Whether you’re looking to increase team productivity or turn your daydreams into a reality, motivation is key. But, in the day-to-day of working life, it’s easy to lose sight of end goals and become distracted. Thankfully, the wise words of entrepreneurs, writers, and fictional characters can offer a reinvigorating perspective. The following motivational speeches may give you the push you need to reach your full potential.
1. Steve Jobs: How to Live Before You Die (2005)
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
In this commencement address, the CEO and co-founder of Apple Inc. shared one of the keys to his success: love. His love for the work he did kept him excited about going to work every day and working toward new goals. Often, there is a big difference between what you want versus what other people want for you. Discovering what you’re passionate about, and working toward it with achievable goals, will lead you to success and satisfaction. This is why it is our staff’s number one pick for motivational speeches that will inspire you to take action today.
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2. Ellie (Jodie Foster) Meets An Alien In Contact (1997)
“You’re an interesting species, an interesting mix. You are capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone. Only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing that we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable… is each other.”
While this Sci-Fi classic might seem removed from reality, it offers uplifting advice for the workplace and beyond. In this scene, Ellie finally makes contact with an alien who offers insight into the human condition and the larger universe. To apply the alien’s words to the workplace, think of the power of teamwork. Establishing a diverse and talented team can improve employee happiness and performance. For example, burnout is a common problem at companies. Sharing the workload, and knowing you can rely on team members and managers for support, can re-motivate employees. When the going gets tough, it’s a comfort to know you’re not alone.
3. David Foster Wallace: This Is Water (2005)
“The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”
David Foster Wallace, the acclaimed writer, made a case for the importance of open-mindedness; he argues that keeping the big picture in mind, the world outside of our own brains, allows for freedom and happiness in adult life. In listening to other people’s ideas and hopes, you might come up with a solution or concept that you never would’ve independently. At the same time, relationships are important to any career. The connections you build might form the backbone of your startup or allow you to shift careers. To form those meaningful connections, pay attention to your peers. Nothing shows your care and respect for another person like being attentive.
4. Timo’s (Rick Gonzales) Answer In Coach Carter (2005)
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
In this scene, Timo, a member of the basketball team central to the movie, responds to the question the coach asks throughout the movie: “What is your greatest fear?” Timo’s words touch on the importance of self-efficacy. By believing in yourself, you can deepen your interest and commitment to a given task, and recover faster from setbacks. If you lead a team or company, others will soon be influenced by your can-do attitude. So, stop fearing your own power and shine.
5. Chris (Will Smith) Gives His Son Advice In the Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
“Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.”
In a world full of naysayers, it’s easy to become discouraged. In this scene from the heart-warming film, Chris offers his son priceless advice: to pursue his dreams mercilessly, without letting other peoples’ ideas of him get in the way. While this motivational speech is noble and beautiful, you might find it challenging to apply to your own life. Here’s where building a strategic plan— with short- and long-term goals— can make pursuing your dreams concrete. With a clear and concise vision for the future, you can put these words into action.
6. Rosalinde Torres: What it takes to be a great leader
“So what makes a great leader in the 21st century? I’ve met many, and they stand out. They are women and men who are preparing themselves not for the comfortable predictability of yesterday but also for the realities of today and all of those unknown possibilities of tomorrow.”
Rosalinde Torres asserts that exceptional leaders are attuned to the world around them. They pay attention to the latest trends in their field and aren’t afraid to abandon tried and true practices for ones that are the future. Basically, she’s advising the opposite of that popular saying, “Keep your head down.” Because, if you do that, you’ll end up reacting to the future instead of making it. Further, you won’t benefit from a broadened perspective that includes different cultures, industries, and readings. Ask yourself, “When is the last time I looked around me and toward the future?” This is the start of great leadership.
7. John Keating’s (Robin Williams) Motivational Speech About Seizing the Day From Dead Poets Society (1989)
”Because you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”
John Keating motivates his students with a simple sentiment— seize the day. It might seem like a cliché, but it’s a useful sentiment for those stuck in careers they don’t like or struggling to achieve their next milestone. Most working people will spend around 8 hours a day at the office; that’s a lot of time to spend on something you dislike. So, if you’re feeling uninspired or sick of your career, take Mr. Keating’s advice and don’t waste any more time. What are your strengths and weaknesses and how can your harness them into a fulfilling career?
8. Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability (2013)
“Empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable choice. Because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.”
Brené Brown emphasizes the difference between empathy and sympathy. A sympathetic response may be well-intentioned but can create disconnection by pushing a silver lining that the other person doesn’t want. Empathy, on the other hand, is about connecting to the other person’s experience on a deeply personal level— by locating what they’re feeling within yourself. If you aspire to be a great leader, it’s crucial to see things from your employees’ perspectives and make them feel heard. Thus, you can improve company-wide communication, culture, and job satisfaction.
