans sent in insulting letters, and yet Ferrell didn’t stop—because no matter how hard it was to face rejection, failure, and worst of all, his fears, he knew he had to keep going:
And yes, I was afraid. You’re never not afraid. I’m still afraid. I was afraid to write this speech…But my fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of what if. What if I never tried at all?
His honesty hits home for everyone. We’ll always be afraid of taking risks—quitting a horrible job, leaping into a new career, moving to a new city—and that doesn’t go away (even for celebrities). You just have to keep moving forward.
And that’s what Ferrell did. He ignored the bad reviews and instead focused on the next joke, the next script, the next step in his career. And that’s how he ended up where he is today.
So when there are family members telling you you can’t do it, friends doubting you have what it takes, bosses holding you back, don’t give up. Because fear and failure aren’t always warnings you’re going the wrong way—rather, they’re signs you’re on your way to success.
If you’re now in the mood to watch even more inspirational speeches, check out:
- Howard Schultz on three questions to ask to get ahead in his 2017 speech at Arizona State University
- Barack Obama on finding your passion and putting it into action at Howard University in 2016
- Sheryl Sandberg at UC Berkeley in 2016 discussing the power of resilience