October 26

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13 Life Lessons From Denzel Washington’s Speech (And Their Importance)

By Dan

October 26, 2022


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In the commencement speech at Dillard University, Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington shared 13 life lessons he has learned over his years in the entertainment industry.

Life Lessons From Denzel Washington's Speech

Denzel Washington is one of Hollywood's most successful and respected actors. He has starred in some of the most popular films of all time, including Malcolm X, Training Day, and The Equalizer.

In addition to his impressive acting career, Washington is also an accomplished director, producer, and screenwriter.

In 2017, he delivered a powerful speech at the commencement ceremony for Dillard University, in which he shared 13 life lessons that have helped him achieve success in his life.

The Oscar-winner's advice is both insightful and inspiring and can be applied to people from all walks of life; here are all of the notable things that Washington had to say.

1. Put God first. 

Denzel Washington began his speech by stressing the importance of putting God first in one's life.

The Oscar-winner urged graduates to always keep God first in their lives, regardless of how successful they become; only by doing so will they be able to maintain a sense of humility and perspective.

This is excellent advice that can be applied to all aspects of life; no matter what goals a person achieves, remember the role that faith plays in helping them reach those accomplishments.

No matter what higher power you believe in, whether it is God, the Universe, or something else, putting that force at the center of your life is a guaranteed recipe for success.

With that being said, although we know that not everyone is religious, the same message can be applied to those who do not believe in a higher power; it is crucial to have something or someone to believe in and look up to.

No matter what happens in life, always remember that there is something or someone bigger than you that you can rely on for guidance and strength.

2. Fail big.

The next life lesson that Denzel Washington shared was the impact that failing big has on our lives.

Washington acknowledged that failure is a part of life and that we all fail at some point, but the key is to accept it, learn from one's mistakes and use them as motivation to keep moving forward.

The actor told graduates that they should not be afraid to take risks in their lives and pursue their dreams because it is only by failing that they will ultimately achieve greater success.

We get it! Failing is scary, but the truth is that it is an inevitable part of life, so rather than trying to avoid it, accept it and use it as a learning opportunity to help you grow and become better.

After all, if one of the most successful actors in Hollywood can embrace failure, then so can you!

3. Think outside the box.

Washington encouraged graduates to think outside the box because sometimes, we need to look at things from a different perspective to find the answers to the problems we've been looking for.

By thinking outside the box, you are able to come up with innovative solutions to problems and discover new opportunities that you may have otherwise missed out on.

4. Dreams without goals are just dreams.

Denzel stressed the significance of setting goals because, without them, dreams are nothing more than just that... dreams.

How many times have you found yourself daydreaming about accomplishing something great but never taking any steps toward making it a reality?

Probably more times than you'd like to admit, right? Well, that's because you didn't set goals. Having goals gives you a sense of purpose and direction; without them, it is easy to get lost and end up in the same place you started.

It is not enough to dream about success; you need to have a plan and take actionable steps toward achieving your goals if you ever want to see them come to life.

5. Discipline and consistency are key.

The actor went on to tell graduates that discipline and consistency are key when it comes to achieving their goals, meaning they need to be disciplined enough to stick to their plans and be consistent in their efforts.

In this golden age of instant gratitude, it is easy to give up before you even start because you want to see results immediately; after all, that's what we're used to with the click of a button.

But there are no shortcuts when it comes to success, so if you want to achieve your goals, you need to be prepared to put in the work and stick to it even when things get tough; here are 9 tips to help you develop self-discipline.

It takes time and effort to see results and if you give up too soon, you'll never know what you're capable of achieving.

6. We don't plan to fail; we fail to plan.

Denzel Washington shared another piece of advice which is that we don't plan to fail, but we fail to plan.

While it is important to have goals, it is equally as important to have a plan of action; by planning ahead and being organized, you avoid unnecessary setbacks and stay on track when things get tough, all of which increase your chances of success.

7. Hard work works.

The next lesson Washington wanted graduates to know was that hard work pays off; he urged them to be willing to put in the time and effort required to achieve their dreams.

As previously mentioned, you need to be willing to put in the time and effort because there are no shortcuts to success.

If you want something bad enough, you need to be willing to work for it, and when you do, eventually, your hard work will pay off.

8. Don't confuse movement with progress. 

The actor also cautioned graduates against confusing movement with progress; just because they are busy and always on the go, it doesn't mean they are making progress toward their goals.

Instead of just being busy for the sake of being busy, be efficient and effective with your time to move closer to your goals; here are 9 tips to help you focus on the present.

Take a step back and assess your situation to ensure you are actually making progress and not just spinning your wheels.

9. You'll never see a u-haul behind a hearse.

This is one of Denzel Washington's most famous quotes, and it is a powerful reminder that we cannot take our possessions with us when we die.

Live in the present and don't get too caught up in materialistic things; life is about the experiences you have and the people you meet, not the things you own.

10. It's not how much you have; it's what you do with what you have. 

Washington continued his speech by talking about the importance of what we do with what we have, which is what truly matters in life.

Use your talents and resources to make a positive difference in the world; no matter how big or small your contributions may be, they can make a world of difference.

11. The most selfish thing you can do in this world Is help someone else.

He said that the most selfish thing we can do in this world is to help someone else because, in doing so, we are ultimately helping ourselves.

By helping others, you are not only making the world a better place but also helping yourself.

When you give of yourself, you make a positive impact in the world, and you also receive gratification and blessings in return.

12. Say thank you in advance for what is already yours. 

The final life lesson that Denzel Washington shared was the power of gratitude; he encouraged graduates to say thank you in advance for all the good that is already theirs.

By expressing gratitude, you open yourself up to receiving all the good that you have been blessed with.

13. Don't just aspire to make a living; aspire to make a difference.

Washington ended his speech with a reminder that we should not only aspire to make a living, but we should also aspire to make a difference. By making a difference, you leave a lasting legacy that will continue long after we are gone.

These are all of the lessons that Denzel Washington shared in his speech; take them to heart and use them as motivation to achieve your goals and make a difference in the world.

Did any of them resonate with you? Which one was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author

My name is Dan, a few years ago I decided to turn my life around and it all started with time management, I'm here to help you navigate how to best manage your time.

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