To the high school graduates of the class of 2016, you’ve made it. Now comes the hard part.
It’s not worth my time or yours to tell you to do your best, that it will be good enough to get you through life. Saying those words will actually cause you harm in the long run. Doing your best is not good enough. The time of your life where that may be fine is over.
You’re adults now. You’re not kids playing youth soccer. Up until now, no one has kept score for fear of hurting your feelings. The grown-ups in your life have shielded you from this. They felt that competition was unfair, and have tried to keep you from feeling the pain of loss. They have really, really mucked things up for the rest of us, and we have to turn to those entering the real world to “right the ship,” as it were.
The winners of the world don’t ask for, nor do they accept participation trophies. The winners are the ones who keep score. They remember every win and every loss. They learn from their mistakes and they don’t make them again. As you take your first step into adulthood, you need to keep score. You need to learn from your mistakes. Push yourself. Go above and beyond. Do your work, and then do more. Make every moment count, and make yourself better.
Look at what the grown-ups have done: they have put a corrupt politician up against an amoral businessman for president. They have bankrupted us in more ways than one. And they have allowed you to collect participation trophies for simply taking part in something. They’ve done you a disservice.
As you leave your school and head out into the real world, you are going to be faced with multiple challenges that demand you to go above and beyond where you are now. You only think you know what you want to do, but you’ve been led to believe that what you want to do is exactly what you’ll get to start doing when you leave the world of education behind. The reality is much, much harsher. Reality keeps score.
Maybe you will go to college. Maybe you’ll go to work. Either way, you will start at the bottom. You will have a boss, or you will have a professor. Deadlines matter. Doing what is asked of you matters. Doing more than what is asked of you matters. If you don’t, you will not succeed in the world. You’ll be left behind. It will seem unfair that someone will actually expect you to do more than what is asked of you, to go the extra mile, but how else can you show the person that you are working for that you are capable of more?
Your employer won’t know you. Your professor won’t know you. Mom and dad can’t swoop in to save you, and if you ask them to, I hope they have the sense the Good Lord gave them to tell you to grow up and figure out how to fix your own problems. And if they don’t have the sense to do that, then I hope your employer or professor has the sense the Good Lord gave them to tell your parents to pluck you from the breast because you are an adult now.
You have the opportunity to go out and make yourself into someone who can make a difference. It may not be a big difference – but it is a difference all the same. You may not cure cancer, but you can help any one person in numerous ways, and make the world a better place for them. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make the biggest positive impact you can.
Push yourself to get there. You’ll get knocked down. Don’t cry about it. Don’t call it unfair. Don’t demand people stop keeping score. Get back up. Push yourself again. The best men this world has to offer got where they are despite the adversity, not because the world handed it to them. They fought against every expectation, and they didn’t whine about someone else having an advantage over them. They kept score.
Do what someone asks you to do. That’s one point. Do that and more? That’s two points. Don’t do your work, though, and you lose points. You need to keep track of your points, because you don’t know when the game is over. You don’t know when they’ll count the score, and it doesn’t matter if you think keeping score is somehow unfair to you – they won’t.
If you end your day saying “I did the best I could,” then you did not. You did the best you are currently capable of. Get better. Keep score. Meticulously. You won’t get a trophy, but you’ll get rewarded.