9. Jim Carrey: Commencement Motivational Speech at Maharishi University of Management (2014)
“When I was about 28, after a decade as a professional comedian, I realized one night in LA that the purpose of my life had always been to free people from concern, just like my dad. And when I realized this, I dubbed my new devotion the Church of Freedom From Concern, the Church of FFC. And I dedicated myself to that ministry. What’s yours? How will you serve the world? What did they need that your talent can provide? That’s all you have to figure out.”
The comedian’s advice for a successful and rewarding life is simple: find how you want to serve the world, and pursue it. While it may take years of exploring to find your talent, sometimes it can be as simple as stepping back and reflecting on those moments when you felt yourself excelling and having an impact on others. Finding your calling might seem overwhelming, but asking yourself what the world needs that you can provide will surely set things in motion.
10. Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone) Motivational Speech to His Son In Rocky Balboa (2006)
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
Rocky’s motivational speech is all about not letting failure define you. This is good advice, no matter your industry. In 2019, 90% of startups failed. But, many successful business people, including Bill Gates and Walt Disney, failed before they succeeded. So, even if the odds are against your, it doesn’t helo to fixate on the negative. In fact, a positive attitude can improve mental and physical health, which will improve your performance in the workplace.
11. Neil Gaiman: Commencement Motivational Speech at the University of the Arts (2012)
“…the biggest problem of success is that the world conspires to stop you doing the thing that you do, because you are successful. There was a day when I looked up and realized that I had become someone who professionally replied to email, and who wrote as a hobby. I started answering fewer emails, and was relieved to find I was writing much more.”
Neil Gaiman’s words speak to the importance of delegation. In Gaiman’s case, success brought additional administrative tasks into his life, taking time away from what he actually wanted to do: write. If you have anyone working under you, you can probably relate to his experience. You might find yourself trying to do two or more jobs at once. As a result, you won’t be able to move up in the company or plan for the business’s future. Thankfully, through delegation, you can teach others to do your job and maximize your time. This may mean brainstorming ideas for expansion or creating new partnerships.
12. Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation (2009)
“There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Here is what science knows. One: Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity. Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive– the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.”
There is an outdated belief that rewards and punishments are vital to improving employee performance. Pink argues that intrinsic drive— doing things because of internal satisfaction as opposed to external factors—is the real secret to high performance. So, whether you’re a manager or a new employee, consider why your work matters. Aside from your salary, what gets you to work every day? If these questions are hard to answer, you might need to incorporate or seek out a more creative approach. Pink gives the example of companies giving employees flexible schedules, where they can use their time as they want to accomplish set tasks. The schedule allows for more creativity and independence, and thus improves employee performance.
13. Orlando Scampington: The Pillars of C.L.A.M. (2015)
“…I think that clarity is of the utmost importance. Steve Jobs made sure that everybody at Apple understood what the message of Apple was and what they were trying to accomplish. Clarity breeds trust”
Creating clear goals is important for the leader and team as it ensures you keep your eye on the prize, even during the most stressful moments. It will also encourage you to consider potential difficulties and how they might be addressed. Communicating your vision to the team will gain their trust and confidence. It will also ensure the company is cohesive and different departments aren’t working against each other.
13. Yoda’s (Frank Oz) Words of Wisdom From The Empire Strike’s Back (1980)
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
This motivational speech is short, potent, and classic. The ever-wise Yoda is recommending a can-do mindset that all business people can benefit from. While there will inevitably be moments where you try and fail, it doesn’t hurt to go into a task with the belief that you will succeed. Optimists live longer, healthier, and more successful lives. So, the next time you start on a challenging task, erase the self-doubt from your mind and replace it with Yoda’s words.
15. Coach Tony D’Amato’s (Al Pacino) Motivational Speech In Any Given Sunday (1999)
“I’ll tell you this, in any fight it’s the guy whose willing to die whose gonna win that inch. And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch, because that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face. Now I can’t make you do it. You’ve got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes. Now I think you going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. Your gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it your gonna do the same for him.”
This emotional scene drives home an important point: There is no “i” in team. Both entrepreneurs and executives who work their way up the corporate ladder know that they won’t achieve success all on their own. Attracting and retaining exceptional team members is the foundation of any lasting business. So, think about the skills you’re looking for in an employee and implement a process that’ll allow you to root out those people who will go the extra inch for you. If you’re not in a leadership position, think about the skills that will make you an invaluable hire.
The Bottom Line on motivational speeches
No matter what industry you’re in, you can harness the wisdom of real and fictional characters to achieve your wildest dreams. So, get out there, explore your interests, make connections, and create a fulfilling career.