This statement is first credited to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in 1888, but in the not too distant past (2011) was used repeatedly in a song by Kelly Clarkson called Stronger. I don’t believe this quote is true in all circumstances, but in many cases there are some obvious benefits of going through trials and tribulations.
Although not many people would choose struggles over prosperity, going through difficult times can help develop important character qualities. To illustrate the importance of facing adversity, I would like to share a brief synopsis of a couple famous Americans and their ability in overcoming obstacles:
One of the most beloved United States Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, lost eight different elections, had two failed business ventures and had a nervous breakdown before he became our sixteenth President in 1860.
Talk show star, Oprah Winfrey, was born to single teenage mother in Mississippi; was physically abused; became pregnant at 14 and lost her baby; and was shuttled back and forth to various family members. Today, Oprah has her own cable network and became the first African-American billionaire.
Abraham Lincoln and Oprah Winfrey are just two examples of people who have faced adversity and were able to use their setbacks as fuel for success.
How did they do it and how can you get through tough situations?
Below are three principles that should help:
Work hard! Nothing can take the place of putting forth great effort. You would be surprised what you can overcome with just giving your best.
Get help! It is not a sign of weakness to ask for assistance. If a situation is overwhelming or you need someone else’s perspective, be sure to enlist their help.
Don’t give up! This may be the most difficult, because in our high tech world we are used to instant results. This is not always the way of life. Many great things take time. Remember this wise saying by William Edward Hickson: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.
One of my students at the University of Nebraska High School recently shared an important perspective on facing adversity: “I believe the struggles you have do not determine the kind of person you are or will be, but rather are an influence on your outlook on the world—which is why our struggles make us wiser.”
For many high school students, August seems to be the favored month for the start of back-to-school. For students involved in sports, many have actually been training and working out even before the traditional pre-season of the school year officially began, and August means the start of when they can demonstrate their hard work. For others, the start of school means the reduction or the stopping of work for summer jobs as they begin to focus on their studies.
As a high school principal, my previous talks to students at the start of the school year focused on these four rules—applicable to all whether you’re an athlete, have a part-time job or anyone else.
Show up. Attendance is critical to your success—you have to be there to get the instruction offered by your teachers. For online students, you have to open up your coursework and you have to submit assignments frequently so that there is evidence of your involvement and participation on a frequent basis. Ask questions of your online teachers [email@example.com]—this lets them know you’re engaged in the process.
Do your work. Not only is it critical that you do the assignments and work assigned to you by your teachers, but you should do quality work. Remember, everything you turn in has your name on it. Your name should mean something—it is who you are and stands for the integrity of your good character. Be proud of each and every assignment you submit because it represents (or should), your very best efforts.
Practice civility. Students who really care about their education demonstrate great amounts of civility toward others—even folks they don’t know. Your words and actions matter, whether it is how you speak and act towards members of your community, others are forming an impression of how you manage yourself as a human being. Keep your words and actions positive and reflective of your dedication to yourself. Your words matter to your teachers as they grade your work and your projects. Use them wisely and carefully. Online teachers can quickly pick up the “tone” of your comments in your writing. Make it a point to practice your civility online!
School comes first. If you continue to work during the school year, which is perfectly fine (and more power to you!), just remember that your schoolwork should be your priority.
If you follow these simple rules, you are more likely to enjoy the learning experience this year.
I hope that what you will take away from this is experience is a life-long love of learning that will guide you along a very productive life. Have a great start to your year!
As an adviser, I work with seniors who go through many emotions in their final months of high school. Some are very anxious to graduate and complete their courses earlier than expected, some will continue to pace themselves to the finish at the planned time, and some want to slow down as they near to end to enjoy their high school years a while longer.
No matter how they are feeling, all have choices to make as they near graduation. Whether they want to go faster or slower to the finish line, my wish for all seniors is to capitalize on perseverance and lead yourself to many joys along the way.
I’ve been blessed by perseverance as a lifetime student. My history thrives around the ongoing pursuit of knowledge for either personal, social, sustainable, or professional goals. I’ve climbed a mountain of tasks, rolled down the hills, landed in pastures and pushed through to a finish line to find the beginning of new goal. I find the glory of overcoming any obstacle with perseverance.
Perseverance may be hard to find when you’re in high school and only starting to learn about yourself as a learner and a young adult. How can you find and capitalize your own perseverance?
Spend time with family and friends.
Learn something new to keep your tank full and brain working.
Work with a team to care for others.
Be grounded to deal with the tethered threads of life choices.
Find courage to keep learning new skills.
Wear a smile every day!
The choices you have to make like when to graduate and what to do after graduation may be scary—change always is. All you need to do is live with hope, a big shovel of resiliency, and two buckets of perseverance. I promise you will make it through!
In sports competition, what is the most important play?
You are likely to get many different answers depending on who you ask. However, to most coaches, the correct response they want from their athletes is, “the next play”.
This is a vital message coaches need to communicate to his/her team and individual players. Participants cannot be focused on what previously took place on the field, court, etc. All of their attention needs to be on what is going on in present time. If an athlete is still thinking about what just happened—either positive or negative—it takes away from their concentration on the next action.
Similarly, as you work on your academics, it is important to keep your focus on what you are currently doing. If you just had a grade you really like or one that was not so fantastic, you need to refocus and get your attention on what you are doing now. This enables you to do the best you can on the current project, assignment, test, or evaluation.
Learn from your past and prepare for your future, but focus on what you are learning today!
Fundamentals are the basic skills, techniques, etc. that serve as the foundation of any system. Being fundamentally sound is an essential if you want to be successful at something.
Throughout my years of coaching football, the team that was the most successful was usually the team that did the best in the basic fundamentals of blocking and tackling. Most football coaches plan to spend a significant part of their practice time developing or enhancing these essential skills with their players. If you are not fundamentally sound at blocking and tackling in football, you are going to struggle.
How are you in the basic fundamentals of being a good student?
Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are three standard fundamentals that can help lead you to academic success:
A regular study schedule or routine
A study environment that has minimal distractions
Completing all required homework and assigned readings
Just as there are many additional skills in football besides blocking and tackling (i.e. passing the ball, catching the ball, rushing the passer, causing turnovers, etc.) there are also many other important skills in your development as a student: writing, reading and test taking to name a few.
After you set the foundation with the basic fundamentals, you can start working on these additional skills.
What academic fundamentals do you need to work on to help you be the best student you can be?