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7 Things to Learn from Shonda Rhime’s Commencement Speech At DartMouth College

Shonda Rhymes (Born January 13, 1970) is a famous American Television Producer. She is famous for the shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practise and Scandal. She was considered as one of the top 100 people who shaped the world – in a survey conducted by Time magazine in 2007.

She was invited to deliver commencement address at Dartmouth College with a vision to inspire the students from her remarkable journey in life.

She was found very straight forward and frank during the commencement address. She at various places mentioned about balancing her life between raising her 3 children and doing a job parellel. The emotional moments and realities mentioned in the speech not only serves as the source of wisdom but also will make you to go ahead and do hard and effective work to pursue your goals. There are various reference which I personally considered as not to be part of the commencement speech, but there are notable take aways and learning stuff, which overrides such small lows.

Shonda Rhimes ’91, Commencement Address:

1. Be open to accept the challenge(s).

It is very important to have courage to open challenges. It is actually an attitude. In my professional life I had seen people who always try to find reasons to say “No” to the work allotted to him. See, if you want to do something, you will work out a way to do it; and if you are not interested in doing it, you will do everything to find a reason to convince others, that this can/should not be done. Don’t be such naysayer and don’t remain in the companies of such people. It eventually corrupts your persona as well.

2. Be rational about your abilities. You know what you have and what not.

I love the famous saying:

You need to dare more to achieve more

At the same time, I love to be realistic as well. I strongly believe that one has to be his/her own best friend. As a person you know everything about your, including your successes and failure; abilities and limitations. You can eventually tell lies to others, but cannot to yourself.

So be your best friend and judge yourself and your actions. Goals can be pursued only by being on the ground of realities. The time you take to neutrally rationalise your actions; has to be as much optimum as much possible.

3. Acknowledge the support of your parents and loved ones.

When you achieve anything, don’t forget the sacrifice of your parents behind it. She have mentioned it mainly in the perspective of the college degree, as she was speaking at the commencement ceremony; but this applies everywhere.

Actually I believe that you have always consider that your very existence itself is due to your parents. They are the one who loved you when you were able to do nothing on your own. They spend at least half of their lives you make what you are today. They have cleaned your cloths and brushed your teeth. It was their hands which supported you when you started walking. It was their shoulders which were there to keep you on it, to enjoy the celebration, or when you were tired; and even when you wanted to cry.

And then came your siblings, friends and other fellows, who have supported you in your bad times and cherished your moments of success. Always count and acknowledge them.

Remember Your achievements are not only yours, you share it with the people who supported you through out..

4. Don’t remain busy dreaming about what you want to do or achieve.

उद्यमेन हि सिध्यन्ति कार्याणि न मनोरथैः ।
न हि सुप्तस्य सिंहस्य प्रविशन्ति मुखे मृगाः ।।

Remember that, the work can be accomplished via actions and not just dreaming. Even lion has to wake up and go for hunting to feed itself.

I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing.

Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.

– Shonda Rhimes

There are people dream to do big and the people who work to do it. If you have both in you its great. Because just having the first one is not enough. Rhonda says it correctly: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer.

5. There is no such thing like perfect.

We need to understand the context in which it is said. We often find people (including us) waiting for better circumstances to do the things. Like let this event be over and I will start exercising regularly OR I will learn the new language once I am free from this project. Planning is really fantastic thing. And planning rightly is very important. There are no two thoughts about it. At the same time, just waiting for one thing to be completed to do the other is not quite realistic in life.

The circumstances are never going to perfect. There are always positive and negatives both in any situation. So if you want to do the right thing, you can consider the right time is now.

Perfect is boring and dreams are not real.

– Shonda Rhimes

6. Lesson: Tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you.

The moment you get out of college, you think you are going to take the world by storm. All doors will be opened to you. It’s going to be laughter and diamonds and soirees left and right.

What really happens is that, to the rest of the world, you are now at the bottom of the heap. Maybe you’re an intern, possibly a low-paid assistant. And it is awful.

