An Open Letter to the Class of 2013

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

Jon Badger, graduate

(Last week we bid farewell to four great young men, as they graduated from Capo Valley.  Each year, coach has a tradition of writing a letter to the graduates.  Here is this year’s letter:)

Dear graduates,

Each one of you will forever have a special place in my heart, as well as the hearts of each teammate and CV wrestling fans.  In most cases, we have watched as you started out as scraggly little freshmen, and in each case we’ve seen you mature into outstanding young men.  No matter if you came to us as freshmen or later, you have grown.  I myself and everyone involved in this program have taken great pleasure in seeing that process.

Each one of you–Jon, Zane, Mike, and Stephen–will be sorely missed.  Whether you travel far away from home or stay near, don’t be strangers.  We want to continue with you, celebrating each milestone you reach.  We are confident that great things lie ahead for you.

I’ll keep this short.  May I give just *one* piece of advice?

Out of all the advice others have given me, this one ranks up there as one of the ones that’s benefited me the most, so I pass it on to you:

Find mentors.  Old mentors.  Those without wrinkles and grey hairs need not apply.

That’s pretty simple, and chances are you’ve heard it tons of times.  But it deserves underscoring as you jump into a new phase of life.

If you haven’t realized already, pretty soon it will hit you just how much knowledge and perspective you lack.  I’m not trying to be condescending, btw, as if I’m past that.  That hits me about 3-4 times a day.  It should probably hit me much more.  More likely than not, your parents are in the same boat.  That’s all of us.

So many times in my life, whether it be high school, college, grad school, teaching, life in general, or coaching–with all the skill sets required in coaching, that last one especially nails me–I’ve found myself quickly over my head.  A decision confronts me and I have no clue as to how to proceed.  In cases like these–and they are legion–I’ve learned the habit of cornering a few old dudes who I respect and who have expertise in the field.  I just ask them questions and pick their brain.  Virtually nothing about the way I coach or teach is unique.

And that’s ok.  The fact is that folks like these have some gems for you, and are totally willing to pass them on if you ask them.

D0n’t be bashful on this.  No one is too big to approach.  Even approach your rivals.  You might think they’ll laugh at you, but most likely they won’t.  I’ve never had a rival coach put it back in my face.  All have been more than willing to lend a hand (example: all the coaches in our SC league.  They are good guys!).

So you are a business major and just finished reading a book by that brilliant best selling author.  You think “man, it’d be great to actually talk with this guy.”  Find out how to get a hold of him, and do it.  Now.  Who cares if you don’t know the guy?  Who cares if he’s famous?  Who cares that he gets tons of requests a day?  If he has an ounce of human humility, he’ll be quite impressed that you actually sought him out, and he just might give you an audience.  Write up some questions ahead of time, just so you aren’t blubbering along, and give it a try.

I’ve had a select few just not respond, but I’ve never had anyone say no, and the overwhelming majority have said yes, even if only for an email exchange.

Not everyone is equal on this score.  Make sure you trust the person, and make sure they actually have some knowledge in the relevant field.  Any old dude won’t do.

There’s this notion afoot that you can become successful by your own wits.  The self-made man.  Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and make it to the top by your own pluck.  That is an American Myth, and its a bunch of malarkey.  Reconcile yourself to this and life will go much easier.  Even Ben Franklin had a plethora of helping hands.

In conclusion, a) learn to recognize when you need outside perspective, and b) go get it from old grey heads that you sense have such perspective.  Be a sponge.

That’s about all I got.

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