A Message to Our Students
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— Will you succeed in life? That’s a question I’d like to pose to all high school students today in Middlesex County.
First, let’s define success. You may have a different idea of success, but to me it means fulfilling dreams.
If you succeed you’ll have to do battle constantly with some dark sides of human nature. One dark side you probably already have recognized in yourself and others is envy, that little green monster that has the power to bring achievement to a grinding halt and ruin your life. There is no more damaging or toxic human condition in this world than envy.
Here are two rules regarding envy: If you envy others, you’re wasting time and energy, and if you don’t squash that negative attitude it will destroy your life. So tell you brain to quit it. Rule two: the greater your success, the greater will be the problem of others envying you. Recognize you can’t change other people, only yourself. So erase envy from your brain and at least that solves half the problem.
Envy is easily defeated. Simply spend your life in pursuit of your dreams. Not your parents’ dreams for you, not your teacher’s dreams for you, but your own dreams. When you are meeting goals you have set for yourself, you will be too busy to fall into the poisonous pit of envying what others are doing.
I witnessed how destructive envy was while serving as director of a business college. There was an African-American female on our college faculty; a young, slim, beautiful woman who had earned a college degree, held a good job along with also having an attractive husband and children. She was the perfect role model for students struggling to learn business and computer skills that would launch them into the workforce for the first time.
You would have thought this bright instructor would have been a star in our presence and that her life with us would have been perfect. Not so. A group of students constantly ragged her, following her down halls between classes and harassing her with rude epitaphs. It was not a pretty sight.
What was happening? Why were her detractors attacking someone of their own race and gender who was a success? Envy. Instead of looking up to someone who had set high goals and had worked hard to meet them, they had let themselves be overcome with negative resentment.
Instead of feeling envy when we see success in others, a better option is to feel inspired to work harder on our own goals. If envy is the worst of human nature, then inspiration is the best.
The truth is negative peer groups can hold us back in life and sometimes we have to leave peer groups to find success. It’s not easy to leave a peer group. We aren’t supposed to leave “the group.” Even in our so called “free” society we are supposed to conform, buckle down to whatever existing rules have been set down for us to follow, and pity the poor soul who has decided to move in other directions.
I say “pity” facetiously, of course, because leaving one’s peer group is a grand and transforming event. It’s a breaking away from the enslaving status quo and, with it, comes previously unknown new resources of courage, self-esteem and power.
The other dark side of human nature that ever thwarts success is the habit of blaming others for failures. A candidate for success must come to grips with the fact that obtaining it is going to be YOUR responsibility, it must be EARNED BY YOU. No one is ever handed success on a silver platter in this world, and it’s going to take a great deal of hard work, dedication, and perseverance to achieve it.
Set goals now for what you want to do in life and focus on achieving those goals. Stay away from teen-age sex, drugs and unhealthy relationships. People who are neither motivated nor interested in the hard work that it takes for success are taboo for an individual who is going places. Protect yourself from all negative and harmful forces that will try to keep you down. Be prepared to fail occasionally, because that is a part of life, but get right back to working on goals.
Will you succeed? Will you have the courage to break away from those who may try to hold you back? Will you accept self-responsibility for earning success, and will you work hard for it and never give up?
Yes? Great! Then start NOW to set goals, focus on achieving them one goal at a time, be mindful of the little green monster, accept full responsibility for your life, and never give up! We will be rooting for you!