Will Ferrell has been a successful comedian for much of his life.
Even during his time at the University of Southern California, the SNL legend frequently had his friends and classmates in stitches after crashing lectures in character.
But despite going on to star in popular films like “Anchorman” and “Elf,” Ferrell told USC’s graduating class of 2017 that the fear of failure never goes away.
It’s what you do in spite of it that matters.
Ferrell learned that from his own experience trying to make it in comedy. After graduating from USC with a degree in sports information, his comedic career didn’t kick off right away.
“Yeah, I moved back home for a solid two years, I might add,” Ferrell told the graduates. “And I was lucky, actually. Lucky that I had a very supportive and understanding mother, who is sitting out there in the crowd, who let me move back home. And she recognized that while I had an interest in pursuing sportscasting, my gut was telling me that I really wanted to pursue something else. And that something else was comedy.”
In the beginning, Ferrell wasn’t always sure that he could even make a living in show business.
“Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t extremely confident that I would succeed during this time period, and after moving back to LA there were many a night where in my LA apartment, I would sit down to a meal of spaghetti topped with mustard, with only $20 in my checking account, and I would think to myself, ‘Oh well I can always be a substitute schoolteacher,'” he said.
Despite his eventual professional success, Ferrell said that his fear of failure has never quite left him. However, he credited another fear with keeping him going, despite his early setbacks.
“You’re never not afraid,” he said. “I’m still afraid. I was afraid to write this speech. And now, I’m just realizing how many people are watching me right now, and it’s scary. Can you please look away while I deliver the rest of the speech? But my fear of failure never approached in magnitude my fear of ‘what if.’ What if I never tried at all?”
Ferrell left the USC audience with some insight for the graduates who don’t have “it all figured out” yet.
“To those of you graduates sitting out there who have a pretty good idea of what you’d like to do with your life, congratulations,” Ferrell said. “For many of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, it’s okay. That’s the same chair that I sat in. Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of the result. Trust your gut, keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.”
Watch the full speech below: