have some bad news for you.
not going to be President of the United States.
know… I know… quite a shock.
thing is… well… let’s do some math.
about ten years, the United States is going to celebrate two hundred
and fifty years of existence. (Nice. Happy Birthday, America!
Congratulations on the vast majority of your accomplishments.)
that time, unless we have a wave of resignations, we still will
not have had fifty people serve as President of the United States.
Even if we stretch the math, we have two hundred and fifty years,
divided by fifty presidents… about five years per president.
taking a bit more from that math, we can expect that over fifty
years, ten people will have been in the office. You can’t run
until after your thirtieth birthday. And you almost without question
definitely won’t be elected after you turn eighty.
we have created a fairly decent fifty-year window of opportunity
for ten people. Are you one of the ten?
suppose you probably could be. It’s not absolutely impossible.
But the reality is, more people are going to win Powerball jackpots,
and no, you won’t be president.
question: Do you want to be president?
would love to be a professional singer. Unfortunately, I can’t
sing. And that makes it a difficult career goal. (Not impossible.
certainly do believe that some people, more than others, can view
becoming president as a fair and possible career objective. For
most of us though… even with the math offering limited opportunities…
guess though, is that the days are gone… I do believe… when a
lot of kids actually want to be president.
I was in elementary school, we got the positive version of “Flowers
are red” (Harry Chapin classic… find… listen to it… love it… and
pay attention to the message it contains.). We were told that
when we grew up, we could be president. It was a time when boys
dreamed of being firefighters and baseball players. Eventually
a bad coach and the inability to hit a curveball derailed my baseball
the real lesson here is that I don’t know if it matters what the
realities are of the job description. Instead, it rests with the
definition you place upon success.
you have to be a millionaire? Do you have to own a home? Do you
have to graduate from college?
think we can all think of a few people that we would consider
successful, influential, and of significant importance that didn’t
make millions… didn’t have a home… didn’t get a college degree.
the question becomes one of character. When you challenged yourself,
did you take on the challenge? Did you accept it and make an attempt?
I’m not even going to judge success based on wins and losses.
I’m going to allow for decisions based on effort.
Lombardi I believe – and I’m paraphrasing – once said that winning
is getting up one more time than you get knocked down.
start playing with numbers and counting knockdowns and standups.
I like the thought. If you get told no two times, the third attempt
may be your yes. And it adds up from there. If your book is rejected
ten times… twenty times… four hundred times… did you send it back
out an eleventh… twenty-first… four hundred and first time?
it comes to rejection, I can tell you all about it. I’ve had plenty
of query letters, interview requests, book proposals and manuscripts
returned. Some were sent back in brutal form.
I try to learn from these rejections. When I get a no sent to
me, I reread the material involved. Was it because they didn’t
have time to interview with me? (Meaning absolutely nothing I
did.) Or… could I have offered a more convenient way to conduct
the interview… did I make some glaring mistake like misspelling
their name or having incorrect information in my request… was
there something I did?
you send a sloppy cover letter to someone, they have the right
to assume you are sloppy. Would you hire someone to be an editor
that didn’t fact check your name properly and went on to incorrectly
spelled the company name when writing to you? Of course not.
if you learn from your mistakes, get back on your feet, and try
again, I would contend that even the losses can count as successes.
(Or at least contribute to some.)
we end up as a result is a place where success isn’t measured
by the beliefs and opinions of everyone else. I don’t care whether
or not you feel like going to your high school reunion. In fact…
Harry Chapin time…
one interview clip I heard with Harry, he was asked about something
and he answered in good tired and bad tired. The idea of bad tired
was working all day for someone else… accomplishing their goals
and targets. Good tired was when you worked for something you
believed in, and I would allow for that to even be working hard
to provide for yourself and your family. Good tired allowed you
to wrap up each day satisfied that you had given everything you
had to it… and sleep a peaceful and deserved sleep.
like that concept.
many times have you tossed and turned at night, worried about
something or other? Probably plenty of times. And more often than
not, probably because of something you needed to do, didn’t do,
or had to get done for someone else.
to being president.
hope you’re smart enough that you don’t want to be president.
There are plenty of ways to change the world and be a positive
trendsetter or contributor to your local neighborhood or even
around the world. You don’t have to be president to make a difference…
and a good difference at that.
first job was in the housekeeping department of a hospital. I’m
hoping that, without description, you can imagine how wonderful
working in housekeeping at a hospital can be. I even had a bonus…
mom worked there as a nurse. And everyone knew my mom. So there
was little room for goofing off. I didn’t want to embarrass my
people I worked with, and by that I’m specifically talking about
the full time co-workers in housekeeping that had been there for
years before I arrived and would be there long after I left, were
some of the most honest and wonderful people I’ve ever met. There
was a realistic nature to them that is hard to define, and thus
hard to explain. I suppose the best way of attempting it would
be to say there were no illusions for them. They had their list
of jobs to finish every day, and at the end of the night they
would know whether or not they had finished them. They had their
challenges everyday… it was a hospital after all, so the plan
changed all of the time with a new spill or job to get done, often
to get done at that very moment… and yet they made it to the end
eight hours later.
there was no grand reward involved. The job didn’t pay thousands
of dollars each week. What it did was put food on the table and
pay the bills. I think back of many of those people and I remember
them as successes. I certainly learned from them.
we need to share stories about the teachers and coaches and other
influences in your neighborhood?
