This Saturday afternoon, my daughter Abby will graduate high school. It’s an interesting road that she’s traveled, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. She left an orphanage in Ternopil, Ukraine for the wide open skies of Lubbock Texas. She battled the setbacks presented by her Autism to attain the confidence of an “A” student. She’s grown from a sweet child into beautiful young woman.
During the graduation ceremony, we’ll listen to prepared remarks from several speakers. Administrators and the top-ranked students will share their words of wisdom and offer advice the graduating class. I won’t remember a word of what they say. Instead my mind will wander to the lessons I’ve learned from watching my daughter. She’s taught me all I need to know about success.
Ask questions. Abby asks lots of questions. She’s innately curious. She wants to know how things work, what words mean, why some things exist and others don’t. She wants to know why people act the way that they do and questions her own behavioral motivations. In addition, she is keenly observant and pays attention to the answers to her questions. She remembers what she’s learned and uses it going forward.
Get comfortable asking questions. We should be curious about the world and people around us. There is so much to learn about our customers, our coworkers, and our business. We should read and watch and research those little questions we ask about others and ourselves instead of just letting them skip across our minds. And then we should remember. That’s how we grow.
Be excited. Abby goes all-in, just about all the time. She loves holidays and wants to experience every aspect of them she can. She loves music and television and soaks up her favorite actors and musicians. She enjoys working with me in the shop and willingly dives into whatever project we’re working on together. She loves school and diligently completes her work. As that experience comes to a close, she’s excited about the prospect of working and taking on new challenges.
Get excited about whatever it is that you’re doing. Mundane task or fantastic adventure; both can be exciting if we make them so. It’s our attitude that determines our effort, nothing else. It’s our perspective that matters, not our circumstance. When we choose to be excited, we will be; and others will be too.
Seek improvement. Abby is a hard worker. She wants to do well and be told “good job!” She gives just about everything she does her best effort, sometimes going back and revisiting a project she’s already completed in order to make it better. She’s rarely satisfied with the status quo.
Get better. There’s always a next level. There’s always something that can be done to perfect your craft, no matter what it is. Let perfection be your goal and excellence your calling card. Push “good enough” to the side and seek to break new ground.
Build relationships. Abby doesn’t know a stranger. If she’s met you, she knows you – and you know her. Because she asks questions, gets excited about things, and is always trying to improve herself, she’s a magnet for others. We’ve been blessed to have teachers and friends and a host of others who have rallied around her over the years. Because she makes an effort to reach out, people respond to her and both lives are enriched.
Get involved. Building relationships can be messy. Learning about other people and bearing your own soul a little bit can reveal some things you’d prefer to leave uncovered. However, the reward of developing strong, long-term relationships with others is well worth the effort.
My little girl has grown a lot since I first laid eyes on her, but she’s not finished growing yet. On Saturday I’ll proudly watch her walk across the stage, accept her diploma, and enter into a new phase of exploration and discovery. I’m somewhat anxious for her, but confident that she has the tools she needs to tackle anything that comes her way.