Sam arrived shortly after class. I invited Sam to sit down at the round table in my office.
“Sam, why are you here?” I asked. Sam looked perplexed. I became more specific, asking: “Sam, why are you here at college?”
To his credit, Sam sat and reflected. He then replied, “To get a good job.”
I asked, “Do you think you are on the path to getting a good job?”
Sam reflected again and then replied, “No. My grades are not too good. I’ll probably graduate with my college degree. But I don’t imagine many employers will take a look at me.”
I inquired, “Why is that, Sam? What are you lacking, other than good grades, which would deter you from finding a good job after you graduate?”
Sam hesitated. His face turned downward. After I while, he answered, “I’m really don’t think I’m all that attractive. I don’t socialize very much. I’m not great at math. I’m a poor writer.”
I leaned forward, waited until Sam looked at me in the eyes, and said: “Sam, great things happen in life to great people. Are you willing to become a great person?”
Sam replied, “I think so, but I don’t know if I can.”
Sam’s self-doubt was not unique. I had it observed it in many students before. “Sam, can you commit to give me an extra two to three hours a week of your time, for the next ten weeks. During this time you will be reading, completing some tasks, and in the process discovering all about yourself and your capabilities?”
Sam hesitated. “I think so.”
I looked Sam in the eye and made a proposal to him. “Let’s make a deal. If you give me twenty to thirty hours of your time, over the next ten weeks, I promise you that you will become a much better person and that you will learn the secrets to success. As a result, you will do much better in college.”
Sam and I shook hands. Then, he began his process of discovery. Over the next ten weeks we met weekly to review his progress and discuss what he was learning and how he was changing.
By the end of the semester Sam had completed the tasks I had provided for him. Over the next two years Sam and I continued to meet occasionally. While Sam encountered some challenges on his path toward graduation, he possessed newfound confidence and resilience in tackling those challenges.
At Sam’s graduation, I reflected as Sam crossed the stage to receive his diploma. Sam, once shy, had gained confidence and a positive attitude. He became more personable. He entered into deep, meaningful relationships with a host of new friends. He participated in a few clubs and organizations on campus and he acquired a leadership position in one of them. His grade point average had soared.
And Sam had secured a great first job in his industry, full of opportunity, with a large firm.
With Sam I had devised, each week, a set of undertakings for him to achieve. Over the past few years these exercises have been refined, and now I make them available to all of my students.
The rewards of this endeavor – to enable students to engage in self-reflection and personal development – flow to me as well. From Sam I received this hand-written thank you note toward the end of his ten-week journey:
- “Today, as a last entry into my gratitude journal for this assignment (I will keep writing in one in the future as well), I would like to say that I am grateful to have Dr. Rhoades as a professor this semester. Although he may not think of this as a ‘serious’ entry, I really have learned a lot about life in general from having him as a professor. He is a little less lenient than most professors but also expects your best effort and gives great tips to succeed. I have learned to follow my dreams, expand my comfort zone, network myself, have fun, and above all else work even harder in life, even more so after having him as my Business Law professor. I feel like it was destiny to be enrolled in his class. It turned out to be a great blessing that I ended up choosing to change my major to Business Administration because it put me into his classroom. Thank you for everything so far this semester Dr. Rhoades!”
While these blog posts contain explanations of many concepts for your reading pleasure, you will gain the most value if you complete the tasks and exercises set forth in each post. Many of these exercises will challenge you, in ways you may not have been challenged before.
College is the time to embrace personal growth. While the acquisition of technical knowledge in your chosen career field is important, vastly more important to your success in all aspects of your life is the personal enrichment you will find in these pages.
Can you commit, like Sam, to spending twenty to thirty hours of your time, approximately two or three hours a week each week for ten weeks? Are you ready to become a much better person, and lay the foundations for greater success in college and in all aspects of your life?
If you can make such a commitment, check out the other posts to this blog.
Dr. Ron A. Rhoades is an Asst. Professor of Finance at Western Kentucky University's Gordon Ford College of Business, where he chairs the (B.S. Finance) Financial Planning Program. An innovative, passionate teacher, he is the author of Choose to Succeed in College and in Life: Continously Improve, Persevere, and Enjoy the Journey (2014), from which many of these blog posts are derived.
Dr. Rhoades also serves as a consultant to the Garrett Planning Network, a nationwide network of independent, Fee-Only financial planners making competent, objective financial advice accessible to all people. He is the author of several books, dozens of articles, and he is a frequent speaker at financial planning and investments conferences. He is the recipient of many awards for his advocacy on behalf of the fiduciary standard. Dr. Rhoades is also a member of The Florida Bar, and he practices estate planning and transfer taxation for select current clients.
Dr. Rhoades and his wife, Cathy, reside in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
To contact Dr. Rhoades, please e-mail: WKUBear@gmail.com.