Make It New Grads

Hillary Clinton: How to pick yourself up after a devastating fail

In honor of graduation season, CNBC Make It is rolling out the speeches and pieces of advice that America's leaders are most excited to share with the Class of 2017. Follow along using the hashtag #MakeItNewGrads.

When you are truly pushing your limits, failure is inevitable. But it's not always so public as the election was for Secretary Hillary Clinton, who in November lost the presidency to Donald Trump.

And yet Friday, Clinton appeared in front of the Wellesley College Class of 2017 and delivered a confident, and at times political, commencement speech.

"You may have heard that things didn't exactly go the way I planned," she says. "But you know what? I'm doing okay."

Clinton found inspiration to continue moving forward by spending time with those she loves and reminding herself of her own purpose.

"I've gotten to spend time with my family, especially my amazing grandchildren," she says. "But here's what helped most of all: remembering who I am, where I come from and what I believe."

Also, she drew inspiration from those around her who were steadfast.

"One of the things that gave me the most hope and joy after the election, when I really needed it, was meeting so many young people who told me that my defeat had not defeated them," she says.

Clinton returned to the women's college located outside of Boston, Ma., 48 years after she delivered the student commencement speech in 1969. She was also the commencement speaker in 1992.

"One of the things that gave me the most hope and joy after the election ... was meeting so many young people who told me that my defeat had not defeated them." -Hillary Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton speaks at commencement at Wellesley College May 26, 2017.
Photo by Darren McCollester
Hillary Clinton speaks at commencement at Wellesley College May 26, 2017.

After Trump won, Clinton got a letter from Wellesley alumni who had worked for her presidential campaign.

"They worked their hearts out. And, like a lot of people, they're wondering: What do we do now?"

Her answer is applicable for anyone facing a defeat, failure of loss.

"There's only one answer, to keep going," she says. "Don't be afraid of your ambition, of your dreams, or even your anger — those are powerful forces. But harness them to make a difference in the world."

And that, she says is key. After a crushing defeat, turn an emotional reaction into action.

"Because while free and fierce conversations in classrooms, dorm rooms, dining halls are vital, they only get us so far. You have to turn those ideas and those values into action," she says.

Clinton admitted there was one other tool she used to recover: "I won't lie. Chardonnay helped a little, too."

Look for more exclusive pieces of advice from icons like Melinda Gates, Dave Ramsey and others over the next few weeks. Follow along using the hashtag #MakeItNewGrads.

See also:

Mark Zuckerberg: Success comes from 'the freedom to fail,' so billionaires like me should pay you to do that

What Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is more afraid of than screwing up his $438 billion company

Read the full text of Mark Zuckerberg's 2017 Harvard commencement speech on success, failure and entrepreneurship