The youth of our generation holds the key to what the future of our world will look like. In today’s society, the older generations often view the youth negatively. To many, the young are those too engulfed with their youth that they fail to understand the ramifications of their actions, good or bad. Working in academia it is always encouraging when I come across students who not only value their collegiate experience, but also those who have a strong desire to excel in all endeavors. I have always been interested in learning about what motivates others to excel. I have come to learn that each person has a story, everyone reaches a point in their life where their struggles and their success’ merge to form their belief and value system regarding the future .
Recently I had the privilege to meet such an individual. John-David (JD) is not your average college student, at 21 he has already taken giant steps to building his future by investing time in his own business venture and finding ways to motivate his peers. He is a member of the Texas A&M University-Commerce track and field team and holds the school record in the 400m (47.40), and last year finished in the top 15 in the nation for both the 200 and 400 meter races. It is not odd to see him posting an inspirational message on social media, or speaking about his past to equipping others with the encouragement they need to face life challenges. If asked, he is certain to tell you that his motivation in life is being an influence to others. One of JD’s biggest sense of accomplishment comes from knowing that he added value to someone’s life.
Although a motivator, JD has faced numerous obstacles in his past, and he too, admits that mistakes are inevitable. However, it is the lessons you learn from each mistake that contributes to making you a better person. When asked about one of the most challenging periods of his life, he indicated it was the year 2013. The obstacle he faced was not an individual or an event; his greatest obstacle was himself. In 2013 JD was busy enjoying the pleasures his youthfulness provided him. He became self-centered, indicating that nothing else mattered in the world aside from that which pleased him. JD, determined to get whatever he wanted disregarded how his actions may have affected those he was closest to. JD admits that he became disrespectful to those around him, and one person was particularly bruised by his actions; his then girlfriend whom he cheated on with his ex. He was distraught to know that he had hurt someone who loved him unconditionally. What was worst, was the fact that JD disappointed the women in his life who he admits played a pivotal role in his formative years. One such person is his mom for whom he has the utmost love and respect.
On the night of September 2, 2013, JD had a Damascus Road experience; having examined his life as it was, and where he wanted it his life to be he decided things had to change. A professed Christian, JD after careful meditation went to God in prayer. In so doing he made a promise that he would change his life for the better. He promised that going forward he would no longer live his life in a manner that displeased God. JD committed to making the next 20 years of his life one that was more reflective of godly principles, and an attitude that sought to uplift people, and not tear them down. To remind himself of the promise JD wrote a note to remind him of his promise to God. He reflects on the note everyday:
The promise you made to yourself and to God is more important than anything. The change you experienced on this night will change your life forever. It was an unforgettable night. This is how you will be forever. It is the best feeling and way to be. I love you Lord God. Thank you for loving me in return through everything. My life has changed for the greater good. This night will never be forgotten.”
Having the note constantly reminds JD of his promise and allows him each day to recommit to the duty he has set forth. In a single moment he chose to have a future built on foundations of respect, gratitude and an acknowledgement of the importance other people play in each of our lives. In my conversations with JD I got the sense that he is very philosophical, he does not see anything as existing in a vacuüm. Each action causes a reaction, and he understands that every decision we make, in some small way, has an impact on our future. Examining the intricacies of life in today’s society, JD relayed the concern he has with society’s addiction to social media and the perception that many people now live their lives through such mediums, decreasing our physical interaction with each other. Additionally, online forums are often utilized as an opportunity to abuse others. People generally are less restrained in their criticisms when done online, and often seek to degrade and berate others in online forums. JD believes that such an approach undermines the usefulness of social media. Instead he believes that we should use the social tools around us to empower others to reach their highest potential. His belief is evident in his own practices, whereby he constantly shares an uplifting message, or life lesson with his peers.
As people, we build our dreams and hopes on the basis of how it will make our future and the future of others better. In so doing, we effectively implement a process of change in our lives in order to bring about that which we hope to see. Change, according to JD is something that everybody wants. People want to have a positive impact on those within their communities and by extension, the world. However, many people seem to lack the drive necessary to become the agent of change they wish to see in the world. A part of this reason may be due to the distractions we allow into our lives, be it the television, social media, or the general sense of being too occupied to care about anything other than the present. The impetus for change is to realize that it starts with you. No one can change this world the way you can, and you must believe in your ability to make that change in order to be effective. JD decided that the only way for him to change his future, was to act in the present. At 21 he has joined a network marketing company and has since inspired a number of his peers to do the same. His days are built around his new business as he works assiduously to grow his company from the ground up. While hoping to achieve financial success, JD is quick to point out that money is not the driving force behind his wanting to excel. Rather, it is his passion to work in such a way that adds value to his life, value that is immeasurable on a monetary basis. It is the friendships he builds through networking and the realization that the work he puts in today will add to the quality of life his family is able to enjoy in the future.
Like JD, this world is here for you to make an impact. You are greater than your biggest fears, and the potential for you to succeed is already built into your DNA. We are all meant for something bigger than the present. Commit today to start doing what is necessary to bring your dreams to fruition. No dream is too big or too small. If you can dream it, you can become. Begin by investing in yourself, and follow though by investing in others. Know that the road to success will not be easy, but you are equipped to overcome whatever obstacles come your way. You must demonstrate a willingness to learn from every event in your life, and seek ways to make even the negative experiences, a positive one. JD is not an anomaly, he is an example of what can be accomplished when you believe in yourself. You are never too young to be the change you that this world needs.
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