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The Greatest Speeches in History: Matthew McConaughey’s University of Houston Speech

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.

The commencement addresses given to graduates celebrate one very important day in the lives of many students, who are about to step out of university and face the challenges of the world. 2015 was one very inspirational year for graduates as people like Michelle Obama, Stephen Colbert, and Tim Cook were invited to speak in different universities.

The same year, the famous and extremely talented Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey gave a powerful commencement speech at the University of Houston. He spoke about the importance of looking within before we look out and the power of knowing thyself.

Here are the most important outtakes:

So, what does your college degree mean?

It means you got an education, means you have more knowledge in a specific subject, vocation, means you may have more expertise in “what your degree” is in.

But what is it worth? In the job market? Today?”

“And some of you already have a job lined up, a path where today’s job can become tomorrow’s career, but for most of you, the future’s probably still pretty fuzzy — you don’t have that job that directly reflects the degree you just got, and many of you don’t even have a job at all. You’ve just completed your scholastic educational curriculum in life — the one you started when you were 5 years old up until now… and your future, your “days to come,” may be no more clear than it was 5 years ago — you don’t have all the answers — and it’s scary.”

“And that’s OK, because hey, that’s how it is, this is the reality you face — the world we live in…And while I’m not here to discourage you or in any way belittle your accomplishments of which we celebrate tonight…I am here to talk brass tacks, to skip the flattery and the “attaboys” because I DO know this.”

“Life is not easy…don’t try and make it that way. It’s not fair, it never was, it isn’t now, it won’t ever be. Do not fall into the entitlement trap of feeling you are a victim, you are not. Get over it and get on with it. And yes, most things are more rewarding when you break a sweat to get em.”

“Nothing we homo sapiens earthlings do is unbelievable — one thing you can depend on people being…is people. So we shouldn’t be surprised, we are the trickiest mammal walking the planet!! (It ain’t the monkeys I’m worried about, it’s you and me.)

Acknowledge acts of greatness as real, and do NOT be naive about mankind’s capacity for evil nor be in denial of our own shortcomings.

NOTHING we do is unbelievable. Stupid word. Un-be-lievably stupid word.”

“But, we all want to succeed right? Question we have to ask ourselves is, what success is to us, what success is to YOU. More money? OK, I got nothing against money. But maybe it’s a healthy family? A happy marriage? To help others? To be famous? To be spiritually sound? To leave the world a little bit better place than you found it?”

“How do I define success? For me, it’s a measurement of five things — fatherhood, being a good husband, health, career, friendships. These are what’s important to me in my life.

So, I try to measure these five each day, check in with them, see whether or not I’m in the debit or the credit section with each one. Am I in the red or in the black with each of them?”

“The first step that leads to our identity in life is usually NOT “I know who I am,” but rather “I know who I AM NOT.” Process of elimination.

Defining ourselves by what we are NOT is the first step that leads us to really KNOWING WHO WE ARE.”

“What are crumbs? The crumbs I’m talking about are the choice we make that make us have to look over our shoulder in the future.”

“We so often focus on our failures. We study them. We obsess on them. We dissect them. We end up intoxicated with them to the point of disillusion.”

“It’s because we have created a fictitious ceiling, a roof, to our expectations of ourselves, a limit — where we think it’s all too good to be true. But it isn’t. And it’s not our right to say or believe it os. ”

“We shouldn’t create these restrictions on ourselves. A blue ribbon, a statue, a score, a great idea, the love of our life, a euphoric bliss. Who are we to think we don’t deserve or haven’t earned these gifts when we get them?”

“So, you give your obstacles credit and you will one. Find the courage to overcome them or see clearly that they are not really worth prevailing over.”

So, how do we know when we cross the truth?

I believe the truth is all around us, all the time. The answer, you know, it’s always right there. But we don’t always see it, grasp it, hear it, access it — because we’re not in the right place to.”

“First, we have to put ourselves in the place to receive the truth. We live in an extremely noisy world with all kinds of frequencies coming at us — commitments, deadlines, fix this, do that, plans, expectations — and they all make it hard to get clarity and peace of mind. So we have to consciously put ourselves in a place to receive that clarity. Whether that’s prayer, meditation, a walkabout, being in right company, a road trip, whatever it is for you.

Schedule that time to be in a place to receive the truth.”

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