When I left for college almost 30 years ago there was no big “Move in weekend” and parents didn’t come help. I loaded up the car and a trailer and my parents stood in the drive way and waved goodbye as I backed out. However, as I made the roughly 250 mile trek I left with one of the best gifts I could have ever received. I may not have known it at the time but it was far greater than the mountain bike I got for my 18th birthday or the large stereo I bought with some of my graduation money. The gift I am referring to is the advice my father gave me as I left for school, and what I still tell every freshman class of student-athletes to this day. “College is not that hard. GO TO CLASS AND READ”.
Now I understand I was an exercise science major and there are a lot tougher majors out there. I know mechanical engineering classes are much harder but in order to be successful in those more challenging courses you will need to “GO TO CLASS AND READ.” If you do not do either of those you most definitely will not be successful. This is advice that I took to heart. One of the best things I did in college was get over a 3.0 GPA my first semester. Once I had it there it was easier to keep it there than pull it up from the gutter. I watched several friends scrape and claw to raise their bad GPA and many others who never recover and never graduated. I went to class, took notes and read. When I heard those words of advice “GO TO CLASS AND READ” I understood and to this day I hear “SHOW UP AND DO THE WORK.”
Now when I went to college I was 18 and I played college football. All in all life was pretty simple. My father went into the military out of high school and had been self-employed prior to going to college. He went back to school in his 30’s; was married had three kids; worked as a night watchman at a lumber yard; had a fourth kid while in school and graduated in 2.5 years. Yes, you read that correctly, he took 18-21 credits a semester while working at night to provide for his family. He was not messing around because he had a goal to accomplish. He went on to seminary had his fifth child and became a pastor. He became a pastor added number six and served in parish for 30 years. He went to class and read. He showed up and did the work. To this day even in retirement he is not afraid to "DO THE WORK"
I remember growing up my father mentioning how many of the young people he went to class with did not take it seriously because it was not their money so they wasted time and money because they did not “GO TO CLASS AND READ” “SHOW UP AND DO THE WORK.”
When I began strength training with my buddies in high school I remember getting frustrated with some of them because they seemed to be more interested in goofing around than lifting weights. They were showing up but they were not “doing the work”. They were at class but they were not doing the reading, they were not engaged. As I went off to college as an athlete I ran into a similar experience with lifting weights and some of my teammates. I worked to get them engaged and pushing hard but eventually I focused mainly on my efforts. We had guys that would show up but not do the work and we had some guys who would not show up. Now as a college coach for 20 years I have seen talented athletes who did not “GO TO CLASS AND READ”. Some literally did not go to class or put in the work in the class room and because of that were never able to achieve their athletic goals because they were off the team or ineligible before they could shine. With others I have seen very talented athletes who did not “SHOW UP AND DO THE WORK” athletically and simply relied on their God given ability. Many never realized their full potential because they did not “Do the work” on a daily basis. Some even had successful careers but I believe could have reached greater heights if they had “READ”.
I have since spoken to multiple employers and managers of various facilities as diverse as a Caterpillar plant, a hog farm and a general manufacturing plant. All of these individuals spoke of similar struggles that I have seen with athletes over the years, the struggled to get people to “show up and do the work”.
In athletics there is a lot of talk about being “elite”. Yes being elite and getting to the top is the goal but I have never been one for empty words that are not backed up by action. In my experience in whatever you are doing, if you “GO TO CLASS AND READ, SHOW UP AND DO THE WORK” then you are already way ahead of the game. If you do this every day you will be ahead of 90% of people already. I am not saying that you come in and punch the clock and just get through the day. Punching the clock is the equivalent to reading the book or chapter but not having any memory or comprehension of what was read. “Reading” means you are engaged in the process, you are present where your feet are in the moment, you are “DOING THE WORK.” Punching the clock is not “DOING THE WORK” it is merely completing the task. You cannot be elite if you are not going to class and reading.
This simple advice my father gave me as I headed off to college almost 30 years ago has and does continue to ring true. It rings true at work, at home, and In the gym, under the bar. Now to truly become elite you will have to find a way to go even deeper, have greater understanding of what you read, work even harder but to build the foundation and to establish success you first need to “GO TO CLASS AND READ”
Thanks Dad for the great advice and example, you have certainly lived that. Love, Nate