Tim Minchin Presents “9 Rules to Live By” in a Funny and Wise Commencement Speech (2013)

Tim Minchin isn’t much of a role mod­el in the hair brush­ing depart­ment, but in every oth­er way the pro­lif­ic comedian/actor/writer/musician/director inspires.

He’s unabashed­ly enthu­si­as­tic about sci­ence, a life­long learn­er who’s a strong believ­er in the pow­er of exer­cise, trav­el, and thank you notes….

He uses his star­dom and tal­ent for pen­ning con­tro­ver­sial lyrics to raise aware­ness and mon­ey for such caus­es as the UK’s Nation­al Autis­tic Soci­ety and a local char­i­ty formed to send adults who, as chil­dren, were sex­u­al­ly abused by Catholic cler­gy, to Rome.

His cre­ative out­put is prodi­gious.

And he’s one hel­lu­va com­mence­ment speak­er.

In 2013, his alma mater, the Uni­ver­si­ty of West­ern Aus­tralia, award­ed him an Hon­orary Degree of Doc­tor of Let­ters and invit­ed him to address the grad­u­at­ing class.

The speak­er insist­ed up front that an “inflat­ed sense of self impor­tance” born of address­ing large crowds was the only thing that posi­tioned him to give such an address, then went on to share a fun­ny 9‑point guide to life that stressed the impor­tance of grat­i­tude, edu­ca­tion, intel­lec­tu­al rig­or, and kind­ness toward oth­ers.

If you haven’t the time to watch the entire 12-minute speech, above, be sure to cir­cle back lat­er. His advice is hilar­i­ous, heart­warm­ing, and mem­o­rable.

In extrap­o­lat­ing the essence of each of his nine “life lessons” below, we dis­cov­ered many bonus lessons con­tained there­in (one of which we include below.)

Tim Minchin’s 9 Rules To Live By

  1. You don’t have to have a dream. Be micro-ambi­tious and see what hap­pens as you pur­sue short-term goals…
  2. Rather than chas­ing hap­pi­ness for your­self, keep busy and aim to make some­one else hap­py.
  3. Remem­ber that we are lucky to be here, and that most of us — espe­cial­ly those of us with a col­lege edu­ca­tion, or those active­ly seek­ing to edu­cate them­selves to a sim­i­lar degree—will achieve a lev­el of wealth that “most humans through­out his­to­ry could not have dreamed of.”
  4. Exer­cise. Among oth­er things, it helps com­bat depres­sion. 
  5. Iden­ti­fy your bias­es, prej­u­dices, and priv­i­leges and do not exempt your own beliefs and opin­ions from intel­lec­tu­al rig­or.
  6. Be a teacher!  Swell the ranks of this noble pro­fes­sion.
  7. Define your­self by what you love, rather than what you despise, and lav­ish praise on the peo­ple and things that move you.
  8. Respect those with less pow­er than your­self, and be wary of those who do not. 
  9. Don’t be in a rush to suc­ceed. It might come at a cost. 

BONUS.  Uphold the notion that art and sci­ence are not an either/or choice, but rather com­pli­ment each oth­er. “If you need proof—Twain, Dou­glas Adams, Von­negut, McE­wan, Sagan and Shake­speare, Dick­ens for a start. …The arts and sci­ences need to work togeth­er to improve how knowl­edge is com­mu­ni­cat­ed. “

Read the full tran­script of Minchin’s com­mence­ment speech here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

NPR Launch­es Data­base of Best Com­mence­ment Speech­es Ever

David Lynch Gives Uncon­ven­tion­al Advice to Grad­u­ates in an Unusu­al Com­mence­ment Address

Jon Stewart’s William & Mary Com­mence­ment Address: The Entire World is an Elec­tive

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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  • Paul Ditchburn says:

    I saw Tim’s show in Mel­bourne a cou­ple of weeks ago. I was intrigued by his appar­ent knowl­edge of maths and sci­ence which was appar­ent in his choice of words and mod­els. I there­fore sought to find out his edu­ca­tion­al back­ground on line. His 9 points pre­sen­ta­tion in his Hon­orary degree as Doc­tor of Let­ters demon­strat­ed his aware­ness of how sci­ence and the arts are com­ple­men­tary and it all became clear to me! A great les­son to all peo­ple focus­ing on self-improve­ment!

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