Today, seek your own approval. Encourage yourself. Do something that benefits you and your future. And above all, be proud of your accomplishments, no matter who else acknowledges them! You should always be your greatest motivator. Never leave that power in someone else’s hands. Once you learn to love the person you are, there are no limits to the person you can become; there are no limits to your Success. ~Life Is Not Complicated: Success
This past week, I have been absolutely intrigued by the accomplishments of two young men who I have never met and know very little about. They gained national recognition for achieving something many have attempted and few (that I know of) have accomplished. At the time of this writing, neither of these young men had graduated from High School, yet through their tireless academic efforts, each left an indelible mark on their families, friends, teachers, and complete strangers all over the country. On April 1, 2014 I read that 17-year-old Kwasi Enin of Shirley, N.Y. had been accepted to every single Ivy League college he applied for. All 8 of them. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale have all asked Kwasi to be part of their class of 2018. Days later it was announced, Avery Coffey, born and raised in Washington D.C, had been accepted to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, and University of Pennsylvania. I was so proud of both these young men, you would have thought I was a member of the family!
Now, before I get to far ahead of myself, it absolutely bears mentioning that I am the very, very proud father of a very accomplished son. He is every parent’s dream. On top of being an MBA (who graduated with a 4.0 grade average) and a star athlete, he is the kindest, most loving, hard-working, determined gentleman you will ever meet. In fact, when I read about Kwasi and Avery I immediately thought to myself, much like my own son, these are the types of success stories that we do not hear enough about. It is not that they do not exist. I will go out on a limb and say these stories probably are not as rare as we may think. But we live in a society where these triumphs are overshadowed by endorsement deals, news of which athletes is earning the highest salaries, or which athletes have gone afoul of the law. Our culture is more interested in reality t-v shows, viral fist fights, celebrity divorces and who holds the twerking crown. Meantime, while the newspapers and various media outlets covered the story of these Ivy League bound students, It barely made the news-feeds of the numerous social media sites that have permeated the online community. And that really disappointed me.
We pay far too much attention to things that don’t matter and then wonder, “What’s wrong with kids these days?” Why are our kids so behind the curve academically when compared with the rest of the world?” “Why are young men and women so oblivious to the way society views them?” I truly believe it is because we glorify meaningless (and sometimes bad) behavior and give short shrift to worthwhile accomplishments. Young men like my son, like Kwasi and Avery (And like other young men and women in my life that I am extremely proud of) are viewed as “corny”, boring, nerdy. Who wants to be like the kid who actually studies, who spends his summers working on improving his athleticism, who works a full time job, and goes to school full time? The answer to that is…not enough of our youth. Not nearly enough.
We have to do better as adults, guardians, parents, neighbors, mentors, role models. Our children need to be taught that life is more than record-deals and multi-million dollar contracts. If you are talented enough to realize either, God Bless you. But as with anything worth having, it should be a passion, a goal, a reason to work hard and be a trailblazer and game-changer; to make a difference in the world, not just pad your bank account, drive a fancy car and live in a big mansion; material possessions that can disappear in the blink of an eye. However, not everyone is going to be an uber football or basketball star. Fewer still will sell 1-million records in a day, much less the span of a career. Let’s encourage our kids to be the next CEO of a Fortune 500 company (or President of their own company), the next President of the United States, the first physician to find a cure for the myriad of deadly illnesses that take countless lives each day. Let them know it is ok to be brilliant and confident and dedicated and well-rounded. It is absolutely acceptable to want to change the world and if that means missing parties, and not getting high or drunk or hanging out all afternoon playing video games, face-timing, tweeting, etc.. than that is what they have to do. And let them know you support them, every step of the way. Kwasi, the Long Island teenager who got accepted into all eight Ivy’s says he was whipped into shape by his strict mom and dad — who hovered nearby, encouraging him to push himself. He says they were “helicopter parents” and monitored everything. My favorite comment from Kwasi, and one that I will repeat every chance I get–his parents taught him 95 percent isn’t good enough.
When good things happen to good, hard working, deserving people, we should rejoice. I am sure there will be a lot of folks out there shaking their heads at this blog, wondering what the big deal is, even trying to speak ill of these young men (which is a sad reflection on the state of our society). Well to all that I say: Never apologize for the good in your life. People who try to make you feel badly because you have been blessed are consumed by self-loathing. Wear your accomplishments proudly, be it your career, your relationship, your children, your success. True friends will bask in the glow of your shine, not pray for darkness to fall.
My sincere congratulations to ALL who work hard, go against the status quo, and focus on the ultimate goal of success. May God continue to bless you, always.