8 Lessons We Learned From Brooke Shields' FIT Graduation Speech
The model-actress isn't shy about the importance of making mistakes —and learning from them.
This week, New York fashion school FIT asked Brooke Shields, an alum herself, to give their graduation keynote speech. In it, the former Calvin Klein model managed to be funny, self-deprecating, smart and informative. She gave the graduating class life advice that applies to anyone in any industry, in any point in life. Here are a few morsels we gleaned from the transcript.
1. Fear is good
"I implore you to never back away from fear, but instead, dive into it. I’m talking about the kind of inhibiting, hindering fear that erupts out of the idea of failure, or the possibility of making mistakes, and of course — and this is a really good one— that nagging belief that you’re actually a fraud and not good enough," said Shields. It was actually photographer Richard Avedon, she says (who she called Mr. Don), who "taught me how not to have fear and to hold on to your convictions."
2. Mistakes are not bad
Said Shields, “And if you make mistakes, make them. Make mistakes. Grow. Make more mistakes. Grow more. Make fewer mistakes. I’ve had too many to list, and most on a very public scale. Why did I date George Michael? I don’t know. You’ll never do anything unless you try. It’s all forward motion — how can that be bad?”
3. Pay attention to your passion
"Even before FIT, what was it that you returned to that you remained motivated by? Even from a very early age, where did your passions always seem to lie? What were the instincts that always urged you in a creative direction and chart those instincts. Notice a through-line. You’ll see that what has inspired you has been surprisingly constant. Let it continue to inform you as you work with and for other people. Because that passion, that driving force, is who you are and it’s at the root of your unique voice."
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4. Listen to your gut
"The more you listen to your own instincts, the better you’re going to serve yourself, the grander you will serve your industry and the happier you will be in your work. We all possess instincts — others will try to convince you that theirs are much more correct than your own. Hold on to your own. There will be compromises, but that’s not one of them." Shields gave the example of being approached to create a perfume line that she wouldn’t be allowed to have a role in creating. "I wanted to be represented a certain way; they wouldn’t do it so I walked away."
5. Figure out what you honestly want and then do it
"Be honest with yourselves. If you want guaranteed money, go work on Wall Street. But when you go into a creative field because you love it, I promise you, you will be richer than any hedge fund guy there ever was. If you want fame, go be a Kardashian. Take selfies. For a while, I was famous for my eyebrows, and then I was famous for being a virgin. It took a lot of hard work, and sex — no, just kidding — it took a lot of hard work to get people to stop focusing on those things and pay attention to my actual accomplishments."
6. Success has different definitions
"You must define success to yourself. It’s not seeing what other people have. It means something different to all of us. Your success means something very, very different to that gentleman’s over there."
7. Work — even if you don’t have a job
"When I graduated from university, I thought I would be welcomed back into the movie industry with open arms and countless opportunities. I did not get such a homecoming … Suddenly, nobody wanted me. The only thing I knew was that I was dying inside to be creatively active. So I got real busy. I tried to find work in any way that I could. I always believe in continuing to work while you don’t have a job. Andy Warhol said this, he said ‘It doesn’t matter how slow you go, so long as you don’t stop.’ ”
8. A good work ethic is imperative
"Please uphold the strong work ethic that you developed during your time here. And always remember words like integrity and accountability. No job is too small, and it will only add to your mythology. Find your peers and grow strong with them. Create trends that become movements that become classics. And please, like my dad said: A lot rides on how you show up."