Chuck Lauer: Ignore the naysayers and achieve your dreams

I recently received an e-mail from my good friend and mentor, George, who I have known since my college days. George has lived on the West Coast for most of his adult life so we have not had as much time to visit each other in person as I would like. But we do have long chats over the phone and I always come away from them learning something new about myself and where my life is taking me. There is something about George that is special. He's always supported me, but when he thinks I 'm making bad decisions he'll be very direct and tell me to get my head on straight and then go full speed ahead.

Recently, after
reading a column of mine, George sent me an interesting note.


"Hi Chuck — very much enjoyed your 'Motivated' article. It reminded me of an important personal experience, which follows:


"I was an average high school student and went into the Air Force shortly after graduating. After completing my military service, I was interested in going to college. I was helped by the GI Bill, which would pay most of my tuition plus room and board.


"I went back to my high school student advisor, who was also a regular classroom teacher. Reviewing my grades, he told me that I was "not college material," a big blow to my motivation. Luckily, I shared this experience with another teacher, who suggested going back to the high school to improve my grades in important subjects. In doing this, I had the motivation to get into a good college, and I now had a good story line. I applied to and was accepted at [New Haven, Conn.-based] Yale and Middlebury [in Vermont], though I was turned down by [Cambridge, Mass.-based] Harvard. Yale had no women undergrads — Middlebury did, so that was the logical choice for a 20-year-old ex-GI! At Middlebury, I hit my groove and ended an honors graduate in economics, which led to my acceptance at University of Chicago's famed graduate department of economics. Ultimately, I wound up as a lecturer in economics at the U of C's University College.


"PS: Upon completing Middlebury, I had the distinct pleasure of revisiting my negative high school adviser and showing him my college commencement brochure that listed me as the only economics department honors student. It was a 'take that' moment, with the lesson being, 'Don't be negative with students — instead give them the encouragement they need.' "


George is quiet, unassuming and reflective, so it is not too surprising that I didn't know he had some challenges as a young man. His story, though inspirational, is not uncommon in our great nation. The U.S. is a place of opportunity, where anyone can overcome obstacles through hard work and ingenuity. So many young people are told by teachers, coaches and even parents what they can't achieve, and then they go out and prove everybody wrong. It's all about believing in yourself and finding someone like that second teacher George sought out, who'll support you and point you in the right direction.


Of course, you must have perseverance. You need to be willing to outwork the competition. Yes, it pays to find some luck along the way, meeting the right person, getting the right promotion at the right company. Luck plays a role in everyone's life. Over the years, though, I have noticed that those with perseverance always seem to be the ones who make their own luck.


Often you will make mistakes. You need to own them, instead of blaming others when things go wrong. Defeat is tough to deal with, but winners usually take setbacks as the learning experiences they are, using them to get better. In fact, you learn more from your mistakes than your successes.


Dream big and make those dreams come true through force of will and desire. There will always be naysayers, so don't listen to them. It's your life and your time. Make the most of it!


More articles on leadership:

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Flint's Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha: 'I challenge you to raise your voice loud'




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