notes from tim minchin’s 9 life lessons


I’ve been loving Jocelyn K. Glei’s newsletter for some time now and this morning, she shared this little gem. I’m a sucker for good commencement speeches, and Tim Minchin’s speech is up there, along with Steve Job and David Foster Wallace.

See excerpts from speech with my notes below.

One. You don’t have to have a dream…Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you. You never know where you might end up. Just be aware the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery, which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out of the corner of your eye.

What an interesting way to think — to be micro-ambitious. It goes along with everything else that I’ve been reading and feeling lately. The importance of baby steps or micro-steps, micro-goals, small achievements, feeling progress, etc etc.

However, it does take patience and a lot of work to realize that life doesn’t unfold like it does in the movies. On the contrary, everything in life seems slow and gradual these days.

To get out of this funk, I want to celebrate small wins. Maybe keeping a log book of my day similar to Austin Kleon is a good start. 

Two. Don’t seek happiness. Happiness is like an orgasm. If you think about it too much, it goes away. Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy and you might find you get some as a side effect.

So true! I think my constant obsession to be happy all the time turned out to be unhealthy for me in the end. I should try to be more pragmatic and realistic about it. No more fantasies. Let’s focus on paying attention to small yet magical moments that I experience daily.

Three. Remember, it’s all luck. You are lucky to be here. You are incalculably lucky to be born. 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. Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on intellectually.

Yes, it’s all luck but I also believe that one can also make his/her own luck by trying best in every situation that you are in.

Four. Exercise…You think, therefore you are, but also you jog, therefore you sleep, therefore you’re not overwhelmed by existential angst…Play a sport, do yoga, pump iron, run, whatever, but take care of your body. You’re going to need it.

So true, yet I fail at this every single day. When will I start working out and make it a real part of my day? Only if I exercised as much I read.

Five. Be hard on your opinions…We must think critically and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the veranda and hit them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privileges. Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance.

Nuances are often times hard to identify and explain, yet they are crucial to get a glimpse of the full picture.

Six. Be a teacher. Please, please, please be a teacher.

It’s a noble cause, and being a professor is one of my items on my bucket list, but seems hard and unrealistic, for me at this point in my life.

Seven. Define yourself by what you love…But try to also express your passion for things you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank you cards and standing ovations. Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.

Sometimes it’s easier to be negative but agreed that being positive has an upside.

Eight. Respect people with less power than you.

Agreed 1000% and goes without saying. But I think it’s easier to respect people who are more powerful and be dismissive to people with less power than me and sometimes, I need to make a conscious effort to be mindful of my attitude and actions.

Nine, finally, don’t rush…Life will sometimes seem long and tough and, God, it’s tiring. You will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad, and then you’ll be old and then you’ll be dead. There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is fill it. Not “fillet,” fill it.

Yes, these days I’m feeling down on most days, although I try to be upbeat and optimistic about the future. But when you are beaten down multiple times, it’s hard not to feel like the world is plotting against you.

I know that being Debbie Downer isn’t the answer. So, I will continue to fight and hustle, because frankly, that’s the only choice I have.

Photo by Faustin Tuyambaze on Unsplash

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