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 The Mind and Human Nature



Steve Colbert
Northwestern University, 2011 Commencement Address:

You have been told to follow your dreams. But - what if it's a stupid dream? … Thankfully dreams can change. If we'd all stuck with our first dream, the world would be overrun with cowboys and princesses.  So whatever your dream is right now, if you don't achieve it, you haven't failed, and you're not some loser. But just as importantly,  if you do get your dream, you are not a winner.

I began in improv.  I was taught you are not the most important person in the scene. Everybody else is. You pay attention to them and serve them. But you're in the scene too. So hopefully to them you're the most important person, and they will serve you. No one is leading, you're all following the follower, serving the servant. You cannot win improv.

And life is an improvisation. You have no idea what's going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along.  And like improv, you cannot win your life.  Even when it might look like you're winning….

I have my own show, which I love doing. Full of very talented people ready to serve me. And it's great. But at my best, I am serving them just as hard, and together, we  serve a common idea, in this case the character Stephen Colbert, who it's clear, isn't interested in serving anyone. And a sure sign that things are going well is when no one can really remember whose idea was whose, or who should get credit for what jokes.  (Though naturally I take credit for all of them.) 

[Who and what should we serve?]  You truly serve only what you love; service is love made visible.  If you love friends, you will serve your friends.  If you love community, you will serve your community.  If you love money, you will serve your money.  And if you love only yourself, you will serve only yourself. And you will have only yourself.

So no more winning. Instead, try to love others and serve others, and hopefully find those who love and serve you in return.