Last week, I had the privilege of sitting in the audience with the other proud parents at the Grand Haven Community Foundation’s Excellence in Education awards program recognizing the 10% of graduating students in our community. Midway through the event, the keynote speaker was introduced, a man named Timothy Terrentine. Mr. Terrentine is the current VP of Development and Alumni Relations at Western Michigan University. From what I witnessed, he is an accomplished speaker and WMU is lucky to have him. His ability to captivate a room, full of students, families, educators and community leaders was nothing short of exceptional. I was most drawn in by his ability to reinforce the gravity of the situation this group of graduating seniors is beginning to find themselves in … and his advice on how best to handle that.
Mr. Terrentine first congratulated these students for their hard work and dedication to their studies, their activities and their community. He recognized that their success was not likely made possible without the support of their families and certainly their teachers and coaches, many of whom were there sitting next to each student being recognized as their selected influential mentor.
It was then that he spoke about these students soon realizing what the adults in the room already know, and that is as you progress through life and leave the safety net of your parents, there is often a gap between what you expect your life (your day, your year, your situation) to be like and what you actually experience. And, until now, your parents, teachers and others in your life have helped (often through money or intervention) bridge that gap so you don’t have to feel the full weight of it. But now, as they begin to enter into the big world all on their own, they will need to learn to close that gap on their own.
It’s so true. And, in my experience many young people truly believe what they expect their life to be is exactly what will actually happen. And, from what I can tell, they must believe it magically happens. This is where Mr. Terrentine’s next power phrase came in to play. He explained that those who are successful in closing the gap and who create a narrower and narrower space between what they expect and what they experience, are those who have the “hunger for how”. They are the people who understand they need to recognize there is a gap, and explore and learn the ways to close it. They have a responsibility to discover the path that they must take to reach their goals and be willing to walk down it, and conquer what they face along that path to reach the finish line. Now, those last two sentences are my words, not his. But, it’s what I got out of what he said and I thought it was a brilliant way to explain that you can do and be whatever you want to be. But, you have to show up, and do the work. And, not expect that everything will be easy or without challenges. And, when there is a gap between what you expect and what you get, you have the power to change it.
As a matter of fact, as I write this, I am reminded of another part of his speech. He told the students that they each have superpowers. And, they should use their superpowers to help them as they face challenges in life. He explained that their superpowers are sometimes not obvious to them and encouraged them to talk to their friends and ask questions like, “what are five words you would use to describe me”, and “what can you always depend on me for?”. These are “your” superpowers, he said.
Mr. Terrentine’s speech was incredibly impactful on me; and, I am sure that he also reached the group of bright students with his poignant words of advice. This is such an important time in their lives, as they enter college or explore the next part of their future.
His terms “close the gap” and “hunger for how” will definitely become part of my vernacular, and I’m hopeful it resonated with the others in the audience as well. I’ll be sure to use these terms as I have the opportunity to mentor young people in my life. And, I will remember that it was one of Mr. Terrentine’s superpowers that brought them to life.