A couple weekends ago I watched Independence Day for the umpteenth time. Aliens. Explosions. President Lonestar. The Fresh Prince…what’s not to like about this flick! My favorite scene, though, has nothing to do with any of this. In a touching moment between Julius Levinson, played incredibly by Judd Hirsch, and his son David, the father looks at his son as he’s about to fly off in a wrecked space fighter to nuke the alien mothership and says, “I’m very proud of you.” The ultimate prize. Every child wants to hear that from a parent. Every employee wants to hear that from their boss. To know that our actions have not only pleased someone, but instilled them with a sense of admiration.
This semester I’ve been inspired by a number of students. Either through their actions, or their enthusiasm, or just their sheer moxy in the face of overwhelming odds. Some are starting entirely new businesses. Some were prodded out of their shell. Others have just done things that amazed me. They’ve found jobs and internships, made new connections, and discovered what they want to do with their one “wild and precious life.” We’ve highlighted a few of their stories already. Students like Lionel, Kyle, Nicole, Matt, Omayra, Andrew, and Sam. But there are others out there, too. Seeing you grow has inspired me, and as the semester winds down I just wanted to let you know…
Over the last two semesters I’ve seen you fielding opportunities left and right. Instead of sticking to one thing and plodding along, you threw yourself into a new opportunity, just to find out that it wasn’t what you wanted to do. Did you give up? No, you shook it off and pushed forward again with the same energy that I know will help you succeed. Your curiosity and enthusiasm is contagious! I’m very proud of you Brittany!
We never know what people are going through. It’s true. You never know what people are facing. And yet, some people remain positive and optimistic through it all. You say you just want to have a normal experience yet you can’t, but always seem to be able to stay positive. You could use things as a crutch, but you offer no excuses. I’m very proud of you, Kayla!
Learning is about moments. Moments of enlightenment. When the pieces all come together in your head and BANG, you get it! You had that happen and were smart enough to embrace it rather than deny it. Now I see you throwing yourself into helping others reach the same level of understanding. If I were to lead an Army, they’d be a lot like you! I’m very proud of you, Andre!
Sometimes figuring out what you’ll do takes time. You have to try lots of stuff. But then it clicks. There are those who have, as Jesse James calls it, that tickle in the back of their head that just needs to be released. You had an idea and instead of dismissing it, you and your business partner will make it happen. After all that time trying to find the right answer, I think you finally got the answer right! I’m very proud of you, Jeff!
My students have some pretty cool jobs. They do everything from racing cars and surfing to selling clothes that I wish I could wear. Some wait tables and tend bar, others put in a 40 hour week in an office. And then there are artists. You have a gift and you are honing the skills you need as you go. Be critical of your work, but find what’s right as well. Remember that, as James Lipton said, “Greatness occurs at the intersection of talent and technique.” Be positive and keep improving. I’m very proud of you, Terry!
So, why did I use this space to let my students know this? Because a couple months ago on our regular Sunday call, my Dad brought up what we’re doing here. We talk about work a lot. Mostly I talk, he asks questions. He enjoys Dean Jarley’s line about the irony of me leading a professionalism class designed to give students career direction through activity; something I would have run from as a student. I was going on and on about some challenge. And then he stopped and said, “I’m proud of you, Lon.”
There is no greater reward.