Actor Ed Helms wants the class of 2013 to be full of fear.
Helms, known from his roles in "The Hangover," "The Office" and "The Daily Show," delivered the commencement address Saturday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. He nabbed an honorary degree at the ceremony, along with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Knox College dean and vice president for academic affairs Lawrence Breitborde.
The actor's theme throughout his speech was how to use fear to one's benefit, and he took a moment early on to provide some safety tips for use in the wild:
Fear is good because it is our brain's way of identifying the things about which we are ignorant. Knowing this, we should look at our fear not as a reason to avoid the things that frighten us, but as a reason to engage them. Now don't get me wrong: I'm not telling you to seek out things that are life-endangering, like fires or grizzly bears. Which, by the way, brings me to a very important point: You're supposed to run from a fire and play dead with a grizzly bear. Do not mix those up. Very important. And if you ever see a grizzly bear that's on fire, gently remind him to stop, drop and roll. And if that works, and the bear is still alive, then you should, of course, immediately play dead.
Then Helms also described how, when he began doing standup, fear helped him to keep going after he bombed on stage:
My fear said, "Last night on stage, you tanked, and it was humiliating. So naturally I'm here to nag you and tell you not to get back on that stage." And that led me to another more deliberate question: "What will happen if I do get back up there?" And fear squirmed a little, because fear despises truth, but he ﬁnally cracked and said, "Well, you're still here, right? And even if you tank again ... you'll still be here again. And here's a little silver lining that you wouldn't know if you hadn't bothered to talk to me about this: That crowd reaction, albeit brutal, is really useful data. When they laughed it was nice, but when they didn't it was even more valuable. Why did that one joke work two nights ago and bomb tonight?"
"So don't be afraid of fear," Helms concluded. "Because it sharpens you, it challenges you, it makes you stronger; and when you run away from fear, you also run away from the opportunity to be your best possible self."