Hollywood's top life lessons

17:00, May 13 2014
Sean Diddy Combs
LIFE LESSONS: Sean 'Diddy' Combs has just picked up his honorary humanities doctorate from Howard University.

He's been Puff Daddy, P Diddy and just plain old Diddy.

And now, rapper Sean Combs has a new title to add to the list - doctor.

The serial name-changer joined the elite class of Hollywood personalities who've been invited back to campus last week, receiving an honorary humanities doctorate from Howard University.

"Only this family could take one of its sons that's already had three name changes and give him a fourth," the newly honoured Dr Combs joked.

Inspired by his address, here are some choice insights these big names didn't find in their textbooks.     

1. Aim for success, but be kind to yourself

Harvard alumni Conan O'Brien is an overachiever - scriptwriter on The Simpsons, comedian, late night talk show host.

That's why his message about the danger of putting too much pressure on yourself for the class of 2000 was a welcome surprise.

"Success is a lot like a bright white tuxedo," he explained.

"You feel terrific when you get it but then you're desperately afraid of getting it dirty, of spoiling it."     

2. Bad failures happen to good people

She's reportedly a billionaire but J K Rowling was once the "biggest failure" she knew.

Her marriage had failed and she was alone, jobless and not far from sleeping rough.

While it wasn't easy, the Harry Potter author managed to pick herself up and keep plodding on - something countless kids are grateful for.

"I was still alive and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea," she told a Harvard audience in 2008.

"And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."     

3. It's not all about you

She made her name playing a nun - a wayward nun, but one nonetheless - so it's perhaps no surprise Julie Andrews had some typically selfless advice for University of Colorado students.

"The real trick is to stop focusing on yourselves and start focusing on others," she said.

Recounting how she used to fret before performances about what the audience would think, Andrews said her light-bulb moment came when she realised she was "in a position to brighten their day."

What an angel.     

4. Throw away your master plan

Jane Lynch's star has risen since she took on the role of Glee's wickedly blunt coach, Sue Sylvester.

And for her 2012 address to Smith College, the Emmy-winning actress decided to be similarly frank when urging students to ignore the impulse to plan ahead.

"Stop it! Stop it now!" she implored.

"Don't deprive yourself of the exciting journey your life can be when you relinquish the need to have goals and a blueprint."     

5. Make wine fuel, shun tobacco and embrace mammary support

On a slightly more practical note, Tina Fey decided to use her speech to the graduating class of New York private school Fieldston to make a few personal requests.

She asked the next generation to devote their considerable energy into inventing a car that runs entirely on wine.

And, if they had time: "Wear a bra (and) don't smoke."

Lesson learned.