Neil Gaiman – The Best Commencement Speech You May Ever Hear (20 Minutes)


This will be a short post as, sometimes, brevity counts. I want to let Neil Gaiman speak in this instance. Neil is one of my favorite authors, and I first became fascinated by his imagination with The Sandman comics in the 90’s. So much so, in fact, that I imported The Sandman from different countries to help me learn languages.

The Sandman from Brazil. Wonderful for studying Portuguese, as I have identical English editions.

My love for his work grew from there. From Anansi Boys to The Graveyard Book (my favorite audiobook of all time) to Neverwhere, the list of favorites is long.

The above commencement speech, mandatory listening for anyone who hopes to be creatively successful, is right up there with Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech, which I’ve embedded below. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on either, as well as links to any favorite speeches of your own.

Posted on: May 22, 2012.

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142 comments on “Neil Gaiman – The Best Commencement Speech You May Ever Hear (20 Minutes)

  1. I found Neil’s speech terribly boring. Sure, the message is valuable, but the delivery was lacking much inspiration IMO. Steve Job’s speech on the other hand, resonated with me. As for favorite speeches, none comes to mind, but I very much enjoy listening to any of Alan Watts’ timeless lectures and can recommend them.


  2. Tim,

    One of the best talks I’ve seen in a while. I’m moving in a week to teach writing in a very disadvantaged school in Denver (93% low-income and 96% non-white) and I’ll definitely be pulling from this.

    I’ll also be incorporating a lot I’ve learned from you, Tim. I barely got into a state university but ended up being the first undergraduate to present in the main program of the American Philosophical Association in its 110 year history, was one of two Rhodes and Marshall nominees out of 24,000 students, facilitated a national fundraising partnership without prior networking, and landed an amazing social change agency consulting job straight out of college. I went through major lung surgeries throughout all that and am now bouldering V6-ish after having my left lat cut completely in half (largely thanks to 4HB).

    Anyway, that’s all pretty small beans compared to a lot of your readers but I really can’t thank you enough for all the work you’ve done (and will continue to do, through me, for my students). I wouldn’t have done even a fraction of that if I hadn’t stumbled upon a talk of yours back in the day. I also realize how ironic it is that this comment is abysmally written, given that I’m a writing teacher, but it’s late and beef+coconut aminos are calling my name.


  3. Absolutely brilliant. If more people’s aim was to make art then not money then more people would have much more money and the world would be full of great art.

    I always say to people who I am helping to get published on kindle that there is great money to be made but do not publish with making money in mind. Publish because you want to get your work out to people globally. If you do that then the money will come.

    Thanks again Tim.



  4. This is not a commencement speech but it’s very inspirational and one of my favorites:

    The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch:


  5. One of the most useful speeches I’ve seen must be JK Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech.
    Sure, she’s a bit nervous. But her words on failure (“Failure means a stripping away of the inessential”), happens to be some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.
    It’s here:


  6. Very inspiring thank you!

    Other great speeches, well I always liked Schwarzenegger views on hard work & determination.

    “You’re going to find naysayers in every turn that you make. Don’t listen. Just visualize your goal, know exactly where you want to go. Trust yourself. Get out there and work like hell. Break some of the rules and never ever be afraid of failure.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger”


  7. What a great speech!

    I loved the decision process around whether a next gig will take you towards your distant mountain, or away from it… tempered by the fact that you have to eat.

    I loved his stories of ‘doing it for the money’ almost never working out (been there, done that).

    I loved the transition between putting bottles out to sea, to having to refuse some of them when they come back with offers attached.

    It worked for me.

    Thanks Tim.