4 life lessons from Mindy Kaling’s Dartmouth commencement speech

We're taking notes.

June 11, 2018

Mindy Kaling’s ascendance over the past fifteen years inspires both awe and envy — even just writing on The Office would be enough to be happy with yourself for the rest of one’s life, but for her it’s just a footnote on an ever-growing resume.

This past weekend, Kaling returned to Dartmouth, her alma mater, to deliver the commencement speech to the class of 2018. Though the advice she doled out was meant for fresh grads, we found it pretty applicable to life regardless of what year you walked across the stage.

1. Use Your Delusion

Mindy let the graduates in on a little secret, sharing with them the One Weird Trick to her success (that apparently even the president follows).

“My secret, the one thing that keeps me going, my superpower”, Kaling revealed, “is delusion.” She preached to grads the power granted to her having “insane confidence” in herself, even if it’s not real – “something I share with the president, a fact that is both horrifying and interesting,” she admitted.

2. Uncheck the Checklist

It’s easy to think of life (especially once your brain has left the confines of a four-year-undergrad) as a series of goals and checkpoints, each of which to be reached by some arbitrary age. Kaling urges you to stop thinking like that.

She shared with the students her own checklist, written when she herself was graduating. It included winning an Oscar, having kids by 30, and starring in her own show. “Spoiler alert”, she said, “I’ve only done one of those things.”

3. Support Your Sister

A running theme throughout Kaling’s speech was the importance of women supporting each other. Addressing the young women in the audience, Kaling said “Girls, we need to do a better job of supporting each other,” promising them that it is only in this support and teamwork that they can “work together to dismantle a system that makes us feel like there’s limited room for us.”

4. Keep Asking Yourself…

Kaling also revealed the question that, even when she was sitting in the same seats as Dartmouth’s class of 2018 was, she kept asking herself until she got where she is today: “Why not me?”

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” she pleaded to the crowd, “but especially not yourself. Go conquer the world. Just remember this: Why not you? You’ve made it this far.”

Exclusive videos, interviews, contests & more.

sign up for the a.side newsletter

sign up