• Chad Varga’s unforgettable story has made him today's preeminent authority on how to overcome any odds and all obstacles to fulfill your dreams.
  • A Crash Course Called Apathy

    n-DAVIS-largeA recent article from Yahoo! News describes a 21-year-old Australian girl named Kimberly Davis (pictured) who was texting and driving when she hit a cyclist from behind, throwing him from his bike and leaving him with multiple injuries, including a fractured spine that required emergency surgery and left him in a wheelchair for months. Did she care? Apparently not. In fact, she was actually angry at the cyclist. After the accident, Davis left the man on the side of the road and refused to help him. When officers later questioned her about the accident, she said, “I just don’t care…and my car is like pretty expensive and now I have to fix it…. I’m kind of pissed off that the cyclist has hit the side of my car.”

    As hard as it is to believe that anyone could be so apathetic and self-centered, this is a true story. And unfortunately, Miss Davis got off pretty easy considering her recklessness and the harm she did to the cyclist. She was fined approximately $4,200 and lost her driver’s license for 9 months. She spent no time in jail. We can only hope that Miss Davis will do some real soul searching while she’s riding in others’ cars for a while. Because if she doesn’t she’s on a different sort of crash course that will leave her the seriously injured one.

    Who you are is up to you. It’s not up to your circumstances. It’s not up to your friends. It’s not even up to your parents. While all the forces around you can have an effect on you, how much they effect you is your decision. The worst thing you can do is take a backseat to your own life and act like you don’t care what happens inside you or around you. Apathy always leads to pain and regret. But apathy is deceptive. It lets you get by for a while—sometimes for years—with little more than a bump or bruise to the ego.

    When you’re young, it’s all-too-easy to conclude that apathy isn’t a big deal. It’s a lie that often won’t be revealed until who you are matters most, like when you’re pursuing a dream job or a real relationship with someone you care about—or when you’ve found yourself in a pit you can’t climb out of alone. When who you are suddenly matters, you can’t just flip a switch and change history. Who you are today will follow you and ultimately determine what opportunities, resources, and help you have tomorrow. Don’t wait to be the best you. It’s in your control. And it matters far more than you might be able to see today.

    A Critical Time in Your Life

    TimeOnly time will tell what was going through Alex Hribal’s mind yesterday morning when he pulled out two kitchen knives and went on a stabbing rampage throughout his school wounding twenty-one innocent bystanders. Only time will tell what sort of life he led and what his motives might have been. Only time will tell whether something in his past—maybe even his recent past—triggered him to go through with such a terrible act. And then again, maybe time won’t tell. Maybe we will never know why Hribal did such a horrific thing and maybe time won’t tell whether he was bullied or abused or just a quiet kid who kept his thoughts to himself.

    We don’t know a lot right now about this terrible story but one thing we do know in its wake is that our high schools in America need young leaders like yourself who will say, “I’m not going to wait until I’m older and have a job or a family or money to make important decisions about my life…. I’m not going to defer until I’m older because the sooner I make critical decisions, the sooner my life will begin to take shape, the sooner my dreams can be realized, the soon I can have a major impact in the lives of those around me.”

    It’s a lie that you have to be “grown up” to make key decisions about your life. By the time I was fourteen, I had a painfully clear idea of the way my life would turn out if I made partying a priority. I also had a painfully clear idea of what divorce felt like and how important it was to not only marry the right person but be the right person for someone to marry. And of course I already knew by then the type of parent I dreamed one day I would be. Those realizations were not conclusions that I needed to defer until I was “grown up.” They were crystal clear conclusions when I was a freshman in high school.

    As a result of those conclusions, I made some big decisions as a teenager that began forging the path before me and ultimately created the opportunities that would later come. I wasn’t going to get caught up in partying. I was going to work hard at the things that mattered. I was going to treat others with respect. And I wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way of my dreams. Had I decided instead to just take it easy and let life happen while I was in high school, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’d not be where I am today. I would have become what the statistics say a kid who grows up in poverty and abuse under the parenting of a drug addict and alcoholic becomes.

    As we continue to follow the news of this horrible event in Pennsylvania, I encourage you to consider the decisions you can make in your own life right now. And as you do, remember that the greatest force in your life is not the circumstances around you but the choices you make every day. Make choices that matter and that will forge the future you desire. Don’t wait.

