How I Spent The 4 Months Preparing for A Commencement Address

Hilary Corna
6 min readMay 17, 2022

I’ve been invited by Elon University to give a commencement address. This is something I never expected. I haven’t even thought of it as a possibility.

I am an achiever. I relentlessly go after my dreams and have fulfilled most of them, but this is different. This is not something you pursue or chase after. I literally fell face down to the floor in disbelief when I got the call from Elon.

That was almost 5 months ago. And today I want to share with you what I’ve done to prepare for the commencement address I’ll be delivering at my alma mater this coming Friday.

At first, I was trying to be modest and didn’t want to talk outwardly about it. But people kept asking and want to hear how I’ve been preparing. Then I realize that by limiting myself in sharing, I’m limiting people from being a part of it.

To watch the commencement address live, join us here.

The Preparation Process

I’m not a perfectionist. But when I decide to do something I make it a priority to do it well, especially when it only happens once. Giving this commencement address matters deeply to me. I’m truly honored by this opportunity. This is literally something I won’t be able to do again.

Over the last four months in preparing for this talk, I came up with my own approach that I know you can also adapt to any creative project you may have or want to do.

First Month: Brainstorming

The first month when I found out that I was getting asked to do a commencement address at Elon, I was on fire. I was so inspired for the first four weeks. I spent this period purely brainstorming. No edits. No re-reading. Just putting ideas on paper.

Without realizing it, the steps I went through in preparing for this commencement address are similar to the steps from a decision-making model I’ve been taught at Toyota.

When people make decisions, there are usually 4 steps:

  1. Gathering information
  2. Artist phase
  3. Deciding
  4. Warrior — taking bold, decisive action
Hilary Corna

CEO | Founder of The Human Way | Bestselling Author | New book #UNprofessional out 9/21 | Host of the UNprofessional podcast | As seen in Forbes, Fortune, WSJ