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May 15, 2020 9 mins

Aaron Mahnke is the creator, producer, and host of the hit podcast Lore (Best of iTunes 2015 & 2016). He is also the Executive Producer of the Lore television show on Amazon (from the producer of The Walking Dead), author of The World of Lore book series (Penguin Random House / Del Rey), creator and host of Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities, as well as Executive Producer of the Noble Blood podcast, hosted by author Dana Schwartz.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Commencement Speeches for the Class of twenty is a production
of I Heart Radio. Class of Parents, Faculty, rising graduates,
Welcome to commencement. You made it. This year is a

little different, a difficult time to graduate because the traditional
graduation day has been put on hold. So we're bringing
it to you wherever you are, because this is still
your day, your moment. And now put your hands together.
It's time to be inspired. This year's commencement speaker the
one and only Aaron Manky. Possibility. That's a word that

must be on your mind these days. You've studied for
a very long time, you focused and learned and grown
as a student and as a human being. After all
of that, you can't help but feel as if you
are full of possibility. But then the uncertainty creeps in
like a shadow that chases away the sunlight. Uncertainty in

your options, in your potential, and how ready the world
is to receive you and give you a small little
slice to call your own. Everyone has doubts, and everyone
battles with feeling like an impostor. But all of that
probably feels magnified these days, in these uncertain times. When

I was a kid, my mom took me to a
local store to buy a new toy. Now, I grew
up in the eighties, so most of those shopping trips
were focused on things like transformers, g I Joe, and ThunderCats.
But this trip was different. We were there to buy
a kite. I remember the ride home. I had picked

one of the many cheap plastic kites that were available,
printed with the golden brown eagle. At least that's what
the package said. I still needed to assemble it, and
the moment we got home, that's exactly what I did. Now,
kites are a funny object. They are full of, for
lack of a better term, possibility. Just looking at the

golden Eagle on my bedroom floor, I knew that it
was designed to soar over the neighborhood. Those wings that frame,
the four ft long roll of string about the size
of a pocket knife, all of it screamed possibility. But
there was a whole lot of uncertainty too. Who was
I to try and fly this magnificent plastic device. Why

did I believe that I could do it when I
had never done it before? And what if it crashed?
What if it broke? What if even taking a chance
meant failing and never getting another shot again. I remember
all of those emotions, but I also remember pushing them
aside and doing it anyway, because the thrill was in

the attempt. Right to do something, even poorly, was infinitely
more enjoyable than to just sit in fear and never
know if it was possible, And the same can be
said for the rest of life. If you never try,
you will never have a chance to succeed. This is
probably a bad time to tell you that I don't
use my college degrees. I have a few of them

in unrelated fields, and those are fields I don't work in.
That was the plan, of course, But plans are rough
sketches drawn over life with pencil, and every twist and
turn in your adventure requires making corrections and adjustments or
going back to the drawing board Entirely. I'm not suggesting
that your plans are worth pursuing. It's just that, well,

life is messy. So one minute you might be earning
a degree in psychology and the next year producing one
of the top history podcasts and world And that's okay,
because success isn't always found in defiantly sticking to the plan,
no matter how many curveballs life throws at you. Sometimes
success is just learning how to learn, how to be

flexible and how to see a door where there should
only be a wall. I haven't always been a podcaster,
and I never saw this coming down the road, believe me,
But I did have a dream. It was a simple
and honest one, I guess, and it never got in
the way of my professional life. Since the age of ten,
I've written stories, and while I often wondered where that

hobby would lead me, I didn't let the uncertainty stopped
me from testing the possibilities. When I created Lore, the
podcast I'm best known for, the one that was adapted
for TV and published as a book series, and all
of the fun adventures that it has allowed. I was
on the edge of quitting, but I took a chance

on an old dream, and somehow, against all odds, it
worked out. Ever since, I've been asked the very same
question by a lot of people, how did you do that?
How did you make the leap and find all those successes?
And for a very long time I gave the same
answer to each of them. I have no idea, honestly,

So much of what I've done over the last few
years has been me making things up as I go,
learning on the job, trying, failing, and trying again. Although
now that I think about it, that's just life in general,
isn't it. Because at the end of the day, things
like your class rank or the type of degree you'll

be able to claim, those things aren't as important as
the bigger message of graduation. You have proven that you
can learn, that you can adapt and work through challenges,
that you can master something if required. But still I
don't know how to teach other people to do what
I did with lore. But having been asked about it

over the years, and having done a lot of thinking
about it, one truth started to float to the surface.
Some things are controllable and some things aren't. And it
all goes back to kites. Just about everything that you
will do in life is like flying a kite. Think
about the entire process from start to finish. If you

want your kite to soar over the neighborhood, high up
there in the sky, then you need to do some work.
You need to build the kite, of course, to assemble
those pieces and get it into the right shape. Then
you need to go outside and run around in your
yard or the neighborhood park, dragging the kite behind you.
Then the wind steps in, lifts those plastic wings and

takes your kite into the air. And everyone wants their
kite to sore. They want their book published, or to
advance in their career, or to launch a hit podcast.
Dreams are wonderful and all of us have them. But
at the end of the day, you can't control every
aspect of your dream. There will always be parts of it,

sometimes even essential pieces, that will be out of your control,
and that will feel frustrating and discouraging. I know, and
for a lot of people, the tendency is to just
give up, to let go of the controllables and stop dreaming.
And flying a kite is a mix of those elements.
You can control building it, you can control getting outside,

and you can control running around trying to get it
into the air. But you can't control the wind, can you.
You can't predict it, or command it or manipulate it
like a video game to do what you want. The
wind either shows up or it doesn't, So giving up
on flying a kite means going home and taking your

kite apart. But if you're not outside dragging that kite
behind you as you run through the park. Then you'll
never be ready for when the wind does show up
if you don't maintain the controllables, and you'll never be
able to take advantage of the uncontrollables when they arrive.
For me, I could control writing. I showed up every

day and made my thing. I put it out there,
and I dragged it around behind me. All of those
things were within my control, and I never stopped doing them.
The rest most people would probably call it luck. One day,
the wind just arrived and it took the kites I
had built, the one that I was already in the

park pulling behind me, and it launched it into the air.
We can't control the uncontrollable, but we can certainly be
ready when it finds us. I don't know what your
future holds. In a lot of ways, I don't think
you do, either, But I think we can all agree
that it's going to be a mixture of possibility and uncertainty,

and that at the end of the day, what matters
most is that you try, you learn, you grow, you
adapt and rise to meet new challenges, and that you
never stopped building your kite dragging it around waiting for
the wind to blow. You can find a collection of

incredible commencement addresses from all your favorite speakers at the
Commencement Podcast on I Heart Radio or wherever you listen
to podcasts.
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