Do you know what is the really significant thing Denzel Washington, the great actor and director, had to say at a commencement address eleven years ago?
In 2011, Washington delivered the address at the University of Pennsylvania’s 255th Commencement on Monday, May 16.
The internationally renowned actor has also become a powerful speaker who has a remarkable talent for inspiring people to “get out there” and achieve their highest potential.
Last week I had the privilege to see his talent for motivating others at work. I say “privilege” because watching him speak really changed my life.
It was inspiring, captivating and electrifying.
I never imagined a speech could have this effect on me.
And now I’m going to share what he said with you.
After the actor had handled the usual salutations, aroused the curiosity of the audience, grabbed their attention and had them interested in his message, here’s what he had to say:
I’ve found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks.
Yes, that is the really significant thing he said to some graduates that were eager to go out into the world—and do something great with their lives.
Why? Because he found that taking risks defines how successful you are in anything you do.
And when I heard that I thought, if Denzel Washington thinks that taking risks is so important, shouldn’t I, too?
So I put everything else aside and I started listening more intently.
Here’s what I learned:
The “Washington Secret” for achieving great success in acting or any other activity you choose
You’ve got to take risks.
You’re free to dismiss his statement if you want to—after you’ve read this article—but I don’t believe you will, then.
How so? As you will soon discover, it is that same “risky road to success” many globally famous and incredibly wealthy people have walked.
So it’s good advice for anyone who wants to achieve great success.
It will enable you to see challenges and setbacks in a new light and open up a new world of opportunities and possibilities that have been hiding in plain sight all around you.
It will make you uncommonly successful as a person, no matter the activity you choose.
But how are you to apply this to what YOU do in life?
How to apply this to become a success in business and in life
Here’s a four-step formula I came up with. Maybe this will help …
OK, let’s see how this works in practice by exploring the enormous potentiality of each of these four steps.
Then discover the quote that ties them all together and lays bare the principal reason why not more people manage to achieve greater success in the wonderful world of opportunities we live in.
Why take risks
At the beginning of his speech, the actor candidly announced he felt nervous.
Speaking at a graduation of this magnitude is a little overwhelming. It’s out of my comfort zone.
Now, put yourself in his place.
Imagine that you must give a speech.
It could be that you must speak at a commencement at one of the best universities in the country.
You’re really nervous about it. You’re dreading it because you are not used to giving important presentations like this.
So what could you do? You could escape the challenge, but Washington wants to empower you to step up to it.
He recommends that each time you’re faced with such an amazing challenge, you take your chances.
Why should you? Do it because your level of success in business and life depends on the risks you take. Do it because it will be rewarding.
And who knows, you could end up crushing it like Washington did or achieving extraordinary things like Nelson Mandela the actor refers to.
For now, here’s why that matters:
When you take risks, you develop the courage to face (and overcome) your fears.
It is Winston Churchill, the distinguished British politician who said
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
He is right.
I find that stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t about “winning.”
It matters that you develop the confidence to keep going through life situations.
And listening to what Bob Parson had to say about how to face your fears helped me do that. The billionaire and founder of GoDaddy explained:
With regard to whatever worries you, not only accept the worst thing that could happen, but make it a point to quantify what the worst thing could be.
Obviously, not many people (want to) do that. No wonder Parson became a giant in his industry. No wonder he built a fortune by being willing to do what almost no one wanted to do. What’s that? He made himself uncomfortable.
Two reasons to make yourself uncomfortable
What is this idea of making yourself uncomfortable all about?
Well, Parson explained it better than I ever could:
Get and stay out of your comfort zone. I believe that not much happens of any significance when we’re in our comfort zone. I hear people say, “But I’m concerned about security.” My response to that is simple: “Security is for cadavers.”
As it turns out, becoming successful is hard because you have to do a lot of new things. Increasingly challenging, sometimes even frightening things.
Which is why you need courage.
Courage is the ability to do the things that frighten you.
As long as you have courage, you can step out of your comfort zone and do bigger things.
You’ll find that the more you do the things that scare you, the more courageous you’ll become.
Maybe that’s why David J. Schwartz, the author of The Magic of Thinking Big said “Do what you fear and fear disappears.”
You can prove this to yourself like Denzel Washington did.
And at the same time, you can learn the secret of how to develop a level of “superhuman” courage that helps you produce more growth more rapidly in your life than most other people ever dream of
Washington admitted to being scared of what he was about to do but decided to do it anyway because he knew the value of facing his fears.
Of course, the question that rose immediately in the mind of most people was, how could an internationally renowned and acclaimed actor of his caliber struggle with these issues.
And that’s why he went on to explain that in his craft, he is not directly confronted to the reaction of the public.
As a result, he is very comfortable talking to his audience through a TV screen but not face-to-face.
However, being willing to get (and stay) out of his comfort zone he didn’t let that stop him.
He said, “I had to come even though I was afraid I might make a fool of myself.”
