"The very inexperience that in college made me feel insecure and made me want to play by others' rules, now was making me actually take risks I didn't even realize were risks."
Natalie Portman delivered this year's commencement address to the graduates at Harvard University, reflecting on her own time at the school.
She attended Harvard from 1999 to 2003, earning a degree in psychology in the process. She went into school worried that maybe she didn't really belong, that maybe others believed she was only there because of her fame. ("Star Wars Episode I" had just come out, and she had roles in a handful of other movies in the years leading up to that.)
But then she started in on the true theme of her speech: Inexperience can be a powerful asset.
For many students, going off to college can be a scary thing. For most, it's the first time they're away from their parents for any length of time, and it most certainly is a time of inexperience.
Inexperience and failure can guide who we are and what we look for in life.
Portman's first film was called "The Professional." She took the audience back to one of her first reviews that would go on to affect her approach toward acting.
"Ms. Portman, a ravishing little gamine, poses far better than she acts," Janet Maslin wrote in her 1994 New York Times review of the film.
Over the long run, "The Professional" would come to be considered a moderately successful cult classic, but at the time, Portman saw it as a total failure. She acknowledges, though, that to this day, people will compliment her on this role from more than two decades ago.
This experience informed the career choices she made from there on out. She was determined to be "good" and not just "done."
And this passion, combined with a bit of inexperience, is what led her to the part of a lifetime.
It's because of her inexperience that she took on a high-risk, high-reward role in "Black Swan."
"People told me that 'Black Swan' was an artistic risk, a scary challenge to try to portray a professional ballet dancer," she says. "But it didn't feel like courage or daring that drew me to it. I was so oblivious to my own limits that I did things I was woefully unprepared to do. And so the very inexperience that in college made me feel insecure and made me want to play by others' rules, now was making me actually take risks I didn't even realize were risks."
Had she known what it took to be a ballerina, maybe she wouldn't have taken that chance. Maybe she would have passed on the role. But she took it.
So, before you become too realistic about your limits, use your inexperience for what its worth. Natalie Portman did and she took home an Oscar for it.