Inspiration to Launch Your Life (or Just Start Your Day)


Photo courtesy of Harvard Public Affairs & Communications. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

It’s graduation season! Time for elected officials, former elected officials and Natalie Portman (at Harvard, her alma mater) to step up to the podium and inspire young people as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. But you don’t have to be a co-ed, or parent of one, to be so motivated this year. We asked speakers who are confirmed for this year what they would say—but in 100 words or less. Let the inspiration fly!

“Don’t follow your dreams, lead them. And dream big, but be sure to act even bigger. As necessary and wonderful as dreams are, the meaning in life is ultimately in what we do.”—Gloria Feldt, cofounder and president of Take The Lead and author of No Excuses: Nine Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power

“Take a breath and close your eyes. Think about what you really love doing. Not what you’re supposed to love, but what makes you truly happy. Now visualize yourself doing that professionally. Imagine all the details you can—what do you see, smell, feel? Open your eyes and write it all down. Now begin thinking more tactically—what steps do you need to take to make that visualization happen? Read your reflection each day…that’s critically important. And then commit. Commit to yourself to do whatever you need to do to go get it!”—Lisa Kueng, executive director at Invesco Consulting and co-author of Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality

“Too few people ever actually achieve their dreams in life. But, having them is important. Dreams inspire us…they are what we ponder as we look out onto the horizon. But that’s all they’ll ever be—a way to pass the time—until you turn them into actionable goals. Take those lofty dreams (the ones you’re afraid to tell anyone because they sound so far out of reach), break them down into phases, break those phases into pies, those pies into slices, and those slices into bites. Then sit down and take care of business—one bite at a time.”—MJ Hegar, former pilot in the Air National Guard who served in Afghanistan and whose suit against the Secretary of Defense led to the repeal of the military’s policy of excluding women from combat

“Your world is in your mind and you are more powerful than you think! Although you cannot control how life may unfold, you do have the power to choose how you respond. You experience your world through the lens of your mental models, which are deep-rooted ideas about the way things ought to be; what you fundamentally believe shapes your experience. And most importantly, your power comes from being who you are. By leveraging all of who you are—your core gifts and skills, your circumstances and experiences—you have the power to create amazing possibilities for your life.”—Elizabeth Thornton, professor of management practice at Babson Executive Education and author of The Objective Leader: How to Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are

“Here are three of the most important steps you can take to build a prosperous life for yourself: First, spend less than you earn and save the difference on a regular basis. Next, give generously to people and causes that are most important to you—you should establish a regular giving plan by setting aside a percentage of your income to give. And finally, remember to picture your prosperity! You have an incredible ability to create the life you imagine for yourself. Use the power of your mind to focus on what is most important to you.”—Ellen Rogin, a certified public accountant and financial planner professional and co-author of Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality

“There is no destination. While we can and should strive for growth, new ventures and goals, it is our relationship with ourselves on a daily basis and how we engage with the world that makes up our life. There is no great arrival point. Our greatest milestones pass in sheer moments, but the process is the in-between taking up the majority of our life. This is what requires our full attention. Many times we think once we get ‘there’ we will devote ourselves to priorities that whisper to us from the inside, but there is no ‘there’— only ‘here.’”—Azita Ardakani, founder of Lovesocial

Gloria Feldt and Elizabeth Thornton will be speaking on the panel, “Pioneering Pay Equity: Strategies to Bridge the Gap, Own Your Value and Negotiate Your Worth;” Lisa Kueng and Ellen Rogin will be leading the workshop, “Picture Your Prosperity: Reframing Your Money to Create the Life You Want;” MJ Hegar will be speaking on the panel, “No Risk, No Reward: Taking the Risk to Do What You Want with Your Career” and Azita Ardakani will be on the panel, “Branding and Perception: How to Maximize How You Are Perceived by Others” at the 2015 Texas Conference for Women.