As professionals with targets, projects to manage, and bills to pay, we must perform, whether it’s the beginning of the week or the exhausting end of a long, hard one. And it’s precisely when times get tough that a good motivational speech is most beneficial, inspiring us to clear any psychological and physical hurdles that are keeping us from our goals.
What’s amazing about people is, despite the external forces at play on our constitution, we can always be influenced by attitude. If your coworkers or managers can motivate you, suddenly that hidden resource is tapped, and you’re ready to get up and go again with renewed energy and focus. Great leaders are charismatic and articulate, and they use these attributes to rally the troops. You’ve probably heard or read some of those famous speeches that have helped people at their lowest reach for the highest aspirations.
The following is a collection of some of our favorite motivational speeches, chock-full of inspirational words, sure to motivate you when you need it most.
1. Jim Carrey, Commencement Address, Maharishi university, 2014
From the sublime to the ridiculous, even comic actors like Jim Carrey can find inspirational words to motivate. At this point in his successful career, Carrey moved from celluloid buffoon to philosophic guru. That change was first on display at this speech for the graduates of Maharishi University in 2014. He told these future managers that they should never settle for less than what they want. He illustrated this by talking about his father, who could have been a comedian but chose the safe route of accounting—a job he eventually lost. That life lesson was not lost of Carrey, who saved the world from one more accountant.
2. Steve Jobs, Commencement speech, Stanford, 2005
Commencements tend to bring out the motivational speeches, and who would expect any less than the best from Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The man who inspired a company to become one of the most successful in world history, and who motivated people to want his products with a zealousness almost unheard of, was the go-to guy for rich insights. At this speech at Stanford he tells three stories:
The first is about dropping out of Reed College, which he said was the best decision of his life. That lead to the creation of a company he loved and built up, only to later get fired from. But that dismissal leads to Apple. Finally, he spoke of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. These challenges, any of which could have sent another spiraling to the depths of despair, taught him to become more resilient and fight harder for what he wanted.
3. Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday
Speeches are fiction of a sort, so it’s not surprising that some of the most inspirational speeches can be found in the arts. The football film, Any given Sunday, is a perfect example. What’s more cliché than the coach inspiring the team to get back on the field and win after being humiliated? But not every coach is as motivating as Al Pacino. When he delivers what has become the “The Little Things You Do Daily Matter” speech on the importance of working together, the actor and script combine to create something bigger than both.
4.Bill Gates, Commencement speech, Harvard, 2007
Surprisingly funny and insightful, Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ Harvard commencement address shows a side of the successful entrepreneur that might not have been visible through the glare of fame and fortune. He is probably Harvard’s most famous dropout, but he acknowledged that the university’s environment of energy and intelligence was inspiring. He noted that education is important but so is knowing the wider world.
5. David Foster Wallace, Commencement speech, Kenyon college, 2005
Regardless of whether you ever finished his famous tome Infinite Jest, the writer David Foster Wallace was smart, troubled, and often densely convoluted. But he could be plainspoken and was at his best in this commencement speech, published as This Is Water. He opens young minds in this speech to the fact that as educated as they might be, they can still hold a closed mind. Such narrow thinking puts us out of perspective and falsely tells us we’re the center of the universe. We’re not, and worse, by thinking this way we lose sight of the interconnectedness of the world. We are all in it together. How’s that motivating you to do good?