I hope your summer went well, that your families are safe, and that you were able to recharge your mind.
The year in front of us is clearly an unknown, unique to the 2020-2021 school year. The future is filled with contingency plans, confusing rules, changing policy.
With all that, though, it’s important to focus on this year’s virtue, teamwork. I chose teamwork for many reasons: to spread unity amongst the school community, to change our individual mindsets to the collective. But teamwork requires more than just an understanding of the team—it requires a keen understanding of oneself.
I started my summer like many of you: playing golf and thinking about how bad this new year would be. Around a month ago, I started reading a transformational book. David Goggins’ Can’t Hurt Me combines elements of the author’s life with an instruction manual for one’s own growth.
Former Navy Seal David Goggins’ experience can shape your own. He begins in Buffalo, living with an abusive father, but he and his mother eventually flee to Indiana. Goggins attends middle and high school there, teaches himself how to read, and encounters plenty of obstacles on the way. He trains and enters the Air Force, only to fail out due to medical concerns. Goggins lands himself an exterminator job and reaches 300 pounds before enlisting and graduating as a Navy Seal.
The book is an amazing read for the story itself, but the most intriguing elements are the challenges that Goggins poses to the reader. Seven challenges, to be exact, each one reflecting a method Goggins himself enlisted en route to being dubbed the “world’s greatest athlete.”
All of Goggins’ philosophies follow one basic premise: the 40% rule. Most people go about all aspects of life operating at 40% of their ability.
Thinking about his ideas made me realize the genius behind them.
To say that most people are operating at below half of their potential may seem offensive; maybe it is. Maybe you feel like you work as hard as you can at everything you put your mind to, just like I did before I read this book. But the reason most people cannot unlock their potential, Goggins argues, is a common flaw: a lack of self-honesty.
A house cannot be built on a broken foundation. Following the premise, a person’s successes cannot be built on a foundation filled with flaws. People avoid the hard truths they know about themselves, choosing the easier reality their mind has created to distract themselves from what’s in front of them.
As I understood Goggins’ theory, I began to realize that in this school, far too many people avoid their truths. They avoid discomfort and go about growth in a backward way. At our school, it is common practice for an individual with a different opinion from the norm to say silent when facing peers because they fear the challenge of being confronted.
So, a challenge to each Upper School student this year: don’t cut yourself any slack and be better than 40%, whether it’s a political debate in your advisory, a workout with a partner, or practice with the band. Don’t make yourself look stupid and don’t do those around you the disservice of witnessing your 40%. If you can’t lift as much as your friend, don’t be an idiot; work out hard with what you can, and push past your limits. If you have a different belief in policy than your friend, stick out your chest and discuss your opinion in a respectful way. If you want to break out of your comfort zone and try a new activity, don’t let the feelings of convenience and ease cloud your judgment. Be daring.
I don’t care if you are a Republican or Democrat, a Third or Sixth Former, a workout warrior or a bookworm. Look yourself in the mirror and realize you can do so much more, that you can achieve your goals if you face your true reality.
Come to school with a passion to learn, because Haverford isn’t something you earned; it’s something that was given to you by people that sacrificed for your attendance. Don’t take your time for granted, and don’t graduate without leaving your mark. Best of luck.
I will be right along for the ride.