Neil Gaiman recently gave a commencement speech to the 2012 graduates of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. And you know what? It's one of the more inspiring speeches we've heard in a long time. Particularly if you are someone interested in making creative endeavors part of your life. Don't have time to watch the video? Don't worry; we sifted out the five best pieces of advice from the guru of dark fantasy.
1) Walk Toward the Mountain.
If you have a choice between more than one path, look at whether choosing one option or another will bring you closer to your ultimate goals. The world is littered with people working jobs that they hate because they started to follow the easy (or profitable) path, even though it led away from the mountain.
2) The One Thing You Have That No One Else Has Is You.
This seems like a bit of self-help drivel, but it really is an important observation that it's all too easy to overlook. No matter what you do, whether it's art, or sports, or business, there are lots of other people who are doing the same things. The one thing that we can each bring to the table that is truly unique is our own perspective, experience, and self.
3) Lie. (as long as you live in the past)
When Gaiman was first getting started he told publishers that he had written for publications that he had never actually done work for. Why did he lie? Because he was eager to get work. Why did he get away with it? Because he was doing it before the modern Internet had been invented. The lesson here is if you're planning to pull a stunt like this, your first lie better be, "No sir, I didn't invent a time machine."
4) Pretend That You Are Someone Who Can Do It.
This is essentially an internal version of the classic advice, "fake it till you make it." Gaiman is just saying you should turn that same process on yourself. If you face an obstacle that you don't think you can overcome, pretend you're someone who can overcome it and then just do what they would do.
5) Enjoy it.
If you get a win, appreciate the win. This is insanely hard to do in practice, because it's in all of our natures to worry more when we have more to lose. So every time we achieve some little accomplishment or move one step closer to who we want to be, it tends to make us stress out all the more. Don't.
Bonus Lesson: When Speaking Publicly, be British.
It’s a commonly known fact that saying something in a British accent makes you sound 84% more wise (to American listeners at any rate). Be careful though, because saying something in a fake British accent makes everything sound 114% more stupid.
There's at least a half dozen other great bits of advice tucked in there, plus you get to hear them all in Gaiman’s own wise British voice.
Any of his advice that you plan to take to heart?