This is Water


A phenomenal commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace. His commencement speech may be the only one I’ve ever heard that’s not predictable. He doesn’t say the words “work hard” or “pursue your passion.” He talks about the number of people who will end up in the grind. I love it because most of us end in the grind. Even if you’re making six figures early on and you’re the picture of success, you’re still likely living a routine. You live in the same town year after year, go home to the same home, grocery shop, do laundry, clean, commute, repeat.


Wallace reveals some really critical truths. He brings up the idea of “how to think as you live out a normal life” and he urges graduates to break free of ego-centrism. Recognize that other people feel stuck too. Other people hate commuting and grocery shopping. If you let yourself forget this, and make the world about you, you can make yourself miserable. Yes, someone is in your way. But maybe someone’s in their way too. You’re in it together. Learn to love that shared experience.

Wallace uses the phrase “a banal platitude” several times. I’ll be honest, I had to look up both banal and platitude on… so those definitions are below. The top video is heart of his commencement speech played over a visually beautiful video. The second video is the full 22 minute speech.

Beautiful, Shorter, Video-Added Version


Audio Only – Full Commencement Speech – 22 Minutes

n. pl.

  1. 1. The condition or quality of being banal; triviality: The banality of the speaker’s remarks put the audience to sleep.
  2. 2. Something that is trite, obvious, or predictable; a commonplace: Television commercials are full of banalities.


  1. 1. A trite or banal remark or statement, especially one expressed as if it were original or significant.
  2. 2. Lack of originality; triteness.

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