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Denzel Washington: I Had a 1.7 GPA
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Denzel Washington: I Had a 1.7 GPA

Denzel Washington -Make a Difference

During commencement at Dillard University, Denzel delivers a powerful speech about the necessity of failing in order to achieve greatness.


I was flunking out of college. I had a 1.7 grade point average. I hope none of you can relate. I had a 1.7 grade point average. I was sitting in my mother’s beauty shop. They still call it beauty shops now? What they call it now? Yeah, I was sitting in the beauty parlor. I was sitting in my mother’s beauty parlor and I’m looking in the mirror and I see behind me this woman under the dryer and every time she looked up, every time I looked up, she was looking at me, just looking me in the eye. I didn’t know who she was and I said ... She said “Somebody get me a pen, get me a pencil, I have a prophecy.” March 27, 1975, she said “Boy, you are going to travel the world and speak to millions of people.” Now mind you, I flunked out of college, I’m thinking about joining the army, I didn’t know what I was going to do, and she’s telling me I’m going to travel the world and speak to millions of people.

Well, I have traveled the world and I have spoke to millions of people. That’s not the most important thing, the success that I had, the most important thing is that what she taught me and what she told me that day has stayed with me since. I’ve been protected, I’ve been directed, I’ve been corrected. Fail big. That’s right. Fail big. You only live once, so do what you feel passionate about, take chances professionally, don’t be afraid to fail. There’s an old IQ test was nine dots and you had to draw five lines with a pencil within these nine dots without lifting the pencil. The only way to do it was to go outside the box, so don’t be afraid to go outside the box. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to fail big, to dream big.

Remember, dreams without goals are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment. Have dreams, but have goals, life goals, yearly goals, monthly goals, daily goals. I try to give myself a goal every day. Sometimes, it’s just to not curse somebody out. Simple goals, but have goals and Understand to achieve these goals you must apply discipline and consistency. In order to achieve your goals, you must apply discipline, which you already done, and consistency every day, not just on Tuesday and miss a few days. You have to work at it every day. You have to plan every day. You’ve heard the saying “We don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan.” Hard work works. Working really hard is what successful people do. In this text, tweet, twerk world that you’ve grown up in, remember just because you’re doing a lot more doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot more done.

Remember that just because you’re doing a lot more doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot more done. Don’t confuse movement with progress. My mother told me she said “Yeah because you can run in place all the time and never get anywhere.” Continue to strive, continue to have goals, continue to progress and anything you want good, you can have. Claim it, work hard to get it, when you get it, reach back, pull someone else up. Each one teach one. Don’t just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference.

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