A motivational speech that’s one of the best.
This speech to the graduates of Bennington college is an excellent example of what happens when you give yourself permission to succeed, I found this highly motivational.
What Peter Dinklage talks about is how he struggled until he made the decision to step up and step out. To leave the comfort zone of a regular salary and take the action needed to reach for his dreams.
To me, the motivational part of this speech is how he recognised that he was locking himself into a job he hated for the income he needed to pay for his home and how that was crushing his dreams.
We all seem to dump our dreams and expectations for the dubious comfort of a regular salary. I say dubious because, as we all know now, whenever circumstances change enough for your employer, your job is not secure.
Watch the video, and read the transcript, I know it’s long, but I think that this speech will prove to be as motivational for you as it has me. Enjoy.
The transcript of this motivational speech has been edited, slightly, to make it more readable.
I had so many dreams of where I wanted to go, who I wanted to be. And what I wanted to do. Theatre companies I wanted to start with classmates, movies I wanted to be in, Directors I wanted to work with, stories I needed to tell.
It might take a little time I thought, but it would happen.
When I sat there, 22 years ago. What I didn’t want to think about is where I would be tomorrow.
What I would have to start to do tomorrow.
And I graduated in 1991. a great year, a time of resurgence for independent films in this country at a time of relatively affordable rents in New York City.
I assumed that I could make a living writing my plays acting way off off off Broadway.
And hopefully, one day, join the actors I loved and respected in those independent films.
TV what no way Are you kidding me? No, I didn’t even consider that I’d much more class than that. Much more self respect than that. Soap operas and stuff.
What I didn’t have was cash. A bank account, a credit card, or an apartment.
I just had debt. A big, hungry, growing larger every moment, debt.
So, as you will tomorrow, I had to leave beautiful Vermont. I packed the life that I knew with socks and a toothbrush into my backpack and I slept on couch after couch after couch after couch at friend’s apartments in New York until I wore out their rent paying roommates welcome.
I didn’t want a day job. I was an actor. I was a writer. I was a Bennington graduate.
I had to get a day job.
I dusted pianos at a piano store on Ludlow Street for five months.
I worked on the property of a Shakespeare scholar for a year pulling weeds and removing bees nests.
I went on unemployment once but for not for long, I couldn’t handle the guilt.
Eventually, I was able to pay rent for a spot on the floor of an apartment on the Lower East Side, but my roommate had a breakdown and disappeared. He later resurfaced in a religious cult.
I’m making this sound romantic.
It really wasn’t.
I helped hang paintings at galleries, paintings that inspired inspire you to think, I could do that.
And then finally, after two years of job and couch surfing, I got a job in application processing, as a data enterer at a place called professional examination services.
And I stayed for six years.
Six years, longer than my time at Bennington.
From the age of 23 to 29.
Well, they loved me there. I was funny.
I wore black, no cape, no tights.
I smoked in the loading docks with the guys from the mailroom and we shared how hung over we all were.
Everybody called each other shorty.
“How you doing shorty”. “I’m so hung over shorty”.
I called in sick almost every Friday because I was out late the night before.
I hated that job. And I clung to that job.
Because of that job, I could afford my own place. So I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Oh my kingdom for a time machine.
Yeah, that’s right.
I lived in an industrial loft. My rent was $400 a month.
My dream of running a theatre company with my friend and fellow Bennington graduate, Ian Bell had died.
I won’t go into those details, but neither one of us had any business sense. And the theatre we lived in. It had no heat or hot water. We didn’t smell very good.
But we had our youth that youth gets old very quickly. You’ll see.
So Ian moved out to Seattle, and I moved up the street to my loft and I still didn’t have heat.
In 1993 Industrial loft meant not legal to live there.
I don’t want this to sound cool and I feel like it’s sending cool.
But I did have hot water. Hot water in my bathroom.
Which a friend of mine using said bathroom once shouted, “it smells exactly like a summer camp in here”.
It was true. For some reason, in the middle of Brooklyn there was Earth in my shower.
Actual Earth and then oh look mushrooms growing from the earth.
But I was safe though. The ideal fire control company was right across the street where they make all the chemicals that put out chemical fires.
