This I Believe

Elizabeth - Atlanta, Georgia
Entered on August 27, 2007

I believe that in order to succeed in life I have to follow four simple rules:

Rule number one: Make a friend

Number two: Learn something new

Number three: Have fun.

And number four: Beat somebody…anybody.

Ever since my first swim meet in the second grade, my father has made me repeat these four rules for him before I take on a challenge. Throughout my life, when I was trying out for a team, performing in a play, and every time I left home college after a holiday my dad would sit me down and make me repeat them. It wasn’t until later that I understood why he made me do it, but as I reflect on my experiences I see how it affected me.

I realized that I’ve never been afraid to try something challenging or set my goals high because I can still make friends, have fun, and learn new things even while experiencing rejection. The four rules taught me that the process can be more important than the outcome, and if you aren’t petrified by the possibility of failure then success is much easier to attain.

I recently completed my second year of teaching high school in one of the poorest counties in our country. When I told my dad I was going to take the job two years ago, he was concerned that I’d end up cynical or exhausted from my efforts to help my students succeed. He listed reasons and gave me examples of why I should abandon my plan. Although I acknowledged that it seemed like a daunting task, I knew I had to tackle it.

While there were certainly days when I came home feeling psychologically beaten, and others when I thought that my efforts were futile. When I look back at those days through the lens of the four rules, I realized that I was having an impact on my students and they were having an impact on me. While some colleagues were discouraged by the slow progress being made in their classrooms, I knew that a person’s experiences –both successes and failures—were valuable. Because success looked different for me than most other teachers, my students weren’t afraid to fail, so they attempted more and learned a great deal.

I personally felt successful because I earned the trust and friendship of my students. I learned to be patient and that the proverbial carrot usually works better than the stick. Many days I laughed harder with my students than I ever have in my life. And I know that because of my hard work, my students got a better education from me than many of my peers.

I believe that my father’s four rules were the greatest gifts that he could have ever given me.

Make a friend

Learn something new

Have fun.

Beat somebody.

I can’t always come out on top, but because of my dad’s rules I always know that the effort is a success in and of itself.