This Thursday two of my boys & I visited Northern Illinois U, here they are...
Don't they look thrilled to be there on a nice day during spring break? It was a great visit all in all. I believe the boys liked what they saw and NIU will remain on their lists for now.
This visit was a reality check in a number of ways. Hopefully for them in some way it underscored the importance of taking time to be thorough in making the critical decision of where to invest their time (and our money) on their education. One can hope, although the 'sights' they wanted to see were walking all over the campus so not sure they came away with the same appreciation for the place I did.
For me, there were two distinct reality checks. For one, higher learning is a gift. Yes we pay for it, and pay allot for it, it is still a gift even though we buy it for ourselves and don't unwrap it on a holiday.
Just looking around at various kids deep in study, those focused on a professor working through a formula I long ago forgot, and that duo rehearsing their lines in hallway of who knows what performing arts hall we were in; they were engaged in something that can increase their opportunities for success. I say 'can' very purposely here.
Going to school and accumulating grades, class ranking, alphabet-soup test-score; these trophies of your academic career will do next to nothing to bring you success. Success does not come to you, so please do not wait for it to be brought to you.
Success MUST be achieved.
Success is achieved by PURSUING opportunity.
True, all of those things I just labeled as academic trophies, they can do something for you; just ONE thing actually. They can buy you opportunities. Or as I prefer to hear them referred to, 'tickets to the dance'. And we need opportunity, we MUST have tickets to as many dances as possible to succeed at that which we are passionate about.
So YES, go to college, graduate with the highest grades, class ranking & test-scores; striving for less from you're educational investment is to foolishly tear up dance tickets that are there to be had. Celebrate yourself silly when you graduate, celebrate like you've never celebrated before; you've earned tickets and celebration is in order.
When the celebration is over, you need to sit up & guess what, that degree you receive in the mail a few weeks after you walk down the aisle wearing that funny gown & cardboard hat, that envelope it comes in does not also have one ounce of success in it. Nope, NONE!
Opportunity is everywhere, degree or not; opportunity is there to be had by all. With degree in hand, much more opportunity awaits you and some will be amazing close too. But, just because you are at the dance does not mean you have obtained anything real, anything you can convert into the wants & needs your life craves. Nope, not just by dressing pretty & arriving at the dance, you still have no true success.
You want it success, you have to achieve it (repeating myself from above). You achieve it, by being engaged. The same way you engaged in school to earn your credentials, honor cords, and potpourri of awards. That same engagement, when applied to the opportunities you can now see... That same engagement, when performed for the dance partners that now recognize your presence...
That same Engagement + Opportunity = Success
For two, NIU reaffirmed that life is a gift. Sure, I acknowledge this is such a simple notion. And coming from one who is engaged in a battle with cancer, such a public proclamation of this notion is probably no surprise.
But it is not from my own walk which I refer to this notion. Some will recall that on Feb 14, 2008 a lone gunman (student) opened fire on the NIU campus and took the lives of 5 students. Another 21 people were injured in the tragedy.
The picture above is of the memorial that has since been erected to honor the victims of that day. Behind the brushed metal sculpture are five red granite walls (my cell phone camera could only fit in four), each wall features the name of one of the students whose life was taken that day.
Life is a gift, whether that life is short, long, or somewhere in between. Gifts should receive our earnest attention and be treated with our sincerest appreciation.
I can think of no better measure of attention and appreciation than the level of engagement we give a gift we receive.
Responsibility 199 - Gotta Do It!!