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Someone recently asked me if I had any words of advice for this year's graduating high school seniors. While the inquiry was hardly a surprise (not saying that about me, I'm referring to the fact that Facebook has become "I'm proud of my grad!" central lately), it really got me thinking. What do I wish someone had told me upon graduation? What would I go back, if I could, and tell that newly-minted young 18 year-old Skyline High School (Go Eagles!) alumni?
Here are Five Lessons for the Class of 2015 (and 2016, 2017, etc.):
First off, congratulations! I know that graduating high school may not feel like a huge accomplishment, but it really is and you should feel proud of yourself for reaching the finish line! So pat yourself on the back, enjoy a great graduation trip or party with your friends and be sure to thank your parents and every teacher who go you to this point in your life, even the ones you didn't like!
Now, for some advice. Most people who experience what I'm about to describe don't know when it happens, but somewhere between Junior High School and perhaps the mid- to late-twenties, their most powerful dreams and aspirations for life begin to slowly dim (although I won't say fade away entirely). I always say that everyone has a story so it is up to us to make it a good one! The problem, however, is that once you are out of high school the freedom that you have been arguing for with your parents is going to hit you like a ton of bricks. Sure, some of you may still be financially supported by Mom and/or Dad for a few more years, but eventually your life becomes 100% your own...and with the demands of a career, of family, of bills, health management, and even just putting food on the table, that is scarier than you can imagine.
But those challenges in life are wonderful things and there is no reason that they need to stand in the way of your biggest aspirations. You are the author of your life, and the editor. You will make mistakes, you will fail and you will fall flat on your face, and that's ok. No matter what happens, hold on to your dreams. Modify them if you have to, adjust when needs be, but keep aiming for the stars. That freedom that you have worked so hard to have, the one built upon your life so far and your educational accomplishments (and athletic, musical, social, artistic, etc.), it puts the power to create a good life squarely in your hands. Bad things will happen, they happen to all of us, but so will amazingly incredible and beautiful things. Be optimistic, be hopeful, be bold, be dashing, but most of all, be a dreamer.
Several years ago (1997 to be exact) I found myself staring down the brand new Park City, UT 2002 Winter Olympic bobsled track, about to take a ride in a four-man bobsled that would change my life. It was perfect timing, too, since I was an active high school sophomore who, like so many teens, was struggling to figure out who he was in the world. And while I would absolutely categorize myself as a good kid, I also battled the hidden burdens of anxiety and depression and probably a lower self-esteem than everyone (including myself) thought I had, so bobsled was a Heaven-sent way for me to gain confidence, direction, aspirations, motivation and much more.
But let's be honest, high school is a period of our lives that most of us are glad to be past. And yet, those formative years were crucial in our personal development and where we often gain an inaccurate perspective on one aspect of life: failure.
That's right, I used the F-word: failure. F-a-i-l-u-r-e. I could even unleash my inner child: failurefailurefailurefailurefailurefailure. FAILURE.
When we think of "failure" we often conjure up negative words and connotations like loser, mistake, unable, defeated, fiasco, messy, unsuccessful, and worst of all, not good enough. I hate that one. And while I spoke of high school, even elementary school kids have developed the mental picture that failure = bad, success = good.
But what if, just what if a bad failure could be seen as a good success?
"Did he just Jedi-mind trick me?", you may ask. Not exactly, but the question you should really ask is "What if everything I know about failure is wrong?"
Answer: I think it is. Let me introduce you to The Art of Failing Forward.
On each and every Memorial Day our social media feeds are filled with heartfelt gratitude for those who have paid the ultimate price for our rights and liberties. As a nation we should drop to our knees and humbly thank every soldier in uniform who is willing to put their lives on the line to defend ours. They truly write a blank check with their life that can be cashed in at any time in the line of duty.
I hope the photos below stir the soul and inspire you to greater appreciation and depth of thankfulness for those who have put on a uniform to keep us free. The cost of our "holiday" this month (and every day) has been high and those who paid our bill must never be forgotten.
As Thomas Campbell once said, “The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree."
"What does it feel like to crash?"
