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Be encouraged by our young people

By DENNIS DOUGHTY • May 25, 2018 at 10:00 AM

These past few days (weekend of May 17 through 20) really caused me to pause and look at life up close. I’m going to give you a short list of my experiences of the past few days and I suspect you will understand my reflective thoughts.

* Norwalk City and Norwalk Catholic School officials met with the Norwalk police and fire departments to discuss specialized training for our teaching and support staff in the event of an active shooter and other active scenarios.

• The day after our meeting we pause and ponder what caused the latest shooting in the Texas school? “Why” this happened and “what” can be done to avoid such an event is in the thoughts of all school staff. We grieve along with the parents and families of the victims because we understand that no school is immune from tragedy.

• My family and I attended a beautiful wedding where a couple committed their lives to each other. The couple is just starting out in their journey together. I couldn’t help but compare the simplicity of the local wedding with pomp and circumstance of the royal wedding viewed by so many on the television networks.

• On Sunday, the Teen Leadership Corps (Youth leadership organization founded by Mary Ann Creamer) hosted a leadership event at Cedar Point. Some of our brightest young leaders from the area attended this event to share their thoughts and ideas about how they can “lead, serve and inspire the world”.

• St. Paul High School conducted its honors banquet highlighting the great achievements of many students. The young leadership in the room was nothing short of incredible.

This past weekend was filled with highs and lows and the events vividly contrasted each other. I feel fortunate that my weekend ended in the most positive manner, being able to share the joy, optimism and enthusiasm of our youth.

Sunday night, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past few days and what the events meant. I also couldn’t help but be thankful that I have been able to work with young people most of my adult life to witness their growth and development as they become the leaders of tomorrow.

So here are some of my reflective thoughts and in no particular order:

Success doesn’t mean avoiding failure in our lives. All of us fail and deal with difficult events. As we travel, we hit potholes, take wrong turns or forget to check our tires or our gas tanks.

The only person who avoids failure is the person who locks himself in the house. The issue is not if you are going to fail. It is whether or not you are going to fail successfully (find that silver lining in the problem area). I am happy to report that most of our young people have a good and basic understanding of that important concept.

Unsuccessful people are afraid of failure and rejection and they spend their whole lives avoiding risks or decisions that could lead to failure. They don’t realize that success is based on their ability to fail and continue trying.

When you have the right attitude in response to a difficult situation, failure is neither fatal nor final. It can become a motivator for real success later in life. It is amazing how many times you fail the first time you try something.

Successful people don’t let failure beat them down. Instead of dwelling on the negative consequences of failure or thinking of what might have been and how things haven’t worked out; they focus on the ingredients that lead to success: learning from their mistakes and thinking about how they can improve themselves going forward. I am amazed at how many young people have expressed that concept to me in their own words. Most importantly, they get it! They understand they have to fail in order to be successful.

I encourage you to look forward to challenges and setbacks in life because that is where the real lessons are. Take the setbacks and negative events of life and understand there is so much good, as well. Look at the strength and sense of purpose so visible in our youth and embrace and celebrate it.

Life is filled with contrasting emotions and events; take time to enjoy the good that exists. I find a reason for joy and optimism in our young people because they are learning to be leaders in our communities.

Local columnist Dennis J. Doughty is the president of Norwalk Catholic School.

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