Wisdom can come from almost anyone, but will you recognize and use it?
Last May I had the great privilege of witnessing the first-ever high school graduating class of Virginia Academy in Ashburn, Virginia. The school is a private christian school and is experiencing some unusually good growth and great success by its high school students, evidenced by the very high percentage of students accepted to college.
During a graduation ceremony, it’s customary to give the salutatorian the honor of addressing the class, parents and faculty. Normally these speeches tend to be clever and funny, meant to get a response from the students. Safe to say, if I was giving the speech to my fellow classmates I would definitely have gone for the humorous versus the profound. But when the class salutatorian, Nicholas Mets rose to give his speech, he did briefly venture into the humorous but then turned serious and said something that really impressed me, so much so that months later I’m still thinking about it.
The Teenager Speaks
Nicholas mentioned how things had been challenging for him during his recent school years, but through the encouragement of solid teachers, counselors and coaches, he not only completed his coursework but finished strong, enough to be standing there as the salutatorian (second highest grade point average). He said he learned many things along the way and highlighted some of them.
Nicholas finished by summing up his high school experience stating, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” Wow! I said to my wife sitting next me, “What a great thought!” Afterwards I went up to Nicholas and congratulated him and said he had given me wise advice and I appreciated it. He looked a bit surprised, me being a much older man, not believing he could say anything of use to me. So, I repeated myself. He smiled and said, “You’re welcome!” A great response, actually.
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,” — Nicholas Mets, Class of 2017
I love Nicholas’ statement. As I see it, it implies several critical points:
- Any cause (project, goal, personal growth effort) you accept and strive to attain must be something beyond your own capability, or you will not grow.
- If it does become your cause, it is worth doing well.
- You will only do well if you allow yourself to change (improve, learn, mature, grow) to attain your cause.
The Professor Speaks
My beloved deceased uncle, Dr. John York, a lifelong missionary in Nigeria and the surrounding nations of West Africa, was a devoted christian and educator. He established a fully accredited university Phd program there. It took a long time, practically his whole professional life. He would often challenge me by asking about my life goals; not the everyday routine goals, but the real lifelong goals that take a devoted effort to achieve and become your purpose in life. He would say, “If your life goals are fully achievable by you alone, then I question whether that is what you were created you to do. But if your goals are beyond just you and require the help of others — friends, family, associates, as well as God’s help — then I think you’re much closer to finding your intended purpose in life.” Wow, again!
My Uncle John and Nicholas — one a vastly experienced, wise and educated man, and the other an 18 year old recent high school graduate — have both given me extremely valuable words of wisdom. We all seek wisdom, but you can find it in places or from people you wouldn’t normally expect. Most people would stop and listen to my uncle, but how many would stop and listen to Nicholas. I understand why. But, we should all keep our minds open, our eyes and ears open, and our options open so that we do not miss real wisdom when it presents itself to us.
We should all keep our minds open, our eyes and ears open, and our options open so that we do not miss real wisdom when it presents itself to us. — Wayland Coker
What are your goals? Do they require you to change? If not, Nicholas would say to look higher. Can you do them alone without any help? Uncle John would say, look higher.
Are you aiming high enough?
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