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A Response to “The Wisdom of a Third Grade Dropout”

The most important lessons you’ll ever learn will be taught outside of a classroom. Rick Rigsby’s motivational speech titled “The Wisdom of a Third Grade Dropout Will Change Your Life” talks about a few of these important life lessons.

As college students, many of us have the tendency to get wrapped up in our classes. What I have found is that most of my friends seem to believe that the only path to a good education is through maintaining A’s. While studying is important and learning in lectures is why we come to college, there is more to life than classes and grades. 

That’s why I love Rick Rigsby’s speech. Within the first minutes, Rick establishes the difference between school and education: “I never let my school get in the way of my education.” This is the first important take away from his speech. Learning is so much more than just school; learning is experiencing problems and creating solutions; learning is making mistakes and fixing them. Learning is, as Rick says, challenging yourself to be the best you can be.    

The Third Grade Dropout he is speaking of is his father. His father taught him the most important lessons he has ever learned: not to judge, to be kind, and when you do something, do it right. What resonated with me is when his father told him, “I’d rather you aim high and miss than aim low and hit.” 

In college, I think it is important to remember this lesson. Remember to challenge yourself rather than remain the same, since the only way to grow is through change. The fear of failure should not be the reason you give up, but the reason you continue forward. With mistakes comes learning experiences, which are the richest experiences in one’s life. The growth of a person stems from their mistakes and their solutions to those mistakes and problems.

Rick’s rock bottom moment in his life was when his wife passed away from breast cancer six years into their marriage. At Rick’s lowest point in his life, his father shared the wisdom that kept him going. The third grade dropout said “Son just stand.”

“Keep standing no matter what, you don’t give up” is what Rick was taught. This lesson is important for college students specifically because we are all going through a transition in our lives that is unlike any other. Many people find themselves lost and without a sense of individuality at some time during college or without a path to follow. It is important to remember to just keep on standing. Keep on going forward.

Rick explains that wisdom comes from the unlikeliest places of failure and rock bottom — failure creates growth and influence, rock bottom is a good foundation to build and grow on. I try to remember this when I feel like the whole world is against me. The best way to strive for success is to understand your weaknesses. Those weaknesses are what you grow from, they are what makes you become you.

The end of the speech, Rick closes with asking his audience, “how ya living?” Are you living a non-judgmental, kind life? Are you working your hardest at every task set in front of you? Are you finding lessons outside of a classroom?” 


So, I urge you to ask yourself the same question… how are you living? 


Delanie is a senior at Boston University who loves Pavement's iced tea and the Charles River. She has a passion for writing and is on an adventure to find the best coffee shop in Boston. 
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