Every once in a while, we all need someone to remind us how special we are and how grateful we should be for the wonderful privileges we enjoy as modern-day Americans.    But, generally, then our parents go off on some tangent and dwell on why you don’t call often enough.    So as an alternative, I offer these illuminating and inspiring videos of people who have some important life lessons that will help you realize how fortunate you are and why our worst fears are often those which we conjure from our imaginations.

The irrepressible Steve Jobs offers three insights at this commencement speech:  why we need to find our passions, why setback shouldn’t dissuade us from those passions and how our mortality should serve to keep all matters in context.   His penultimate advice is drawn from the Whole Earth Catalog:  “Stay hungry, stay foolish”

Work hard.  Build your own life and being sexy means being smart, generous and thoughtful.   These three words of wisdom come from none other than………wait for it……….Walden Schmidt. Actually, Schmidt is a fictional character in 2 and a Half Men played by Chris Kutcher, also known as the actor Ashton Kutcher.   Ashton gave a short  four-minute speech to a bunch of screaming teenagers who couldn’t care less what he said.   But at the end of the speech, his points scored.   Impressive!

John Wooden was, arguably, the best educator of the 20th century — and perhaps the last few centuries.   He taught incredibly important and enduring life philosophies that have touched the lives of millions.   His “pyramid of success” will be his enduring legacy.   The fact that he was the most successful coach in high-level competitive sports is merely a testament to the power of his “success” doctrine.    The above video summarizes this doctrine, but greater understanding of his remarkable legacy can be found  at his teaching  institute’s website and this documentary.

Less reknown in the U.S., Neil Gaiman offers some pithy and important observations giving more rein to the creative parts of our beings.   Like Jobs, he emphasizes pursing your unique ‘calling’ and not compromising for the almighty dollar.   While his comments are geared to creative ‘types’ his message is universal for all professions and orientations, especially free-lancers.   He is witty, perceptive and nails just about every important point in a concise manner.  His concluding counsel:  “This is great…you should enjoy it.”

Bullying is a fairly topical issue but it has been around for as long as some biblical apple-filled garden existed.   Dealing with bullying and teasing isn’t easy, but Wil Wheaton brought the matter into a finely honed focus in his hearfelt response to a question about bullying.   He said exactly what needed to be said — and in less than 3 minutes.

Hollywood has never been why about offering its audiences inspiration.   In this short clip compiled by Matthew Belinkie,  movie legends offer inspirational and irreverent wis-toids as only Hollywood can.

Charlie Chaplin.   His name evokes comedy.   Yet,  his Great Dictator speech is perhaps the most compelling video manifesto about the human condition ever filmed.   If you’ve not seen it,  it is a must.    If you have seen it,  it is a must-see again.   Excerpted from his 1939 film “The Great Dictator”  Chaplin creates a vision of how society should view itself and how we should view it, while skewering Nazi Germany.   Neo-cons beware,  your souls will be shaken by Chaplin’s plea to think less and feel more.  The entire text of his impassioned speech can be found here.

One wouldn’t think of Bob Newhart as offering great inspiration, but he has and does.   Perhaps his best piece of advice is encapsulated in this comedy skit masterpiece first broadcast on Mad TV. Newhart and Mo Collins offer inspired comedy and an inspired two-word message.

Craig Ferguson offers a 3-minute spiel on how American advertising has distorted societal norms by giving exaggerated importance to youth.    Beautifully written and delivered.

Historian and documentarian Ken Burns has produced some brilliant works in his celebrated career. But he may have raised his lofty bar to stratospheric levels in his delivered speech to Stanford graduates on June 12, 2016. He beautifully captured what makes America so special and what threatens those special qualities. This is must-see TV; in 25 minutes you’ll learn all about who we are and who we should never be.   The full text of his speech was published here.

John Jay is an advertising executive.  OK, we won’t hold it against him.    Because he has a very compelling point in this video:  don’t let others define who you are.    You want to be you and you need to resist others’ efforts to place you in their silos.     Let him explain this important concept to you.
And finally, there’s the newspaper advice columnist who tells it like it is to a clueless church-going complainer.   I couldn’t have said it any better.