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June 5, 2014

Tim Kolodziej: Go ahead, graduates, and swing for the fence

NEW CASTLE — “Who won?”

Wait ... what?

The kid wasn’t joking. Despite some obvious signs around him, he really wanted to know.

“We won,” I told him.

“Cool,” he said.

It was a pretty epic win, too.

Our little league team had just completed a furious rally to earn an extra innings victory over the first-place squad.

The coaches were jacked.

Parents were cheering.

As we prepared to shake hands with our opponent, that’s when the centerfielder asked about the outcome.

“Who won?”

Great question, kid.

I’m so glad you asked.

But here’s the thing: you’ll soon learn it doesn’t really matter anyway.

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t even like.”  — Dave Ramsey

Nobody asked me, but if I had to offer a few morsels of wisdom to the class of 2014, I would start with this: Life is a lot like a little league baseball game.

It really is.

So this week, as many of you don your cap and gown and share the stage with your high school classmates for the last time, let’s keep in mind a triple play for true and lasting success.

1) Stop keeping score and just play — “Who won?”

“Really?” I thought. “You just played eight innings and you don’t know who won?”

But the more I thought about that question, the more I wished I were like the kid who asked.

What a great way to go through life. Just think how much more fufilling and meaningful it would be if we stopped working toward outcomes and, instead, simply focused on COMMITMENTS.

I mean, does anyone really WIN? And if so, who decides?

OK, so you’re a noted researcher who has created a new drug. Does that mean you beat us? Heck no, we’re going to cheer you on and hope you keep finding ways to battle our illnesses.

OK, so you’re an international businessman who travels the globe making deals. Are we somehow trailing him? Not a chance. Let’s root him on so he creates more opportunities for those who want to work in that  industry.

OK, so you are one of the fortunate few who made it in Hollywood. Does that mean we surrender because you whipped us by “mercy rule?” Not a chance. Let us know when your movie opens so we can buy tickets.

If that’s the direction you want your life to go, by all means start running. It’s always a good time to live in the heal, deal and reel worlds.

Just don’t burden yourself chasing someone else’s dream. Doing something because you are told it offers “good money” or benefits or a company car will last only so long before you are miserable.

You have been uniquely gifted to serve and bring joy to the world as only you can. And when we dig in and take a cut from our true sweet spot, the hits usually come. That’s how life works best.

So stop keeping score and just play.

It’s so much more fun that way.

2) You’ve got to swing the bat — Nothing frustrates me more than to watch a player take a third strike. The kid never even gave himself a chance to get on base.

If you’re going to go down, at least go down swinging.

Here’s what that means for you, high school graduate: Don’t leave your dreams in the batter’s box. If something is important to you, if you can’t go a day without thinking about it, at least make an attempt to reach first base. Then take your lead and race to second when you get some momentum.

Studies show that today’s graduates will have up to eight jobs by the time they are 30. The days of working at one place for one salary are nearly gone. Instead, you’re more likely to work for three or four clients with an opportunity to earn much more.

So, yes, just because you start somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll finish there. And that means it’s possible to give your best at your day job and still chase your dream at night.

Take the class. Find a mentor. Learn from books, podcasts and videos. There is so much information available to everyone that it’s almost mind-numbing. And there is just the right amount for you.

But you can’t leave the bat on your shoulder.

Keep your eye on the ball, turn your hips and take a cut.

Even if you strike out, at least you’ve gone down swinging.

It may sting for a while. But there’ll be no regrets.

3) Put on your rally caps — You’re gonna need them.

Even though there are many, many more opportunities in front of you than when your parents left school, there are also plenty of pitfalls.

Write it down: You’re going to fail.

Maybe often.

The good news is that life gives us more than three strikes. If you get called out, dust yourself off and jump back into the game and make a play.

I was told a long time ago that throughout all of our lives, we’ll be in one of three places — entering a crisis, in the midst of a crisis or just coming out of a crisis.

You’ll soon learn there is much truth to that statement.

When you feel as if you’re falling behind — and you will — don’t quit. Keep hustling. Take extra batting practice. Change your swing, if you must.

Just keep thinking “next play.”

If you are breathing, you’ve got a purpose. If you are breathing, you’ve got teammates who are counting on you. If you are breathing, you’ve still got a chance to round the bases.

So congratulations, 2014 graduates. You’re now in the on-deck circle of life.

Soon it will be time to step up to the plate and knock it out of the park, so make sure every at-bat counts.

Even if no one is keeping score.


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