Pathways to Success: Words of Advice

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When discussing success, the advice that we share often comes from motives of care and compassion. Most of us want individuals to excel in their worthy pursuits and in life. We want to point others toward a hopeful, fulfilling and rewarding future.

I would like to share with you the same words of advice that I impart to our new students and their families at Western Illinois University’s New Student Convocation. We should remember these significant concepts as we move forward toward a better tomorrow.

1. Make wise choices and good decisions.
2. Have respect for yourself and for others.
3. Take advantage of opportunities for intellectual and personal growth.
4. Do not let yourself down.
5. Conquer your fears.
6. Do not be afraid to ask for help, but ask for help from someone who knows.
7. Strive to achieve greatness in all of your positive pursuits.
8. Live up to your full potential.
9. Get involved in your community.
10. Carry yourself with dignity.

The preceding practical precepts point to a need for planning. Be creative and know that you can succeed further with proper planning, staying focused and having specific goals in mind. John Maynard Keynes once said, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” You must think big, dream big, and achieve your goals. According to the “Secret of Successful Mountain Climbing,” if you aim at nothing, you will hit nothing. If your goals are vague, your achievements will be vague also. However, if your goals are specific, you will harvest specific results. It is imperative that you are very specific and that you aim high.

In order to be successful, you must know who you are and know the kinds of people you need around you who will help you with your worthwhile endeavors. Create a web of individuals who have good morals, values and common sense. I often share the axiom which says “that there are some people who make things happen, some people who watch things happen, and some people who simply wonder what happened.” You must be in the business of making things happen.

My challenge to you is to reach down inside to your creative power – that something inside so strong – and give birth to a new individual who is prepared to make positive things happen. Do not be afraid to take a piercing look at yourself and other individuals to determine what will launch you into a hopeful and successful future and what will keep you blundering blindly in the past.

As you move forward toward a successful future, remember that nothing that is beneficial to you is going to be easy. Success lies in having a vision, being focused, planning for success, and seeing it through to the end with determination and hard work. You may stumble, and you may fall in your pursuit of excellence, but each obstacle that greets you comes with an opportunity to learn, grow and develop a new strategy for survival. This type of perseverance is called “grit.” Noted author Dr. Travis Bradberry wrote, “Grit is that ‘extra something’ that separates the most successful people from the rest. It’s the passion, perseverance, and stamina that [you] must channel in order to stick with [your] dreams until they become a reality.”

If you want to be successful, commit yourself to excellence and stay the course.



Dr. Jack Thomas

President – Western Illinois University (WIU)