Column: Four simple 'F' words can make a difference in how you live lifeWORTHINGTON — Dear parents, faculty, friends and most importantly graduating seniors: Thank you for this opportunity to share some thoughts on this great day.
By: John Koller, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Dear parents, faculty, friends and most importantly graduating seniors:
Thank you for this opportunity to share some thoughts on this great day. As I think most of you know, I am a math guy who likes things to make sense and add up. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For instance, did you know there are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count and those who can’t? OK, let’s try another one. A student from comes home with a shiny new cup, the sort of which you get when you win something. As his parents beamed with excitement, they asked how he had gotten such a nice piece of hardware. “Well”, he exclaimed, “I entered a math contest and they asked what 7 + 7 was. I said 12 and got 3rd place!” That student must not have been from around here, right? Maybe Iowa, but not here.
Seniors, you have been exposed to many things along the way to this great day. It hasn’t just been the scientific method or the seven writing traits or how to solve an equation. You have accomplished much, and certainly some unique things have happened along the way. For instance, do you realize you have had one of the longest senior years on record despite having the earliest graduation date? Not a single snow day, as we did our best impersonation of winter in Arkansas. You have also been notorious this year in taking away Trojan Man. With our iron-clad security, I didn’t think that would be possible. More recently, most of you have largely avoided Mr. Karelis and Rezny’s newly imposed early-morning tardy sweep. I’m glad that one was never put on teachers, as I would have failed a time or two. Finally, you endured the first tornado warning I can ever remember during the school day — good thing you had that drill the week before! See, you have had quite a year.
Now I got to thinking about your entire tenure at WHS. Of course, I started to think about it mathematically. You have gotten through about 700 school days, including this week. That’s almost 5,000 hours of instruction — or 300,000 minutes or 1,800,000 seconds. If you’ve been awake and it’s true that the average person blinks about once every seven seconds, you would have blinked about a quarter million times!
The funny thing is many of you will think someday that it went by in the blink of an eye. Not exactly, but time does move fast.
Now, your future. What will that hold? What new paths will be taken, challenges undertaken and new accomplishments achieved? How do we go from the here and now and successfully navigate the waters ahead? I want to give you some thoughts followed by some key factors that can move you forward to the next stage in your life.
Do you remember what a function is? Of course not. In math, an input goes into a function and makes an output. Now, as you prepare for your future, I want you to weigh what outputs are significant and what inputs will lead to them. The world will tell you that outputs of money, power, fame and status are where it’s at. This is the message from Hollywood and Wall Street. I want you to consider a different set of outputs — outputs that have true meaning, are fulfilling and stand the test of time. These would be things like being a person of character, being a trustworthy friend, being a servant of others and being a role model for your own kids some day. You will not see these traits on billboards or magazine covers, but these are lifelong and provide true satisfaction. Please consider your actions and ask yourself where they will lead you.
Now, there are some factors that can guide you to staying on the right path. What will be your factors as you move from this stage to the next stage of your life? I would like to offer you four “F” words that I believe can make all the difference in you being successful in your future.
The first is family. As you head out or stay near, I hope you can rely on your family. I’m not just talking about a phone call asking for more money, either. Please understand your family knows you better than anyone and cares for you more than anyone. As you head out on your own listen to their advice, accept their encouragement and receive their love. It may be the first time some of you truly break away from home. Remember, physical distance does not separate us emotionally. They are very proud of you and will be there for you, so don’t forget to pick up the phone or make a tweet.
The second F are friends. I remember when I met my best friend growing up. We were both in kindergarten. I remember I thought this guy was the nerdiest guy in class. Tousled hair, thick glasses, straight A’s. I was in awe. Forty years later, with families and busy lives, we are still always there for one another. It’s reassuring to have great friends you can talk to. Realistically, especially if you are going off to college, you are going to gain many new, life-long friends. Don’t forsake your current friends in the meantime. They know you as well as anyone and, if they are a true friend, will be there for you in thick and thin times. Encourage one another as you keep in touch.
The third F word is focus. To reach your goals, you have to have focus and commitment. The reality of your life is you will either live your dream or be a part of another person’s dream. I ask you tonight as you move past graduation: What are your dreams? What are you committed to? What will make you proud? I would offer you up the rocking chair test. The rocking chair test goes like this: When you are old and in your rocking chair looking back at your life, what will you be able to say? Will you have a content smile on your face based on some of the values I discussed earlier, or will it be more of a strained memory and questions on what I coulda or shoulda done? I faced my “aha” moment of focus when I was 21 years old. I was in the toughest math class at our college, and I had just failed a test. My dream of being a math teacher was now on the line. What could I do? I wasn’t going to get any smarter, and I didn’t want to settle for something less. I decided that I had to focus and commit at another level. My advice to you is to always keep your dreams alive, even as you encounter life’s speed bumps. There will always be weeds in our gardens. We need to recognize them, pull them out and move on.
The final and most important word I will share tonight is that of faith. I believe that God has a plan for us and wants to help us realize it. He knows you and accepts you and loves you. He is always at your side. I would ask that you praise him in your great times, pray to him always and learn to seek his guidance. He has never failed me, and I know if you trust him he will never fail you, either.
In closing, I would share one more thing with you tonight. As some of you know, I enjoy music. In fact, many of you have had to endure me singing in class or bringing some reference to music during a math lesson. When I was your age, one of my favorite things to do was to listen to the radio. For confirmation, I got an old school stereo with a tape deck. I was stoked. I can remember countless hours listening to North Stars or Minnesota Twins games. On Sunday evening, there was a countdown of the top 40 hits from the previous week. I would listen intently and keep track of which songs had jumped up the list. I would always try to listen till the end ,when Casey Kasem would reveal the top hit in the land. After that final song, Kasem would offer up his final word to the audience — and what I would like to share with you all right now. Seniors, he would say and I will say this final wish for you: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!”
God bless all of you. Thank you.
Editor’s note: Worthington High School math teacher John Koller delivered this address at the May 18 WHS commencement ceremony.