Jim Carrey’s commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management did more than reveal the secrets to his own success. Carrey, better known for his goofy comedy than deep philosophy, draws on the difficulties of his past to show how we are all capable of overcoming hardship and achieving our goals.
Never Be Discouraged
Carrey grew up in great poverty. He watched his father lose his job and as a result was forced from the age of sixteen to move into a camper van and work eight-hour shifts after school. Even his first forays into the world of comedy were failures, and Carey couldn’t help but question his vocation.
Nevertheless, he persisted in following his dreams, and massive success was to follow. But through his challenges and experiences, he has gained a valuable outlook on life – specifically, on the question of pursuing one’s dreams and seeing one’s goals as achievable.
The Courage to Dream
It is one of Carrey’s central beliefs that we must follow our dreams. ‘Follow your dreams’ is as tortured a phrase as any, but in Carrey’s hands it takes on a fresh life. In fact, there is no better illustration of his talent for inspiration than his ability to make us see old concepts anew: empty rhetoric becomes inspirational when Carrey is on the podium. When his father lost his job, Carrey saw that giving up our dreams to do something we think is practical does not necessarily ensure even limited success. As he states in the address,
you could fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you do love
For Carrey, the challenge of realising our dreams is not something to shy away from. He recognises the importance of visualising our goals, as this important anecdote from his early days, well before he entertained us in The Mask, illustrates vividly. He tells us how he once wrote himself a check for ten million dollars ‘for acting services’ and then post-dated it by three years. He considers this unusual tactic to be in part responsible for his outstanding ability to always keep his goal in view, and by the end of those years, he had indeed made ten million dollars for his role in the film Dumb and Dumber.
An Outlook Both Personal and Positive
In order to successfully pursue our dreams, according to Carrey, it is important that we empower ourselves and see that the choices we make are our own. For instance, by working hard and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes his way, he says that he is “making the choice to perceive challenges as something beneficial.”
It is by addressing them in this way, he says, that he feels able to “deal with them in the most productive way.” The result is a positive attitude towards life which allows him to laugh and to fulfill one of the aspects of his career most important to him:
“I do something that makes people present their best selves to me wherever I go.”
Carey also addresses self-belief in his speech, challenging his audience to examine whether their actions are stimulated merely by fear. Opposed to fear he ranks love: not only because fear is capable of making our decisions for us, but also because of its tendency to endanger our relationships with each other and with ourselves.
Carrey wishes us to see his success not as a set of achievements that we can never match, but as an example of what is possible for anyone.
What we want seems impossibly out of our reach so and so we never dare ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it
Carrey exhorts us to ask ourselves, ‘what do they need that my talent can provide?’
His approach to life is not purely self-interested, but it does mean that we must nevertheless pinpoint our own gifts before we can make the contribution that is both best for others and best for ourselves. Carrey feels personally fulfilled because he has pursued his proper path by entertaining others. This is the feeling he wishes everyone to strive towards.
In this way, his advice seems to extend beyond his selected audience of college graduates and towards any of those who take the time to listen to his speech. For although the doors of possibility may seem to stand opened widest for graduates like those he’s addressing, Carrey also assures his listeners that opportunity can present itself to anyone at any time:
but don’t worry if you miss your cue because there’s always doors opening
Watch the video in full below: