I had the opportunity this week to speak to the seniors at the top of our graduating class. This group is an impressive selection of young people with an unbelievable amount of potential. My message, while easy to express in words was full of powerful ideas that will push and challenge each person to live more fully. I encouraged these seniors to do three specific things once they leave the walls of our high school.
Stop raising your hand. Do not wait for life to grant you permission to chase your dreams. You have to go out and grab that opportunity yourself. High school is a place to set the groundwork for the next phase of your lives, and a place to discover a variety of contents so you can find your passions. School sometimes does more to train students to ask permission, than it does to teach them take risks. Success values those who stop asking for permission to do this or that. Those who find greatness question, challenge, and push the status quo. They do not raise their hand, they just do.
Conditions are never perfect to start. Too often we wait for conditions to be perfect to begin. We think once we have obtained a specific degree, or a certain financial stability, or a particular position, then we can start pursuing our dreams. The problem with this is that there are never perfect conditions, never the right time, or never the unparalleled opportunity to begin. Perfect will never come, and if you are waiting for perfect, that means you are staring at the possibility of never starting anything. Start where you are and find the next logical step to where you want to be in life. Never look down on any opportunity, because taking advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small, will create a new opportunity where you can once again be your best. But, before any of this, you must start!
Care enough to do work that might fail. Playing it safe never leads to innovation. Find something you are so passionate about that you are willing to fail over and over again at it in pursuit of success. If you always play it so safe that you always get it right, then you will never know how much more you could have accomplished. If you are pushing towards bigger, better, things it will not always work out exactly how you have planned. And this is ok, in fact it is paramount in achievement. You have to fail at times to succeed. Without failure there is no true success. The challenge is that failure is not always much fun. Failure can cause you to give up as you continue to push forward. This is why it is vital to care deeply about what you do. If you do not find work that is fulfilling, you will not be willing to suffer through the dark times of failure. Failure also is vital in change. The last thing this world needs is more of the same. We must care enough to fail so we can contribute an advancement to the world around us. If you care enough about your work that you are willing to fail in the efforts to create new and better ideas, then you have found work that truly matters to the world.
It has been an honor to serve these students and my community as a principal during the past school year. This group will always be a special one for me, because they are my first group of seniors as a high school principal. There is great potential in all of our students. As we wrap up one school year and move into another in a few short months, the challenge for us as educators is how do we find opportunities to teach these two ideas to our students? How do we push the limits of traditional educational structures to do what is best for our students? How do we, as educators and innovators, stop asking permission to make changes we know are best for kids and care enough about our work to deal with the failures that will come in this process of change?
Now it’s time, to stop raising our hands as we pursue work and ideas that might fail! I hope there are many positive failures in your future!
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!