That seems to be the second most popular question I receive when people find out I'm a bobsled pilot and coach (the first being, 'Have you seen Cool Runnings?' which of course I have). What does a bobsled crash feel like? Sadly, most people are disappointed that not every crash results in concussions, broken bones, or near death experiences. They can be violent, yes, but usually a bobsled crash is just a "hold on and wait for the ride to come to a complete stop" kind of affair. You try to keep your body off the ice so you don't get ice burns (which can be pretty nasty), but a crash is just part of the sport and you learn to roll with the punches.
I guess you could say that that is one of the first things bobsled taught me about adversity, that in order to keep playing the game you have to roll with the punches and keep moving forward. It is natural for newer drivers to be nervous about driving the track again after they just crashed, but you always silently cheer for those who face those fears and do it anyway. In life, we all face a choice whenever adversity or hard times come our way: we can let the fear prevent us from trying again, from dreaming again, from loving again or from believing in goodness again, but that choice is ours alone. As bobsled athletes, no coach can force us to take to the ice if we decide that our fears are more valid than our goals. Similarly, in life no one, not even God, can force us to reach for the stars if we choose to listen to our fears instead of our faith, and I'm not talking religious faith; I mean our beliefs that life can be amazing if we work for it and allow good things come our way.
If you haven't read any of my previous articles regarding the joys and wonders of the LDS midsingle world (examples here, here and here), then perhaps you aren't aware of my satirical take on all things midsingle. Disclaimer: don't take everything I write seriously, although I have put my heart into a few such posts, including The Future Spouse Jar and The Case of the Tin Soldier.
But like many of you, the preparation for attending an LDS midsingle event can be both time and energy consuming (which is why Facebook invented the "Maybe" going option). First you have to read about the event on Facebook, then click on the "Attending" list to see who is going, then reach out to your friend group (aka "the team") to see what everyone is thinking. Should we go? Is there another party or dance or bonfire or hike or Powell party or game night or or or etc. etc. etc. You get my drift.
And then, once a decision has been made (which depending on the size of your friend group could be a miracle in and of itself), then comes The Preparation. Now, ladies, I won't even begin to comment on the labors you go through to get ready for the dances or parties or any of the midsingle social events, really. But I think what you'll read below speaks for all of us when I describe what we feel when we get ready to head to whatever event we've decided to attend (thirty to sixty+ minutes late, mind you; best to be fashionably late).
Raise your hand if checking your cell phone is the first thing you do in the morning. Come on, be honest, you know it is. You check your texts, then your Facebook, Tinder for a bit then maybe, just maybe, you do something big-kid-like and look up the news or perhaps even the weather. But somewhere in there, you are mentally checking your schedule. Thank goodness for calendar reminders, right? And Facebook's convenient "Events" tab to keep us on top of our social outings.
On a more serious note, I highly recommend spending five minutes in the morning putting together a To-Do list and outlining what you'll do that day. I have seen Olympic gold medalists do this, international CEOs do this and even award-winning artists do this. It is well worth it!
"Are you going tonight?" Who knows that at lunchtime? I mean, we still have the rest of the afternoon to decide, plus a few hours after work. No need to make any decisions just yet; we might get a better offer or invite at the last minute, right?
While you're trying to decide, if you need any more indication about our demographic's inability to commit then just look at the "Attending/Maybe Attending" ratio on any event's page.
With all the recent excitement about the upcoming Payson, UT LDS Temple Open House (which looks amazing, by the way), I can't help but think back to a small, yet testimony-building experience I had in March of 2009 during the Draper, UT LDS Temple Open House.
My Elder's Quorum was asked to provide some bodies to help with "security" on a particular evening for about five hours. Being young, fit and otherwise un-engaged (literally, unfortunately) I volunteered and found myself tasked with watching an area just inside the north-east temple doors. Not that there was much to do besides pass out water bottles, answer questions and otherwise help provide a friendly atmosphere for the Open House guests. As security gigs go, a temple Open House is pretty low-key.
After the final group made its way through the temple, we began to usher out the remaining guests and then had to complete a walk through of the entire temple to make sure everyone was out before we turned off the lights and locked all the doors. This was a wonderful opportunity for me and the other volunteers to wander the sacred and hallowed (even if un-dedicated yet) halls of this beautiful building. Anyone who has been or served in that temple can testify of the breath-taking art, the peaceful decor, the hope-filling lighting (best way I can think to describe that) and the strengthening peace found within its walls.
