Take responsibility for your future

As we approach the end of the fall semester and the beginning of the long winter break, our students ought to be thinking about their futures—both immediate and long-term. The weeks away from the Hill afford underclassmen the opportunity to start lining up summer employment or internships, while seniors should be finalizing their post-Norwich plans.

The future is not something you should put off addressing. As young adults, the decisions you make now will impact your life for a long time to come. Set goals for yourself and work toward them diligently. Make a new year’s resolution to visit the Career and Internship center weekly when you return from break, and utilize the resources they provide.

In her Todd Lecture last November, Marilyn Tam talked about her four “Work/Life Principles.” One of them was “make big mistakes.” What she meant by that was, if you make small mistakes, you are only being careless. But if you make a big mistake, that means you are willing to take risks. So often when someone has a breakthrough moment and achieves instant celebrity status, we say they became an “overnight success.”

What we often overlook are the years of struggle, hard work, and disappointment which may have preceded that success. It is a well-known fact that Michael Jordan did not make his high school varsity basketball roster as a sophomore. What is lesser known is that the NBA Hall-of-Famer and recent Medal of Freedom recipient spent the next year working relentlessly on his game, to the point of having to be routinely chased out of the gym by Laney phys. ed. teacher Ruby Smith. Similarly, current Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen lost her bid for the presidency in 2012, but in her concession speech, the 56-year-old former college professor accepted full responsibility for the loss, vowing to “lead her party to victory the next time around.” And those of you who have studied modern European history surely remember the example of late British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature for his “overall, lifetime body of work.” A dismal and rebellious academic student, the young Churchill failed his entrance exam to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, three times before finally passing.

Their lessons are ones we should all heed: Take responsibility for your own development. Do not expect anyone else to do it for you. If you have setbacks—and who doesn’t—pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. In other words, do not let anyone or anything get between you and your goals. Think big, but dream bigger. That is what Alden Partridge did 200 years ago, and that is what Norwich is still doing today: We may not be a large institution, but we aim high. Norwich graduates the world over are proving that there are no limits to what you can accomplish if you are willing to work hard, take risks, and lead with passion.

Have a great winter break, and come back refreshed and ready for a successful spring semester.

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