The Greatest Speeches in History: Steve Blank and His NYU Engineering Commencement 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.

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 mighty tool of rhetoric, when used wisely, helps the speaker to bond with the audience, to communicate their vision, ideas and feelings, and to leave the audience excited and motivated.

Mastering the art of public speaking is important for everyone – it is a skill that can get you ahead in every aspect of your life. Whenever you want to pitch your startup to investors, to present your idea to your boss, to nail your next job interview, or just to wow the guests at your cousin’s wedding, knowing how to deliver a compelling speech will lead you to essential success.

Today we keep our focus on serial entrepreneur and academician Steve Blank and his NYU Engineering Commencement Speech, a very powerful and inspirational speech, during which he shares three short stories about how he made his days count and managed to gain wisdom from others. Here are the most important outtakes:

“In every startup I did, every new course I created, and everything I’ve taught, the phrase “make every day count” took on new meaning when I knew how many were left.”

“So how do you live a life making the most of each day?”

“But most everything else people will tell you about rules is wrong.  Not kind of wrong, but spectacularly wrong. It’s ironic because ignoring the rules is what drives innovation and invention. While most visionaries turn out to be hallucinating, the few who are right push the human race further along.”

“I can’t tell you the number of very smart professors and venture capitalists who laughed in my face. But I didn’t give up.  Because I knew the clock was running and I was determined to make every day count.”

“How did this happen?  Innovation comes from those who see things that others don’t. It comes from people who not only question the status quo –  but keep persisting in the face of all the naysayers. Because your time here is limited.”

“Questioning dogma doesn’t mean rejecting all advice and guidance from others who’ve come before you.”

“Finding a mentor can change your life – this is where you can gain a heart of wisdom.”

“So if someone takes an interest in your work and career, be open to their advice.  And think about what you can bring to the relationship.”

“While your education has prepared you to master the facts, the other half of your brain needs to learn to trust in serendipity. By the way, the engineering definition of serendipity is, that life is too unpredictable to pre-compute. Serendipity is when it all comes together and you put all the days of your life into what becomes that of heart of wisdom.”

“For me, knowing I was counting the days made me choose to work on things that pushed boundaries and made us collectively smarter.

So what do these stories mean for you?

  • Take risks and push boundaries

  • Learn from wise people who may know more than you do

  • And let serendipity happen.”

“My challenge to you – make every day ahead mean something.”

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