Sunday, May 19, 2013

Life Teaches What High School Can't

From Sunday's Times and News-Star

Hello distinguished graduates, honored guests, etc., etc., ad infinitum…

It must be a law that you have to hear a commencement address. Not a bad idea, actually. But the law says nothing of length, so while its inspiration level is for you to decide, this address most likely will be the most time efficient one you’ll ever hear. Sweet.

The main reason I’m here is as an example. When I sit down you’ll think, “If that man can get a job, I know I can!” Good. That’s my role: I don’t argue with it.

Forced to retire from the advice-giving business years ago, I instead share with you what life has taught me, including the truism that while it was a smart move in the 1970s and 1980s, betting the home underdog on Monday Night Football the past 10 seasons is a losing proposition and borders on overwhelming stupidity. Things change. Just saying…

So, life has taught me that things change. It doesn’t always tell you when. Or how.

So life has taught me that it’s not fair, and there you go. If life were fair, Elvis would still be alive. And all the Elvis impersonators would be dead.

Life has taught me that Winston Churchill was right. Never, never give up. Of course, if it’s illegal or stupid, it’s best to give up. You can’t go through life knocking off fruit stands for money. But if it’s something that’s morally right and something you’re passionate about and something that helps your brother, never, never give up.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was right. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. You passed physics without enthusiasm? Good. But that’s not great. Enthusiasm is contagious.

The late charismatic basketball coach Jim Valvano was right. He is one of many who’ve suggested we should do at least three things every day. One is laugh. Two is spend time in thought. Three is have your emotions moved to tears, maybe by happiness or joy. Though tears might come from sadness, at least the tears keep you in touch with your emotions and you know you’re still able to feel.

Life’s taught me that we don’t think enough. People say, “OK, I’ll think about it,” but then something unexpected happens at work or they have to stop by the grocery store or they choose to do something else and they never stop and think at all. To think is an act of purpose. If you don’t think, you have no plan. And if you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail. Think. You’d be surprised how 10 minutes spent thinking about a specific problem or goal will clear the water.

Life will teach you what high school can’t, that time goes by faster than you can at this point imagine, that you are loved, right now, more than you’ve ever dared dream, and that you are capable of much more good – or, unfortunately, much more bad -- than you’ve ever thought possible.

Finally, Coach Buttermaker, played by Walter Matthau in the original “Bad News Bears,” was right. You didn’t come into this life to just sit in the shade on a dugout bench. Get in the game and do the best you can.

It’s an honor to share the world with you. Your youth and enthusiasm and willingness to learn and achieve are inspiring and can make a world of positive difference. But you can’t win the pennant in May or in one game. It’s a long season. Go get ’em, one pitch at a time.