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Robert Deniro gave NYU’s Tisch School of Arts an honest dose of reality when he told them in a blunt but funny way that their hard work was just beginning.

“You’re an artist, yeah, you’re f—ed. The good news is, that’s not a bad place to start,” the legendary actor admitted to an audience filled with hopeful writers, actors and directors during their recent commencement ceremony.

Deniro noted the instability of the entertainment field and remarked that graduates with degrees in nursing, dentistry, law and education all made choices out of logic, a decision that this particular group of grads were incapable of making. But he noted the beauty of following your passion:

“You discovered a talent, developed an ambition and recognized your passion. When you feel that, you can’t fight it — you just go with it.”

“When it comes to the arts, passion should always trump common sense. You aren’t just following dreams, you’re reaching for your destiny.”

“Now that you’ve made your choice or, rather, succumbed to it, your path is clear. Not easy, but clear. You have to keep working, it’s that simple. You got through Tisch, that’s a big deal. Or, to put it another way, you got through Tisch? Big deal!”

The legendary actor who also founded the Tribeca Film Festival, revealed to the students that even he has had to deal with rejection at some point:

“Rejection might sting, but my feeling is that often, it has very little to do with you. When you’re auditioning or pitching, the director or producer or investor may have someone different in mind, that’s just how it is. That happened recently when I was auditioning for the role of Martin Luther King in Selma! Which was too bad because I could’ve played the hell out of that part—I felt it was written for me! But the director had something different in mind, and she was right. It seems the director is always right.”

With a speech like that from a man who has starred in over 90 films during his lifetime and won a number of lifetime achievement awards among other honors, I think that’s some pretty priceless advice. Now those student loan bills they’re about to start getting are another story.

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