– Shonda Rhimes

Sounds discouraging? Actually, it is not, it is realistic.
When you join a new team, (be it a company or institution or sports team or anything similar) you are the new one who yet to prove his/her abilities. You are the junior most member, so you have prove yourself. And there is no red carpet setup for you. You don’t get respect unless you earn it. And to earn it you have to work hard and efficiently. Actually I suggest you to read Ramayana or Mahabharata or a biography of any successful person; you will realise that all the characters which are respected today have worked pretty hard to earn it. Once you realise it, you learn your lesson and you are ready.

Shonda continues her speech and says: Yes, it is hard out there. But hard is relative..

Very true, when we were growing up. We couldn’t even sit properly, we needed support as it was hard. Same way it was hard to stand still, it was hard to walk and run and jump and drive a bicycle, and a scooter, and a bike and a car… Well, the list is endless, but eventually we learn these things and at very stage when we master that particular skill, we found it very easy.

And to do hard work, you need to be motivated for it, and you need to love it. So she says: Find a cause you love. It’s OK to pick just one.

काकतालीयवत्प्राप्तं दृष्ट्वापि निधिमग्रतः ।
न स्वयं दैवमादत्ते पुरुषार्थमपेक्षते ।।

A hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.

– Shonda Rhimes

So wise and thoughtful! You can initiate a movement and spread it through various ways. But, the main thing is the movement itself. So many revolutions are generated before the existence of technology, which are resulted into the current world. So, using electronic media, social networking effectively for any movement is welcome. But, ultimately actions has to be there. Otherwise, everything sums up to a big ZERO.

Volunteer some hours. Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week.

– Shonda Rhimes

अयं निजः परोवेति गणना लघुचेतसाम |
उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ||

This famous Sanskrit Subhashit says it all. This is the ancient Indian philosophy for the betterment of the world. It means that “Those who are short minded can think for their own benefits, for the broad minded, the entire world is his/her family”. So we need to work for the betterment of others. Because this is how the society is built.

There is a famous dialog in a Hindi film – Rang De Basanti. It tells that no country was/is perfect by default, we need to work on it to make it perfect.

This applies to all the areas of the society and actually to the whole society.

6. Lesson: Success and Failure are two sides of the same coin.

So you’re out there, and you’re giving back and you’re doing, and it’s working. And life is good. You are making it. You’re a success. And it’s exciting and it’s great.

Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life

You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.

Something is always missing.

Lesson Number Three is that anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar.

– Shonda Rhimes

She is very true. Though you can do multitasking and you might be great at doing it; you cannot be at more than one places at a time. And you cannot give 100% attention at more than one tasks at a time. So when you are doing one thing, the other is stopped. And, that is perfectly fine. This is how it has to be.

You can dig deeper into multitasking / multithreading / parallel processing technology of computers to actually understand how it distributes the resources and queue up the things to perform. At the end a processor is processing a single thing at a very moment (which can be a mili second / micro second / neno second or even a pico second; but one task at a moment).

7. Motivational summary

At the end she encourages the student with the motivation words and cheers them up to get ready and go ahead:

Graduates, every single one of you, be proud of your accomplishments. Make good on your diplomas.

So be brave.

Be amazing.

Be worthy.

And every single time you get a chance?

Stand up in front of people.

Let them see you. Speak. Be heard.

Go ahead and have the dry mouth.

Let your heart beat so, so fast.

Watch everything move in slow motion.

You take it in.

You breathe this rare air.

You feel alive.

You be yourself.

You truly finally always be yourself.

– Shonda Rhimes


It was realistic, inspirational and full of wisdom.

Remember, this is not word to word transcription of her commencement speech, but our own vision and views for the same. Do let us know what else you find from the same via comments below. We will be happy to learn. And yes, do not forget to share this article with your loved ones if you found it helpful and inspirational.

Full Transcript:

For those who are interested in reading this entire commencement speech, the transcript is available at the official website of Dartmouth college:

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