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Life Lessons

Lynn Rothenhoefer - April 5, 2017

In contemplating the end of another academic year, I consider parting words especially for those students who come to end of this chapter in the journey of life having completed the requirements for their degree. It’s often a bittersweet moment: with the “wanting to get out” and feel that sense of achievement, but despite the enthusiasm of the “let me at this big bad world” thoughts there are hesitations in the “don’t let it swallow me up” category.

If you’ve met me, you know I’m competitive… tough – even. “Brutally honest” and “tell it like it is” are often phrases used to describe me, but in trying to put those thoughts above in perspective I came across a TED talk the great UCLA men’s basketball coach, John Wooden, gave. It covers multiple areas but the theme is “the difference between winning and success.” While he acknowledges Mr. Webster’s definition he gives one of his own….

While your life has been marked by grades, classes on a time schedule, semesters, mid-terms, final exams, and other measurable markers you are about to enter the longest span of your life that is mostly up to you, and perhaps best assessed by Coach’s definition of success. Especially for we student athletes, it’s been a lot about the points on the board, better time at the finish line, or lowest round of golf. Since most all of you will go off and as the NCAA commercial says, “go professional in something other than sports,” how will you “mark” your achievements? When will you know, you have succeeded? And, will you have “won” or “lost?” What will bring you back to practice the next day to strive to do better?

It’s a lot about the ability to self-reflect and sustainability. Hopefully you will have flashes in the pan – the amazing days and achievements that can only be described as, “hitting it out of the park.” I’m certain you will also have those days when “success” seems to be the furthest thing from your reality. Most of your days are hopefully filled with more of what Coach talks about – “did I do the best of which I am capable?” There will be days, weeks, months that you will get a paycheck and you will be a standout! Man, you will crush it! There will also be times that you tanked… people will carry your butt and perhaps your office plant die too. Many days will be spent in between. You’ll have bills, and you’ll want to do things, so that paycheck will be important; even own a home, take vacations, and have a family, but what will make you “successful?”

I contend Coach has a point. In having “peace of mind” and “self-satisfaction” and “knowing you made the effort” you breed purpose and motivation; two things we humans don’t do too well without. For it is in the continual striving to be better through these markers of assessment, that we have reasonable and reliable expectations for the long haul, and they are things that each of us has control over. That is not to say that life and the world won’t throw road blocks in the way, put the occasional speed bump, or days where you can’t seem to get your feet under you. As Coach says three things his father used to say, “don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses… get out there and whatever your doing do the best you can for no one can ask any more than that.” Just make sure that you evaluate your “best” as the highest standard for you – not what you want it to be, and not handicapped by chaos you may perceive around you. Know that some days will be less successful than others, and that will bring you “back to practice” tomorrow; or when you have success you’re going to need to go “back to practice” to stay there.

Here’s to much success, and God’s speed!

If you’d like to view Coach Wooden’s talk, the link is: Click Here