I was in high school I had decided to go to Syracuse University.
My chemistry teacher at the time mentioned to me that the State
University of New York had a campus right next to Syracuse University…
literally right next to Syracuse University… and that
they had a tremendous forestry program. In my yearbook he even
noted that I was destined to get into forestry.
haven’t. But one of my best friends was attending SUNY Upstate
when I met him, and I can recall spending significant amounts
of time in the buildings that made up their campus.
teacher got excited for his students. He appreciated their efforts
and that they were moving forward. I would consider him a success.
teacher laughed when he saw something I had written that made
fun of the shortcomings of a certain department at the school
that I won’t mention here. The song lyrics I wrote were to the
beat of “Money for Nothing” (which was at its highest success
at the time), and a wonderfully funny parody it was. I can still
recall many of the lyrics I wrote for it… in four-part harmony,
chorus and background vocals included. He told me to be careful
about putting things in writing, but encouraged the pursuit of
creative endeavors. It was refreshing.
more refreshing than a history teacher that was so self-absorbed
and annoying he couldn’t handle laughter at his expense.
day he was in front of our class and asked us what we’d do with
a million dollars. The answers you can already guess… buy a house…
buy a car… invest and retire. And he shot them all down. He told
us we lacked vision. He said he would donate it to school and
have a building created in his name.
it at Duke University, Smith Hall…” and his stared off to the
distance, arms stretched out in an amazing feat of overacting.
name wasn’t Smith. I’ll let you decided on the accuracy of the
Duke part. For the sake of our story, he went to Duke. Jokes about
people that have attended Duke and what might be in the water
around the campus aside… anyway… I couldn’t bite my tongue…)
goes Duke” I responded.
was sent to see the principal. (The principal is your pal… remember
that when you’re spelling it.)
was ok. I deserved it. I was disrespectful, and I got it. I apologized.
he was… and maybe still is… an asshole of the highest order. (Pardon
the language. And, as a disclaimer to any legal representation,
that is my opinion and not something I can factually prove, despite
how my story continues…)
week after the incident and the apology, I went to my guidance
counselor to discuss how I felt he was singling me out and picking
on me. Yeah… because, of course… the counselor didn’t believe
weeks after the events, my parents called the school because I
was worried about it and having troubles. They were assured by
my guidance counselor that I was imagining things.
three weeks after that, we took out midterm exams. The asshole…
sorry… the teacher gave it the exam in two parts. A multiple choice
test and an essay. Each would count equally toward the full grade.
got 96 on the multiple choice part. (Pretty good, right?)
got a 33 on the essay.
pause for a second while you consider that, and then we can circle
around and return to it.
a midterm history exam, essay format, the teacher had determined
that my grade was a 33.
I would imagine your first two responses, in order, would go like
this: (1) Wow, that must have been one bad essay to score a 33.
(2) Umm… hold on… a 33 on an essay? A history essay? How does
anyone grade any essay, and more specifically one on historical
material, numerically as a 33?
answer your second question.
some math. Because it creates quite an interesting result.
plus 96 equals 129. 129 divided by two is… well… would you look
at that? It equals 64.5. In other words, just failing. I had scored
a solid A on the multiple choice, and somehow managed to write
an essay covering the same historical material that would earn
the exact numerical grade on the essay that would allow my score
to be a failing grade.
coincidence, isn’t it?
didn’t bring you here to travel down Memory Lane, or even try
to sort out some childhood trauma of mine. Instead… I just want
you to consider…
in general… as the expression goes… has no horse in the race.
Hurdles and challenges and struggles are part of the deal, and
some of us will face higher hurdles (and more of them).
odds of you being successful depend on your definition of success,
and not someone else’s. You need to be pleased with the work you
do, the accomplishments you have, and the sleep you get at night.
honestly can be that simple.
wish I could tell you that you could be President of the United
States. My understanding is that it can be a pretty sweet deal
and an impressive office to hold. But I can’t.
I can do is wish you a life that is something you look over with
pride. Regardless of where you live, what you do, and how others
treated you while you made your journey there. I can wish you
a happy and healthy travels ahead. In the end though, you’re the
one that is responsible for the path you walk.
wishes on your adventure.