Monday night this week I was asked to speak at The Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University to honor the graduating students. This group included female students in the Amy Rees Anderson Academic Entrepreneurs Program at USU as well.
When I was asked if I would come and speak at Monday’s event my first thought was how crazy that day already was for me as I was scheduled to go with the Governor and the head of the National Guard on an airplane refueling tanker to observe an in-air refueling of the new F35 fighter jets. And I had to get myself packed for another trip I’d be leaving on the very next morning. Saying yes to speaking would require that I drive two hours up to Logan Monday night to speak and then drive two hours back again. How could I possibly fit it in and still have time to pack for my trip??
But I thought about the love I have for those students up at USU, and especially the love I have for the girls in my program up there. How could I not be there to congratulate them on what they have accomplished? How could I not be there to give them huge hugs and tell them how proud I am of them?? Not going just wasn’t an option… I decided sleep that night would have to just wait for another day…
I didn’t prepare a formal talk, and instead decided to share thoughts from the heart. I told the students that where they are in their life right now, this very moment, they can do whatever they want to – they just needed to make a decision and set a goal, then muster up all kinds of courage and move forward. I told them of my own fears I felt as I set off to college, leaving home for the first time to fly from Tennessee out to Utah to attend BYU. I told them that I cried the entire flight as I listened to a cassette tape on my Sony Walkman playing songs about faith and bawling my eyes out. I told them how unsure I’d felt when I got married at a young age and decided to have a baby when I had no idea how we would possibly afford a child, but moving forward with faith. I was blessed with an adorable son. I shared how heartbroken I was when partway through my second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and how that caused me to doubt myself and wonder if I wasn’t good enough to get to be a mom again. But I pushed past my self-doubts and tried again and this time I was blessed with a gorgeous baby girl. I remember my feeling of being a failure when my first marriage ended in divorce. I remember the inadequacies I felt trying to handle life as a single parent. Each time things went wrong in my life the insecurities and self-doubts would creep in and cause me to question my worth. Was I smart enough? Was I good enough? Was I capable enough? I realized the doubts may never go totally away, but I made the decision I wouldn’t let them stop me. I set my goals and I mustered up my courage and I moved forward. Each time things went wrong I would remind myself of the inspiring words of my favorite author, C.S. Lewis:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.”
I let the students know that it didn’t matter what age they were, or what stage in life they were, or what circumstances they faced – they will always have the choice to do anything. Then I shared with them an experience I had that morning as I was on that flight with the Governor. One of the men in our group pulled me aside and said, “You know, you’ve become a bit of an icon…now what do you plan to do with that platform?”
I told the students that this is the very question I want each of them to answer for themselves – what will they do with their platform one day? Decide that now, and then commit themselves to never doing anything along their journey that will damage their ability to achieve that platform. Stay true to who they are and who they want to be, during the good times, and the bad. And when the bad times comes, as they certainly will, just remember that its just God turning you into a palace (a palace with a really amazing shoe closet in it I hope 🙂 tee hee ).
I’m so glad I went to USU Monday night. Those students bless my life far more than I could ever bless theirs and being their mentor is one of my greatest joys. Because that is the answer to what I want to do with my platform – I want to help others to excel.
~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )