New Castle News

June 14, 2012

Tim Kolodziej: A note to the class of 2012 — your number’s up

Tim Kolodziej
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Congratulations, class of 2012.

Good luck, kids. You’re gonna need it.

Yeah, I know. That was a pretty snarky thing to say. But I’m just being real.

As you now embark on life after high school, beware. It’s a mad, mad world we live in.

And you’re just a number. So am I.

For those of you about to enter the halls of academia, your name will no longer matter. You will now be known as 155-57-8976, or whatever your Social Security number may be.

If you’re veering into the working world, your employer will be most interested in the numbers of customers — and money — you’ll bring to the business. In turn, you’ll be quite enamored with the numbers you see on your paycheck every couple of weeks.

But if you remember nothing else about this brief message for graduates, make sure it’s this: Life is not about the numbers.

It just isn’t. Despite what you see and hear.

Chances are, you are already being bombarded with TV commercials and other promotions that appeal to your sense of worth and value in life. Don’t buy it — literally.

Instead, let’s turn away for a moment from the way Americans usually define success — by the numbers. How much you make a year, how much your home is worth, how many cars you own, how many touchdowns your child scores in a football game, how many friends you have on Facebook, how many followers you have on Twitter ... the numbers can go on and on and on.

Confession: That’s what I focused on during my college days. And that’s what I thought mattered for years after I graduated.

Now, let me repeat what I mentioned just a few sentences earlier — true success in life is not about the numbers.

It’s about so much more.

I never heard this during my commencement speech, but here are four things that life after high school has taught me about achieving real success.

•Focus on your vision — What’s your vision for your body? Your spiritual life? Your career? Your marriage? Write down what you hope to become, then live intentionally toward that end. For example, if your vision is to weigh a certain amount and have only 3 percent body fat, you may want to drive by the drive-thru at McDonald’s. If you desire to work at a certain place in three years, what will you need to do to get there?

Cast your vision. Then follow through.

•Surround yourself with quality people — There are people whom you can trust. There are people who will help carry your burdens. There are people who will help make you a better man or woman. Stay close to those people. Seek their wisdom, advice and prayers. Pour into them when it’s needed.

Lou Holtz is often credited with the the phrase, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

So drink deeply from good books. And learn to read prospective friends just as closely.

•Don’t just watch, do — There is a guy I know who is hyper-critical. He just sits back and watches those doing all the heavy lifting — and then he picks and picks to find fault with their efforts.

Don’t be that guy.

Instead, get into the game. Make an impact. Make sure you don’t have enough idle time to look around for others’ warts.

Be the employee, friend and neighbor you hope to have.

Some wisdom from Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause.”

In other words do, don’t detract.

•Learn to fail well — You’re going to fail. A lot. Maybe you already did today.

The key is to learn from your failures and grow from your mistakes. True success is falling eight times and getting up nine. True success is having the courage to try something new or different.

I love what Tony Robbins has to say on this subject: “Go out and screw up! You're going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of being human.”   

So go ahead and mess up. Then man up and move up.

Some of life’s greatest success stories have come from people who were previously known as “failures.”

So take heart. If you’ve failed today, you’re on your way.

Straight to the top.

Hope to see you all there.