Natalie Portman Harvard Commencement Speech | 2015

Best lesson learned today—what it meant by feeling utter comfortable in our own skin. Natalie is leading by example and bringing purpose to her greatest strength. What useful I’ve found is her graceful courage to tap into her own obliviousness and be free from it. Come as you are; there’s nothing more profound than the processes of discovering how the deepest truth resides in who you really are…

  • “Sometimes your insecurities and your inexperience may lead you, too, to embrace other people’s expectations, standards, or values. But you can harness that inexperience to carve out your own path, one that is free of the burden of knowing how things are supposed to be, a path that is defined by its own particular set of reasons.”
  • “I was able to own my meaning and not have it be determined by box office receipts or prestige. By the time I got to making Black Swan, the experience was entirely my own. I felt immune to the worst things anyone could say or write about me, and to whether an audience felt like going to see my movie or not.”
  • “The only thing you can be the best at is developing your own self.”
  • “Authoring your own experience was very much what Black Swan itself was about. I worked with Darren Aronofsky, the film’s director, who changed my last line in the movie to: it was perfect. My character Nina is only artistically successful when she finds perfection and pleasure for herself not when she was trying to be perfect in the eyes of others.”
  • “But the point is, if I had known my own limitations, I never would have taken the risk. And the risk led to one of my greatest artistic and personal experiences, and that I not only felt completely free, I also met my husband during the filming.”
  • “Fear protects us in many ways. What has served me is diving into my own obliviousness, being more confident than I should be…”
  • “I know a famous violinist who told me that he can’t compose because he knows too many pieces. So when he starts thinking of a note, an existing piece immediately comes to mind. Just starting out one of your biggest strengths is, not knowing how things are supposed to be. You can compose freely because your mind isn’t cluttered with too many pieces. And you don’t take for granted the way things are.
  • “The only way you know how to do things is your own way. You here will all go on to achieve great things. There is no doubt about that. Each time you set out to do something new, your inexperience can either lead you down a path where you will conform to someone else’s values or you can forge your own path, even if you don’t realize that’s what you’re doing.”
  • To quote one of my favorite thinkers Abraham Joshua Heschel: “To be or not to be is not the question; the vital question is how to be and how not to be.”

header photo by Rose @Amherst, MA, USA
5/12/2017 10:27 AM

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