Last Sunday while teaching my Sunday School class to ten amazing 16-17 year old teens, we discussed the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep conversion to his gospel with a unshakable testimony of his restored church. I know that this seems like a no-brainer for many of us, but over the past few weeks as I have been watching the news (once a journalist, always a journalist) I have felt a deep concern for Christians everywhere.
There are Lamanites in the land once more.
For those of you who may not be familiar with this moniker, the Lamanites were an main demographic found within the Book of Mormon, a volume of ancient scripture written by prophets who lived on the American continent (Mayan archaeologists could rightly call it "The Mormon's Codex". For the major portion of this work the Lamanites were violently opposed to the followers of Christ, known as Nephites, and filled with a hatred for Christianity that I see is deeply mirrored in the recent campaigns by the radically militant Islamic State (I'll use IS from now on) in the Middle East. And to any NSA analysts reading this because I'm writing about IS (quite negatively, mind you), please not that this article is all my own opinion and not any official stance for the organizations I work with. But if you would like to know more about what us "Mormons" believe, please visit Mormon.org.
While siting in a seminar recently that delightfully I was able to just listen to instead of speaking at the well-intentioned speaker listed tips to appear more attractive to members of the opposite sex. I wanted to raise my hand and ask, "What is your true purpose in listing those things, is it to educate or to flatter?"
Let's see if any of this sounds familiar. While I agree with some of the traits/items mentioned in these lists online and in magainzes, the others just sound plain sexist if not over the top. For example, ladies you apparently are supposed to be fit (more than one list specifically said so you can look good naked), wear dresses or form-fitting clothes, be submissive, cook well, be a good mom or not have kids (because that's not contradictory), don't swear too much, be educated/intelligent, be giving, be a good friend, don't be overly emotional, and the lists go on and on. I'm not even female and that list felt overwhelming.
Which brings me to the ten-thousand lists out there online, in magazines, journals, etc. that list "Things Women Find Attractive in Men." Now, a little background. This topic has come to mind after years and years of private conversations with some of the greatest guy friends and teammates, coworkers and fellow members of my church. This is not a "poor us" article, but rather one designed to stand as a voice for these men who are amazing dads, hard workers, great athletes, genuine friends and even powerful disciples of Christ who are doing their best. They may not have won the genetic lottery or even the financial one, but these are incredibly good guys.
If this were a Sherlock Holmes story the title would be, "The Case of the Tin Soldier."
This past week we celebrated Easter, or Holy Week, and remembered the life, death and glorious resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It was wonderful to see so many people sharing their faith, their gratitude and their devotion on social media while simultaneously declaring their determination to follow the Lord and keep his teachings in their lives.
Sadly, somewhere within a matter of ten minutes to ten hours, those same people broke a commandment that they fail to keep every single day.
Whoa. I know, right? How judgmental of me to say such a thing, but I'm betting you break this commandment just as often. And now you want to reach through the screen and slap me across the face. That's ok; if I wasn't struggling with this same commandment this whole post would be a hypocritical pile of buffalo chips that the pioneers would have burned for fuel as they crossed the plains. But to prove that my words are not just smoke drifting away in cyberspace, I'll show you just how right I am. Yup, I went there....but for a good cause.
Several years ago a dear friend, Jonelle, surprised me with an autographed print of Greg Olsen's "O Jerusalem" painting. This majestic piece captures the quiet strength, even the eternal strength of the Savior's character, not to mention the beautiful scenery of the Holy Land countryside (and no, Mr. Olsen isn't paying me to say all that).
But if you look closely, you can see something else on Christ's face. In my youth I almost wondered if it was defeat (after all, he knew his betrayal and crucifixion were near). But now that I'm older I understand the look in Jesus' eyes was something else entirely; it was acceptance. The hint of sorry in his eyes stems from the acceptance that so many people in Jerusalem would not listen to the message of peace and salvation that he desired so deeply to give them.
And as we look forward to this Easter season, I can't help but wonder if that same hint of sorrow still exists in the resurrected Savior's heart.