Mindy Kaling’s five-point plan for anyone who wants to be a success

Mindy Kaling says you should be delusional.
Mindy Kaling says you should be delusional.
Image: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
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Of all the characters on the hit comedy The Office, Kelly Kapour—the self-involved customer-service rep played by Mindy Kaling—may have been the most shamelessly delusional in the show’s parade of the clueless. And clinging to your strongly held yet desperately misguided beliefs is a key part of the advice the actor, comedian, and writer gave in her commencement address at Dartmouth College, where she graduated in 2001.

“I’ll tell you my secret, the one thing that has kept me going through the years, my superpower: delusion. This is something I may share with our president, a fact that is both horrifying and interesting,” Kaling said, noting that US president Donald Trump stands as a testament to how far one can get by simply believing that you’re the smartest, most-successful person in the world. ”My point is, you have to have insane confidence in yourself. Even if it’s not real.”

Unlike her character on The Office, Kaling absolutely crushes life, from starring in industry-shaping box-office hits like A Wrinkle in Time and Ocean’s 8 and creating six seasons of her own TV show, The Mindy Project, to raising a daughter on her own. Here’s what she told Dartmouth’s Class of 2018 so they can roll like her.

How to be an adult, in five steps

  1. Remove “proficient at Microsoft Word” from your resume. “That is ridiculous. You’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel of competency there. This is how you become proficient at Word: You open Word on your computer.” 
  2. Realize most of your post-college life is simply filling out forms. ”Car insurance, health insurance W-2’s, W-4’s, 10-99s. Guess what: None of us know what any of those forms mean, but you will fill out 100 of them before you die.”
  3. You never need more than one pancake. ”Trust me on this. Cartoons have trained us to want a giant stack of those bad boys. But order one first, then just see how you feel later.”
  4. This one is for the guys, specifically. “When you go on dates, act as if every woman you’re talking to is a reporter for an online publication that you are scared of. One shouldn’t need the threat of public exposure and scorn to treat women well, but if that’s what it’s going to take, fine. Date like everyone’s watching, because we are.”
  5. Buy a toilet plunger. ”This might be the most important. Trust me on this. Don’t wait until you need a plunger to buy a plunger.”

No matter whether you’re graduating college, have left school four years ago, have worked in finance for 20 years and wear fancy suits, are a forty-something with three children, have a reasonably stable life or are a complete mess, these five points apply. They will bring you some order, and save you some stress. They will make you a better person, partner, and professional.

A final note, on self-promotion

As she concludes her speech, Kaling addressed the women in the audience directly:

Hey girls. We need to do a better job of supporting each other. I know that I am guilty of it too. We live in a world where it seems like there’s only room for one of us at the table, so when another woman shows up we think, oh my god, she’s going to take the one woman spot that was supposed to be mine! But that’s just what certain people want us to do.

Wouldn’t it be better if we worked together to dismantle a system that makes us feel like there’s limited room for us? Because when women work together we can accomplish anything. Even stealing the world’s most-expensive diamond necklace from the Met Gala, like in Ocean’s Eight, a movie starring me, which opens in theaters on June 8. And to that end, women, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn, like I just did.