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.

Be Kind

Group of high schoolersAround the world people are mourning the death of legendary actor Robin Williams. He was a giant of a man on screen and according to family and friends, an even greater man off the screen. There’s no doubt he will be missed not just by those who knew and loved him but by millions of others who enjoyed his shows and movies over the years. It is such a sad and unnecessary end to such an incredible life. And now that we’ve heard how hard and long he fought his demons of drug abuse, alcoholism, and depression, the news of his passing is that much more tragic.

There are many things Robin Williams’ death reminds us of, but one in particular sticks out to me: it’s hard to truly know what someone is going through in his or her life. Most of us are pretty good at putting a smile on while we’re in the presence of others. Robin Williams was one of the best. He was a comedian at heart. But deep down he was hurting far more than anyone realized.

As you look around your school and pass dozens of faces each day, remember that despite appearances, you probably don’t know someone’s full story. That’s why 2,500 years ago, Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” They are great words to live by. And if you can own them in your life when you’re young, you will be a light in others’ lives for a long time.

Don’t Quit

DontQuitIt’s something I seem to encounter all the time.  I want to quit.  Just last night, only three days into a commitment I made to eating healthier, I laid in bed and tried to convince myself that one bowl of ice cream wouldn’t affect my goal of getting back in shape. Fortunately, I found some will power and was able to talk myself out of giving in. Now I’m on day four, and I’m so happy I didn’t give in to those temporary feelings and I’m one step closer to seeing this thing through to completion.

The truth is, for me, quitting is not just limited to eating healthy, it seems to come up at one time or another in every area of my life. If you’re honest, it happens to you too. There are times we want to give up on our job, our school, our marriage, our friendships, our workouts, or even God.  It’s just the way life is. The want to quit is and will continually be an easy option for all of us.  To make things worse, society is changing. We’re surrounded more and more by people that encourage us to take the easy way out, wave the white flag, find a shortcut, after all you don’t want to stress yourself out.

What these people are failing to tell you is that there is a major difference between reaching your goals and the work that is demanded to accomplish it. Everything of lasting value requires work. Hard work. One of my favorite proverbs says “Hard work ALWAYS pays off.”  It doesn’t mean that your goal will be reached overnight, but what it does guarantee is that if you continue to put in the work and don’t quit, eventually you will see positive results.

Often times, there is a long distance between beginning to pursue your goal and seeing it realized. Throughout my life I’ve seen this played out over and over, and I’m convinced that the life’s greatest lessons are learned when we refuse to quit. Your character is always tested in these moments but that’s what makes life great. The grind is so worth it and rewarding when your goal is finally reached.

Question: Have you been thinking about quitting something?  Leave me a comment below on why you’re going to keep going?

No Easy Way

Rock climbing POVThe results of a large-scale, national survey show that teens are experimenting with performance-enhancing drugs twice as much as they used to. But an Associated Press article by David Crary reveals that this sort of drug experimentation isn’t about partying, rebellion or some sort of escape from problems. If you’re competing in sports, it’s usually about getting one step ahead of the competition. If you’re not playing a sport, it’s usually about your image. For many teens, using the drugs is about both.

“This is about how you feel, how you look,” said Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “[Teens] are doing this thing to get ahead… Girls want to be thin and toned. For a lot of boys, it’s about their six-pack.”

The problem with performance-enhancing drugs like human growth hormone, steroids or supplements that promise a lean, fit body is that they aren’t illegal. This makes experimenting with them that much more appealing. But don’t fall for the temptation. While there are always physical and psychological dangers associated with these sorts of drugs, the biggest danger is in what taking them represents: a belief that success can be reached through shortcuts.

In the end, there are no shortcuts to any place worth going. Success takes commitment, sacrifice, and hard work. There are no substitutes and no one—not even someone born with natural talent—gets a pass. So the next time you see an ad for some sort of quick-fix to a better-looking, better-performing body, remember that your best resources for success are already in your possession. Then dig in further and go after your dream with greater focus. No one and no thing can stop a person who pursues his or her dream with relentless passion.

Respect

050114_senior_prom2_640We live in a time when people do just about anything—even illegal things—to get some respect from others. Don’t get caught up in that game. Respect isn’t something you force others to give. It’s not something you ask for. It’s something that’s given to you in return for the respect you give out. That begins with respecting your elders.

Austin Dennison is a great example. He just graduated Parkway High School in Rockford, Ohio, but before that, he attended his last prom and his decision on who to take for a date gained national attention. As Todd Starnes reported, Austin asked Delores Dennison, his 89-year-old great grandmother, to the big dance.

Austin wasn’t desperate for a prom date. He’s a good-looking kid who’s an accomplished athlete in three sports: football, baseball, and basketball. He also plays music and is an Eagle Scout. But when it came time to prepare for his last prom, he knew he wasn’t going to take the typical route and ask a girl from his school. He called his great grandmother, Delores, instead and asked her. Then he made the night special.

After helping her pick out a new dress and purse, he took her to her favorite spot for dinner before heading to the prom. Once there, Austin introduced her to all his friends and then escorted her onto the dance floor where he had one more surprise. As he took his great grandmother’s hand, the song that his great grandfather used to sing to her began to play: Frank Sinatra’s “Delores.” It was a moment, and a night, neither will forget.

When asked afterward why he did it all, Austin Dennison explained that he has respect for his elders because they have taught him so much throughout his young life. He wanted to do something in return. That’s precisely how we all need to look at respect. It’s not something you ask for. It’s something you earn through your actions toward others. And now, Austin Dennison has earned the respect of millions. It’s absolutely deserved.

Go Out of Your Way

Two pathsLast month Kyle Lang, a senior from West Salem High School in Wisconsin, went on a jog. But not just any jog, a long jog—101 miles to be exact, the equivalent of roughly four marathons. The run was part of Kyle’s senior exit project aimed at raising awareness for those who go hungry every day in this country.

It’s shocking but 1 in every 6 people in America have to face the day without enough food. That statistic alone was enough to inspire Kyle to do something big about it. He set out on his run on June 24 and by the evening of June 25, he had completed 101 miles and raised (and is still raising) thousands of dollars that will go directly to the Hunger Task Force advocacy group and the WAFER food pantry. Kyle Lang is an inspiration to everyone but especially those who’ve been told you’re too young to make a difference.

Don’t let the words of others or your age be an excuse to not do something big. And don’t let being a student with limited means keep you from being creative and going out of your way to make life better for another person. You have everything you need inside you—heart, mind, will, and faith.

Ask yourself what stirs your heart, then go do something big about it. “Don’t ask what the world needs,” said Howard Thurman. “Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”