DESPITE THE FACT that your 550 Twitter followers and 100+ ‘likes’ for the latest food pic you posted make you feel significant the fact is: you are not. This is absolutely contradictory to any commencement speech you’ve heard in the past and flies in the face of the social media revolution in which we find ourselves. The fact is many of you haven’t accomplished anything to stand out and your Facebook posts (no matter how accomplished they make you feel) hold no weight in the real world. So do something about it.
During my years in college, I was blessed to have an honest (at the time I would have said annoyingly blunt) professor who became a dear friend through the many classes I took with him. He had the unique character trait of being the most motivating individual; while also being one the harshest I have ever known. He didn’t take excuses, he employed strict guidelines for papers that he expected you to meet; and he regularly told us how, “we didn’t bring anything to the table until we brought something to the table.” Now that statement sounds circular, but what he meant was that the fact that we just showed up with the expectation that we’re going to receive benefit is foolish if we’re not willing to bring tangible value to the table. Admittedly, this kind of brash conclusion did not sit well with me. I’m a millennial, and as such, I fall into a generation that received a trophy for just showing up and was told constantly how I could do anything just because I existed. However, as I got to know my professor he opened up my eyes to how silly and presumptive the concept of inherit entitlement was and motivated me to strive for success instead of assuming success. You are not successful just because you exist. You are not successful just because you have a degree. You are not successful just because you can say something pithy in less than 140 characters.
So what is success? How do I stand out from the crowd that totes scores of participation trophies? Simple answer: get to work. Study harder, organize smarter, stay later, ask more questions, evaluate your performance more critically, and get off your butt and get after your goals. This is what our society needs, and this is how you bring tangible value to the table. Stop expecting your instructors to reward you because you show up to class. That is not an accomplishment. Rewards are given to people who show time and time again that they are willing to sacrifice for what they want. The names you find in your history books and the leaders of Fortune 500 companies aren’t necessarily endowed with more natural ability than you – they were simply people who worked hard for what they wanted and were humble enough to acknowledge that they weren’t special in and of themselves.
So, the question for you remains: are you going to recognize your insignificance and fight to bring value to your life and the lives of the people around you? If not, I’m sure someone will give you a trophy for just showing up.
Chad Hester is an Adult Admissions Officer at Sullivan Tech. He is married to a gorgeous woman named Casey and has two daughters: Emma Juliette (16 months) and Norah Renae (7 weeks). He loves reading, playing basketball, drinking good beer/bourbon/coffee, and grilling out. He spends a lot of time loving on his three girls and working with the leadership team at his local church, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.