    The Importance of What You Do and Do Not Say

    Listening earWinston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.” That’s absolutely true. There will be times in your life when you should not keep your thoughts bottled up, when speaking up is precisely what you have to do in order to keep pursuing your dream or even to protect something that’s important to you. But speaking up isn’t always the best thing to do.

    We live in a society that urges you to speak your mind every chance you get. Social media is a great tool for spreading ideas and promoting good causes or simply staying connected to friends and family. But if you’re not careful, social media is also a trap.

    When you choose to “speak up” on any form of social media, and especially Twitter, you leave a permanent record that can be searched by anyone and re-read months or years from now. That may not sound like a big deal while you’re still in school. But it can have major implications when it comes time to apply for jobs after high school or college. What you choose to say today can help or harm your opportunities tomorrow.

    That’s the paradox of courage, especially in today’s digital world. While there are times when speaking up is the only course of action, it’s important to remember 1) social media usually isn’t the best place to do it and, 2) there’s another course of action that’s just as courageous. “Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen,” Winston Churchill concluded.

    One of the most important traits in life is the ability to listen and learn before you speak. I don’t mean you should listen to the jeers and negative comments of naysayers that come your way. Let those words fall to the ground where they can do you no harm. I’m talking about listening to the hearts of people who are hurting, and to the words of others who want to see you succeed.

    We live in a world where speaking up is elevated and listening is greatly downplayed. But if you pay attention to the most successful people, you’ll notice they do a lot more listening than talking. They understand that learning usually happens when your mouth is closed and your ears are open. I encourage you to become a person who is courageous on both ends of the spectrum: by speaking up only when you must and only in the right context, and by listening to learn at all other times. This way you will not only guard your future, you will prepare yourself with wisdom for the important decisions that lie ahead. Be both sides of courageous.

    The Ultimate Motivator

    Stressed girlThe American Psychological Association recently conducted a study that showed teens have higher levels of stress than adults. That’s probably no shock to you. According to a report in the Austin-American Statesman, “About a third [of the teens] also said they felt overwhelmed or sad or depressed because of stress. A third said they felt tired, and a fourth said they sometimes skip meals because of stress.”

    The reasons for this vary but the doctors and psychologists who are familiar with the study results say a primary one is that teens are not learning how to deal with stress from their parents like they used to. They say teens are also suffering from a major lack of downtime due to social media which keeps peer pressure constant. They also point out that teens are pushed to excel much more than in decades past—so much so, says Dr. Bradley Berg, medical director of pediatrics at Scott & White Hospital-Round Rock, “they are almost leading adult lives.”

    While I’m neither a physician nor a psychologist, after 14 years in thousands of middle and high schools across America, I have another reason to add to the list. In fact, I think it’s the primary reason you feel so much stress as a middle or high schooler. I believe troubling statistics like the increasing stress rate exist largely because so many teens don’t have the deep motivation to apply themselves and move beyond the real challenges in their lives.

    It’s difficult to deal with abuse, drugs, bullying, peer pressure, deception, rejection, and disappointment…and get good grades…and think about college…and have a life outside of school, all simultaneously, if you aren’t connected to your greatest source of strength and inspiration: your dreams.

    There’s a reason I talk about dreams so much. Mine saved me from a nightmare childhood that didn’t end until l left for college. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt that your dreams can save you. More than that. They can pull through any challenge before you just as they pulled me through the harsh realities of my upbringing with an alcoholic, drug-addicted mom.

    When I found my dream and determined to focus on chasing after it, everything changed. I suddenly had will power to fight against the adversaries in my life like peer pressure, rejection, and disappointment. I also had the tenacity to stick to my schoolwork and succeed in class because I know it would give me the opportunities I needed to keep pursuing my dream.

    If you haven’t yet found your dream, I challenge you to begin that process today. And if you’ve already grabbed hold of your dream, then lean into it this week; focus on making good, strong choices right now, no matter your circumstances, so that you will create more opportunities to achieve your dreams in the days ahead.

    No matter what you’ve heard from others, I want you to know your dreams matter. And not just a little bit. They matter as much as anything in your life. Find them. And then go after them with every fiber of your being. You will never regret it.