The Greatest Speeches in History: Helen Mirren’s 5 Rules for a Happy Life

The Greatest Speeches in History is a weekly column that compiles the most memorable speeches in history with the goal to emphasize on the power of public speaking, to illustrate its importance, impact, and necessity to master.

Each and every one of these speeches, delivered by some of the most famous, successful and memorable people in the world, are great examples of the power of public speaking and the art of oratory. The famous British actress Dame Helen Mirren is one of these inspiring commencement speakers, who captivated the attention of the graduates.

During her commencement speech at Tulane University, she shared with the audience her five rules, which lead to living a happy life. Here are the most important outtakes from the speech:

“And to prepare for today, I did my research on what people expect from a commencement speaker. There are hundreds of tips out there — but really just three big ones. First — Keep it short…. The second point about commencements speeches: Talk about your journey and connect it to everything you have in common with the audience…. And number three. Everyone advises a commencement speaker to say one thing that the students will remember 40 years from now. Now that was hard…”

“The trick is to listen to your instinct, grab the opportunity when it presents itself and then give it your all. You will stumble and fall, you will experience both disaster and triumph, sometimes in the same day, but it’s really important to remember that like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever. They both pass and a new day arrives. Just try to make that new day count.”

“And to help you along the way, I want to share a few rules that I picked up during my life of disasters and triumphs. I call them “Helen’s Top 5 Rules for a Happy Life.”

“Rule number one: Don’t need to rush to get married. I married Taylor a lot later in my life and it’s worked out great. And always give your partner the freedom and support to achieve their ambitions.”

“Number two: just treat people like people.”

“Three: Ignore anyone who judges the way you look, especially if he or she is some anonymous creep lurking on the Internet. And if you are that person lurking on the Internet — STOP IT, just stop it, go outside and DO something.”

“Number Four: don’t be afraid of fear… But for the moments when you are challenged by other fears – like “Am I good enough?” “Am I smart enough?” “Will I fail?” – throw caution to the winds, look fear straight-away in its ugly face, and barge forward. And when you get past it, turn around and give it a good swift kick in the ass.”

“And Helen’s Rule No. 5 for a happy life? Don’t overcomplicate things. You can navigate each day just by following some very practical dos and don’ts.

Like don’t put hot cups on waxed wooden surfaces. In fact, don’t ever wax wooden surfaces.

Don’t procrastinate.

Do say thank you when it is merited.

Don’t procrastinate… especially in saying thank you when it is merited.

Don’t lose your sense of humor.

Do confront bullies.

Don’t procrastinate.

Do open your heart to love.

Don’t confuse sex with love. Love generally lasts longer than two minutes.

Don’t smoke tobacco… or chew it.

Don’t dive into water if you don’t know how deep it is.

And one more thing — don’t procrastinate.”

“We’re all in this together — remember that, so that you can make some sense out of and fix this crazy, crazy world.”

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