5. Seek balance. This is rather un-American. We are out to win and to be on top. If one of something is good, two must be better. More is better. And so on. However, this comes with a cost. Remember the four pillars of a healthy life: nutrition, rest, exercise, and prayer/meditation. These can help to keep you balanced, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You remember the Delphic Oracle in ancient Greece. One of the two most common responses it gave was: meden agan: moderation. Nothing too much. And with your eating habits, remember the immortal words of Miss Piggie: “Never eat more than you can lift. “
4. A final point about people: Give people the benefit of the doubt. Do not assume the worst of them but rather the best. Yes, sometimes they do bad things. And sometimes you will be taken advantage of. However, in the long run you shall still come out ahead if you look to the good in most people and not the bad. Who knows, you may even be an instrument in changing the life of a person for the better. You may be the only Bible a person every sees.
3. What’s a great way to nurture relationships with other people? Learn their language. Learn a foreign language. In my first career as an Army officer, I had the opportunity to live in Germany for six years. Having studied it in high school and college and living there for that long, I was able meet many Germans, learn more about their culture—from the “inside”—and to learn how they think. The world is getting smaller. The presence of international students at your school gives a great a great opportunity. I do not want you simply to get to know that international student during the academic year, I want you to know him or her well enough to visit that friend in his or her own country. Here are the most important words you must know how to say in that foreign language:
- Hello & good bye
- How are you?
- Excuse me.
- That is wonderful.
- How do you say ____ ?
- For me: Where can I get a good pizza pie?
- And of course: I love you!
You will be running this world soon. I know, that’s a little scary, but true. We all need more empathy with others to understand how they look at the world. The challenges the world face are increasingly transnational—climate change, terrorism, epidemics. We are all increasingly interdependent. In the world today, so many people are building walls between each other; I ask you not to build walls but walkways. Learning another language is a great way to build walkways.
2. Develop and nurture personal relationships with the greatest number of people you can. The more the better. Cast your net wide. I have learned in life that one of the Essential Questions we all face is: Will you focus more on people or use people and really focus on things/money? In Greg Mortenson’s book, Three Cups of Tea, he relates how he came to realize the importance of focusing on the former—human relationships. I have found my focus on the former has been well worth it. The more people you know and have good relationships with, the more you can get good things done. The flip side of this is to be careful about breaking relationships with people whom you do not like. You may say “good riddance” to that person; however, there may come a time when you will be forced to work with that person again or when you need her or him. It’s is tough to rebuild a bridge, once burned.
On May 21, 2015, I gave my farewell talk to the Portsmouth Abbey School community. In the following ten posts I shall provide my ten points of advice I offered specifically to the students.
1. Work hard, play hard, and don’t mix the two. What you do, do with gusto. In Room 2 of the classroom building, there is a Latin inscription: Age quod agis: Do what you do. At first, I did not think much of it—not much there, I said. Upon reflection, it came to mean more. Set positive goals for yourself, short term as well as long term, and muster the courage and determination to achieve them. This principle reminds of my hero Yoda from Star Wars when he was training Luke Skywalker. Luke could not succeed in raising his downed ship from the swamp. Luke: “I tried but I just cannot do it.” Yoda: “Try, do you? Do or do not. There is no trying!” Yes, work hard; play hard. But play clean and legal. Don’t do anything stupid. If you have to break God’s law, the laws of the land, or your family’s unwritten law, you are headed for trouble. Also, working hard includes setting sizable and not small goals. Remember the words of Daniel Burnham, Chief of Works, 1893 Columbian Exposition: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized.”