By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.
“You are here to make a difference, to either improve the world or worsen it. And whether or not you consciously choose to, you will accomplish one or the other.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich
My fellow broadcasting enthusiast and MSU roommate, Steve Schram stood before a group of students in the auditorium at the Communication Arts & Sciences building. He was there to distill a lifetime of experience into ten keys to success. As we launch another freshman class into the Spartan experience, it’s appropriate to share his wisdom. It’s a cookbook for success, wherever you may be in your life’s journey.
“Lesson One: While you’re planning for the future. Savor the moment. The present. Relish the things that give you pleasure as often as you can.” This is what the perspective of time gives us “seasoned” people. It’s all too easy to worry about tomorrow and totally miss the gifts today has to give.
“Lesson Two. Friends Matter. They help sustain you in good times and in bad. They help make the world seem like a kinder gentler place.” If we’re lucky, we end up with only a few true friends. Less than five. These are the people who we would walk through fire for, who pick us up when we stumble, tell us the truth, even when it hurts, and stay by our side, even when we may have nothing to give in return. Cherish and nurture these relationships. Besides finding a soul mate, these will be the most important people in your life.
“Lesson Three. Find mentors and guides. People who care about you… people you admire and trust.” Everyone has a gift to give us. Even the knuckleheads. But there will be a rare few who will guide us in the right direction at exactly the right moment. Choose your mentors carefully. Model their behavior and heed their advice.
“Lesson four. Notice what you love doing. What engages you so deeply – it doesn’t feel like work.” This is your purpose, what you were put on earth to do. Seek it, live it, and work will blend into play, no obstacle will seem insurmountable and your body of work will be something you can be proud of.
“Lesson Five. Always write thank you notes. It shows character and class.” Sincere gratitude enriches both the recipient and the giver. Express it with class. Receive it with humility.
“Lesson six. Don’t shy away from plain old hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.” Nothing beats dedicated, focused effort. Sadly, it’s a rare commodity. That’s why there is so little competition on the extra mile.
“Lesson Seven. Be curious and listen. Listening is more important than talking. That is why we have two ears and just one mouth. If you listen… ask questions, people will tell you amazing and interesting things. And whole worlds open up.”
“Lesson Eight. Failure is one of life’s great gifts. Own it. Learn from it. Understanding how to cope with failure is key to success. Don’t make excuses. And whatever you do…don’t blame anyone else. Ever… Even if you could.” All achievement is based on a foundation of knowledge and experience. And there is no better teacher than those moments when things go wrong.
“Lesson nine. An echo of Lesson 4. Notice what you love doing and now do it the very best you can. Throw yourself at it with a vengeance.. I never planned my career. Mapped out where I wanted to land and by when. I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to lead media organizations eventually, and I’ve always been an optimist. I paid attention to what I was good at (and what I wasn’t good at.) I was obsessed with excellence and committed to perfecting my skills in every job I had. Was honest about what I didn’t know and learned from the really smart people around me.” This sums up Steve’s secret sauce. Purpose, passion and persistence. When these elements mix with an open mind and a grateful heart, anything is possible.
“Lesson Ten. Life, at its best, is a team sport…a shared experience. And for this reason, the people around you need to be part of the plan. A good mission in life is always about more than just you.” There is no greater joy than working with a group of like minded people in pursuit of a worthy goal. We become who we hang out with, so pick your team mates carefully. Help them succeed and you will too.
And here’s my addition. You earn your reputation every day. Just because you did something great yesterday doesn’t make you any more special today. We get stronger by following an exercise program that increases the resistance we face. The minute we stop pressing forward, that dream out there in the future can start to drift away from our grasp. Arrogance and complacency have destroyed some of the best and brightest. Avoid them like the plague. Exude magnanimity, kindness and compassion. Avoid energy suckers. And if you feel you’re on the right track, keep doing the things you did to get you where you are.
Whether you’re chasing a degree, a career or a soul mate, the laws of cause and effect always apply. Try living Steve’s Ten (plus one) program for the next 60 days.
And watch what happens.