Five Values for a Prosperous Life
Will Wade, Head Men's Basketball Coach, UTC
(delivered for Convocation on September 12, 2013)
As an individual grows up in this world and moves along the course of life, one usually finds himself dedicating a large portion of his time to causes for which he holds a sincere passion. I have always believed that inside each and every person is a deep-seated desire to obtain a satisfaction which can only be found in endeavors for which one feels great enthusiasm and affinity. Those paths are many and varied, as people have a wide array of interests. However, I have come to believe through my own life experiences and by engaging in the lives of others, that there are five core values which can lead anyone to success and contentment, regardless of the nature of your life’s pursuits. In whatever arena one chooses to work and play, the daily applications of appreciation, enthusiasm, competitiveness, unselfishness, and accountability will lead him down a prosperous path.
The interesting dynamic about the concept of appreciation is that while most would agree it is a noble trait, nearly everyone fails to participate in the action of appreciating someone or something as often as we should. The majority of people, me included, find it easy to appreciate an act of kindness bestowed upon us, but rarely recognize daily moments which are equally deserving of our gratitude. I have learned to appreciate both good and bad circumstances. The feel-good scenarios are easy, but we should be mindful that tough situations make us better people. Appreciate both. Friendly people are easy to like and appreciate, but there are lessons to be learned from those who are unhappy and unpleasant. I have learned to appreciate that those people’s journeys may have been full of turmoil, and to be grateful that mine has not involved as many obstacles. I realized as I grew up that there would always be people who had seemingly better jobs, more money, and more things that I desired. As I matured, I found people who had less in nearly every area of life, and I developed a great understanding of the importance of appreciating the factors which made me who I am. The ability to appreciate both the blessings and struggles in your life makes each day better, and is discovered when you approach life with great enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm for what one does every day can change how an individual appreciates his journey, and how successful and satisfying that journey becomes. During my coaching career, I have come across a number of student-athletes whose talents and abilities were comparable to one another. Without exception, the person who attacked his desires and tasks with great enthusiasm won out in the end. I would be foolish to believe that every small detail of our daily life elicits unbridled enthusiasm, but I have learned that conjuring up a bit of excitement for even the mundane responsibilities creates a more enjoyable result. When I began appreciating everything that came my way, I became a more enthusiastic person, and in turn a happier person. It is my personal goal to be the most enthusiastic person in every room. Enthusiasm breeds more enthusiasm, which creates an excitement that people want to be around. My adult experiences have strengthened my belief that enthusiasm increases my level of appreciation, pulls people in, and stirs the pot of competitiveness.
Competitiveness sometimes draws a negative connotation in people’s minds. I believe that healthy competition is a key to the successful pursuit of one’s goals. The most prosperous teams I’ve ever been involved with had cultures which contained heavy doses of appreciation and enthusiasm, and without exception healthy competitiveness followed. The best thing about competition is that it can be found in even the smallest details. A few years back, I coached at an institution where the housekeepers at our arena rotated every other day. There was a group who cleaned Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while another crew was responsible for keeping the building in good shape on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The Monday team approached their responsibilities with enthusiasm, appreciation for the job, and pride in their work, while the Tuesday squad shared very few of those same motivations. As you could guess, it did not take long for us to develop a sincere thankfulness for the Monday team. As coaches interested in competitiveness, we were very aware that their team competed to be the best housekeeping crew on campus. I appreciated those folks and learned a tremendous amount about the importance of competing in everything you do. The Monday crew also taught me invaluable lessons about the power of unselfishness.
The easiest way to lose enthusiasm, to become unappreciative, and to shy away from competition is to look inward and mire down in selfish thought. More than any of the other four core values, unselfishness is a choice. I was lucky to watch and learn from an arena housekeeping crew, who without question had the most underappreciated and thankless job of anyone in our building. Those remarkable people never seemed to fall into the trap of selfishness, though it would have been easy. During tough circumstances, unenjoyable tasks, and intensely competitive moments, the most successful approach is to help someone else. I encourage every member of my team and staff to help out someone else when things get difficult. The unexpected result of an attitude of unselfishness is that when one puts it into action, he receives as much benefit and prosperity as the person receiving the help. A person who chooses unselfish behavior makes the decision to be accountable for others, and becomes a helper rather than a hindrance.
Accountability is a positive characteristic. Accountability simply means that you can be counted on to take care of your business. Individuals who have an appreciation for their circumstance, enthusiasm for their responsibilities, a spirit of competition, and an unselfish approach generally tend to run towards accountability rather than away from it. It has always made me feel good when someone tells me that “I can count on you.” When someone can rely on you, what they are really saying is that you are trustworthy. Trustworthiness is affixed to the bedrock of accountability. The Monday housekeeping crew possessed a high level of accountability for their jobs, and were extremely successful because of it. When I think of all the people I’ve come across in my career whom I would label as accountable, I cannot name a single one who is not appreciative, enthusiastic, competitive, and unselfish first.
I believe appreciation, enthusiasm, competitiveness, unselfishness, and accountability are the cornerstones for a meaningful college experience for students. More importantly, I believe these attributes are applicable and necessary for a prosperous journey regardless of the season of your life. These five values will help lead you towards success and satisfaction in every day of your future.