I did not fear a chemical fire. I would be okay.
And all those chemicals in the air were okay too. Because up the street we had the spice factory they made spices and that just covered everything up in a nice cumin scent.
I had a rat but that was okay because I got a cat his name was Brian no relation.
My grandmother had given me a pink pullout couch.
Oddly, no friends or recent graduates wanted to crash on my couch. So I put the couch on its end So Brian could climb it and look out the window.
I had only the one window.
I myself could not look out the window. It was it was quite high.
So I had no heat. No girlfriend What are you kidding me? No acting agent.
But I had a cat named Brian who told me of the world outside.
And, I stayed for 10 years.
Now don’t pity me. a happy ending.
When I was 29 I told myself the next acting job I get, no matter what it pays. I will from now on, for better or worse. Be a working actor.
So I quit my position at the professional examination services.
My friends really weren’t happy about that because it was so easy to find me when I work there. Work was the was the only place I had the internet.
This was at the beginning of the internet.
And now I didn’t have either the internet or a cell phone or a job. But something good happened.
I got a low paying theatre job in a play called Imperfect Love.
Which led to a film called 13 Moons with the same writer which lead to other roles, which lead to other roles.
And I’ve worked as an actor ever since.
But I didn’t know that would happened.
At 29, walking away from data processing, I was terrified.
10 years in a place without heat, six years at a job I felt stuck in.
Maybe I was afraid of change.
My parents didn’t have much money. But they struggled to send me to the best schools.
And one of the most important things they did for me and graduates, maybe you don’t want to hear this, is that once I graduated, I was on my own.
Financially, it was my turn.
Parents are applauding. Graduates are not.
But this made me very hungry.
I couldn’t be lazy.
Now I’m totally lazy, but back then, I couldn’t be.
And so at 29 in a very long last, I was in the company of the actors and writers and directors, I’d sought out that first year, that first day, after school, I was, I am by their side.
Raise the rest of your life to meet you.
Don’t search for defining moments, because they will never come.
Well, the birth of your children, okay. Of course. Forget about it. That’s just six months, she’s my life is forever changed. And that’s the most defining moment ever.
But I’m talking about in the rest of your life, and most importantly, in your work.
The moments that define you have already happened.
And they will already happen again.
And it passes so quickly.
So please, bring each other along with you.
Everyone you need is in this room.
These are the shiny more important people.
Sorry, it sucks after graduation.
It really does.
I mean, I don’t know at least it did for me. But that’s the only thing I know.
You do just get a bit derailed.
But soon something starts to happen. Trust me.
The rhythm sets in, just like it did after your first few days here.
Just try not to wait until like me, you’re 29 before you find it.
And if you are that’s fine, too. Some of us never find it.
But you will.
I promise you. You are already here.
That’s such an enormous step all its own.
You’ll find your rhythm or continue the one you have already found.
I was walking downtown in Manhattan the other day.
And I was approached by a group of very sweet young ladies.
Actually, they’re sort of running feverishly down the street after me.
When they got to me breathless. It was really they didn’t know what to say. Or couldn’t form the words.
But it came out that they were NYU freshmen and they were majoring in musical theatre.
Of course, come on.
There weren’t like science majors running after me.
What musicals are you doing? I inquired.
Well, one of them said looking down at her shoes. We aren’t allowed to be in plays are yet, it’s our freshman year.
Now they were paying very high tuition.
To not do what they love doing.
I think I said, well hang in there.
What I should have said was, don’t wait until they tell you you are ready.
Get in there, sing or quickly transfer to Bennington.
When I went to school here, if a freshman wanted to write direct and star in her own musical, the lights would already be hung for her.
Now I tell the story because the world might say you are not allowed to yet.
I waited a long time out in the world. Before I gave myself permission to fail.
Please don’t even bother asking.
Don’t bother telling the world you are ready.
Show it. Do it.
What did Beckett say?
“Ever tried. ever failed. No matter. Try again. fail again. Fail better“.
Benington class of 2012 The world is yours.
Treat everyone kindly and light up the night.
Thank you so much for having me here.
And there you have a motivational speech that would have inspired that group of graduates don’t you think?
Leave a comment if you agree, or not.