Why that pimple-faced valedictorian’s speech is still relevant today

Posted on September 25, 2009


I work at events & present seminars where I am able to speak with many people about their personal health & wellness. And whenever I get to do this, I am continually amazed at the incredibly low bar most people have set for themselves. With the start of school for children, don’t you remember your parents & teacher telling you to “be all you can be Mikey!” & to “give your best effort Suzy!” or that inevitable line in every high school graduation speech of “shoot for the moon & if you fall, at least you’ll still be in the stars…”
What happened along the way to adulthood??
thank you philip ed mondson for image

thank you philip ed mondson for image

Seriously. The vast majority of people I speak to tell me that they know how messed up they are & how out of shape they are, they sort of shrug their shoulders & say “but what can you do.” What happened to your ‘best effort?’ I know right away many of you are thinking, ‘well I do give my best effort at my job, for my family, in my community.’ Two points I’d like to make about that, and you can disagree with me if you want, but the reality is right there plain as day, based on both researched data & anecdotal evidence from people who have done & are doing it.
1. You cannot give your best effort at anything if you are not optimal yourself
*Now that does not mean that you suck if you do not have 6-pack abs & can’t do a plank for 5mins. If you are practicing the habits of exercise, eating well, & stretching, then you are on your way to being optimally you. No one is defining “optimal” as super-ripped, marathon-runner amazing person…if you are that, kudos to you! But if you’re the 55 year old guy who’s trying to eat well as often as he can, learning more about how to live more healthfully every day, who gets out & does cardio most days of the week & finds a way to lift weights multiple times per week and stretch in front of the tv at night, then you are doing your part to fight the “death curve” that we are all headed to. If your posture is terrible, your back aches always, your gut is growing by the year, you are winded climbing 2 flights of stairs, or any other measure that clearly shows you that your body is not functioning optimally, then there is no way you can be your best for any other endeavor which you pursue. Which leads me to point #2 –
2. We make time for the things we value…if you do not make time for health, you give the clear signal to the world that you are not valuable. 
*If you knowingly live with things that are within your control and do nothing about them, we need to take a serious step back and go visit a few graduation ceremonies next spring. Perhaps a little pep-talk by an 18-yr old valedictorian will help remind you of the passion and zeal you had for life as you walked out of high school with your life laid out ahead of you. I know that work, marriage, life, and the bills that go with those things all require serious attention. Does your health not? If you don’t pay a bill one month, you’ll have a collection agency up your rear faster than you can turn around, especially these days! But if you skip out on the chance to get a workout in or fail to make time for grocery shopping so you can cook healthy meals this week, there is no one calling to remind you that you owe them that workout or meal. There is no one holding you accountable – except you.
When did we sign off as a nation on having such a collective low bar for health & wellness? It is not too far gone for any person- your age, size, ability, income level- none of them matter when it comes to actively pursuing a high-quality healthy life. The 1st step is to start to care enough to do something about it. If you can’t even do that, then good luck to you. How long does everything else get to have an exponentially higher value prop than your health?
Which by the way, will indirectly and directly have your happiness, energy, ability, and motivation levels all tied to it.
Before clicking on to the next email, or on your commute home tonight, take a moment to consider how high or low you have made the value prop on your self. That is, how much do you value the result you will get from exercise, health & fitness?
Do you value it enough to motivate yourself around your old habits & avoidances to healthy-related things?
If you do, and believe there is an ounce of you that is totally worth it, then the next thing you need to do is open your planner and find the next available time that you can go exercise or fit in a trip to the grocery store for healthy foods. Do not wait, do not let time pass you by! (another favorite line of graduation speeches) You are the only one who can make it happen, and you are the only one who can care enough to make it happen. Others can care, but it is only the care you have for yourself and well-being that will motivate a positive, lasting change in your life.
And then….”shoot for the moon & if you fall, at least you’ll end up in the stars…”