Far from getting paralyzed by fear of losing his reputation or sully his good name, he realized that exploring his own undiscovered land was a great way for him to learn new things, develop new skills, create new opportunities.
So he focused on his desire to grow rather than his fear to fail.
Be willing to fail—all the time
“I had to come exactly because I might make a fool of myself,” Washington firmly declared.
What that means is, he was literally willing to fail!
He said how he used the same mindset in acting, too; how in the acting business you must be ready to fail all the time.
He told the story of a humbling failure he experienced at the beginning of his career. It was an audition for a part in a Broadway musical.
As it turned out, he wasn’t fit for the part and he didn’t get it.
So this is what he did. He went to prepare for the next audition. He continued to fail. The more he tried, the more he failed.
But the thing is, he didn’t give up because he started to learn more.
And the more he learned, the more he improved his acting skills.
Suddenly he wasn’t just dreaming about a successful audition.
He went from a life of failed auditions to a life of successful auditions.
And it wasn’t a painful learning experience, either.
His secret to success truly became his willingness to fail.
Are you like Mr. Washington in that you prioritize growth over fear? Are you striving to continuously learn and improve?
Always be moving forward. Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new. The moment you stop improving your organization, it starts to die. Make it your goal to be better each and every day, in some small way. Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages. — Bob Parson
Many people don’t realize this but you have to continue learning and growing. And how do you keep learning? By doing and trying new things, that’s right.
And although you pick up a few battle scars in this process , you also pick up a few hard-won secrets that can multiply the results you’re getting from your business, career, financial and personal life.
Meanwhile, most other people are standing on the side line and admiring your success.
Why, the difference?
Because for most people the fear of loss is such a strong motivator that they refuse to take risks. While a few others are guided by a stronger desire for gain. They courageously and continuously take action on their goals.
If you want to be one of the few who are unstoppable because they’ve cracked the code of accelerated growth, develop your courage muscle by doing the risky things that interest you.
And when you fail, don’t get dejected. Just try again.
Your job is to “never give up”
Later in his speech Washington tells us to never give up.
And though it would be easy if the actor just gave us a shortcut to success, what he shared with us here is infinitely more valuable.
He wants you and me to learn that the secret to achieving extraordinary success in life is to keep trying even if you currently fail.
And that’s what you should do right now—commit.
Promise yourself you’ll never quit.
Try it and maybe you’ll find like I did that no matter what you set out to accomplish in life, your personal commitment is the best way to make certain you’ll “Give it everything you’ve got whether it’s your time, your talent, your prayers, or your treasure.”
Most importantly, in listening to Washington you’ll understand that your commitment matters most because it’s like a personal guarantee to succeed.
It sounds strange, but it’s true.
It’s an effective way to help you reach your goal whether you use it as a secret weapon to turn each new setback into a mere incentive to finding a new path to your final destination, or as a shield to protect you from discouragement as you walk through the valley of failure.
Three stories of success that illustrate this perfectly.
First, to give you a wonderful example from Denzel Washington’s own life, let me relate this success story from his speech. Washington said,
Last year I did a play called Fences on Broadway and I won a Tony Award. And I didn’t have to sing for it, by the way.
And here’s the kicker — it was at the Court Theater, the same theater where I failed that first audition 30 years prior.
Just to consider that he didn’t give up for 30 years.
Pretty amazing, right?
His story embodies so much of what I like in great success stories but the quality I admire most in it is his commitment—his persistence.
Persistence is a fascinating trait that is typical of every great success be it in acting, sports or science.
Take sports for example, it was because Reggie Jackson didn’t quit after he struck out twenty-six-hundred times in his career (the most in the history of baseball) that he managed to score his home runs too.
And speaking of science, it was led by the same passion for not giving up that Thomas Edison conducted 1,001 experiments to achieve the result he wanted: the light bulb.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
In short, these uncommonly successful people have learned this simple secret: Instead of relying on your talent, skills or luck to get the results you set out to accomplish, you can simply start experimenting and plow your way to success through your mistakes and failures.
Which led me to pen the following:
To be fair, I didn’t create this out of thin air.
I simply compressed the meat of all that I learned about achieving greater success into those two sentences.
As I promised, here’s that one quote that contains the BIG IDEA I got and the big idea I want you to get from Washington’s speech:
The point is, every graduate here today has the training and the talent to succeed. But do you have the guts to fail?
In other words, most people are trained or talented or skilled at something but only a few have the courage to keep failing until they achieve great success.
Which one are you?
Which one are you going to be?
Think about it for a minute.
This is the secret that helped Denzel Washington unlock his true potential.
Last week, he gave it to me.
Now, I’m giving it to you.
It has already changed my life. It can do the same for you.
So use it. Wherever you are, whatever you do, today take the time to ask yourself this question—and watch how the answers help you become the person you want to be. And … for more proven tips to become successful in business and in life go to https://corinneessono.com/newsletter/