The road to success—while worth every step—is long and there are times along the way when you need a pick-me-up. For some people, reading an inspirational book is enough motivation to strive for achieving their dreams. Others seek the guidance of a mentor, like a Success Coach or a professor, to spur their drive for success. Behind every success story are the people who helped to make it happen, and this isn’t necessarily exclusive to the people connected personally to your life. There are countless individuals in the public eye who, through their actions, serve as inspirations. Be they actors, authors, innovators, or business leaders, these people exemplify success in every aspect of their lives—not simply their achievements. In many instances, influencers and inspirers share their words of wisdom in the hopes of motivating others to pursue greatness. Check out these 10 inspirational speeches from successful people that will push you to continue down your path towards success.
- Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address
In his commencement speech to the 2005 graduating class of Stanford University, visionary business leader Steve Jobs encouraged students to go after their dreams. He championed seeing the opportunities in setbacks, overcoming obstacles and following your own path to success.
- Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture
Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon Univerity, delivered a powerful lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” which focuses on the importance of not giving up on your dreams and following your heart down the path to self-fulfillment. Pausch gave this speech after being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2007, and its impact was so widespread that it was even turned into a book, The Last Lecture.
- JK Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement
JK Rowling, author of the internationally bestselling Harry Potter series, delivered a stirring speech called “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination” at the 2008 Harvard Commencement exercises. The speech urges you to embrace and learn from your failures so that you can learn who you are and what you truly want in life.
- Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action
In this TED Talk, Columbia University professor and leadership expert Simon Sinek discusses his model for inspirational leadership. Becoming an innovative leader starts with asking the question “why?” to guide your quest for success, and the Golden Circle, which “explains why we are inspired by some people, leaders, messages, and organizations over others.”
- Sheryl Sandberg: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders
Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, delivers this TED Talk that examines gender disparities in corporate leadership, and looks at why there is a smaller percentage of women than men at the executive levels of most businesses. She offers powerful advice to women aiming for the C-suite.
- Andrew Solomon: Love, No Matter What
Andrew Solomon, a writer on politics, culture, and psychology, delivers this powerful 2013 TED Talk about the importance of love in our lives. He encourages parents to love their children no matter what, and examines how the effects of love shape who we are and how we identify ourselves. His question: “what’s the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance?”
- Martin Luther King III Addresses Strayer University Class of 2012
Civil rights activist and son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, spoke to Strayer University graduating students about the importance of education and how Strayer University is helping to make his father’s dream of upward mobility and higher education for all a reality. In the speech he says, “The future belongs to those who are educated and prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.”
- Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating
After the huge success of her memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert went from unknown novelist to a pop culture icon. While she loved the success, she found it difficult to write again. Her TED Talk discusses her journey to success and how both failure and success motivated her to keep going.
- Oprah Winfrey’s 2008 Stanford Commencement Address
The media mogul and philanthropist spoke to Stanford graduates about her foray into television and how she left school to take a news anchor position. She talks about how she finally got her degree and the importance of learning.
- Matt Cutts: Try Something New for 30 Days
Matt Cutts, head of Search Quality at Google, talks about his approach to forming new habits by doing 30 day challenges. He talks about how you can do the things you have always wanted to try in as little as 30 days.
When listening to inspirational speeches, it’s important to focus on how they ring true for you. What can you take away from these speeches and apply to your own life? Which pieces of advice can you use to shape your success story? Instead of trying to emulate the success of others, recognize the elements of their speeches you can relate to, and how you can implement them into your own personal goals.