Sometimes even I can catch a lucky break.
And this one came courtesy of David Zach.
I wrote to you about his visit to Holland (MI) from the land of the Packers and Badgers yesterday.
During our time together awhile ago, a portion of our chat briefly touched upon his definition of fads, trends, and principles.
For some reason, I listened closely enough to remember what he said to this day.
Cindy thinks I only listened closely because I was selfishly hoping David would weave in some praise for a couple of my personal traits – fuddy and duddy.
But I found out later my amateur’s understanding of fads, trends, and principles would be more than enough.
When David and I waited for our table at an Irish pub in downtown Holland, I introduced him to one of the table runners, a young man named Delfino who is currently a junior at Hope College.
I met Delfino when he was a freshman at Holland High and we’ve been close friends ever since.
The counselors at the high school would tell you I’ve been a good mentor for him.
My wife and daughters would tell you he’s been a better one for me.
At any rate, our families have experienced a lot together over the last six years… so you get the idea: we’re friends.
For sure, Delfino’s a tremendously talented and high character young man.
He always has been.
So I was troubled when Delfino called last week with a quiet desperation in his voice.
“Mr. Page,” Delfino said. “Can we go out to eat and talk?”
(Eat out? No problem. Let’s go.)
While sitting at the restaurant, Delfino’s eyes started to tear up right after the waitress took our order.
“I’m in trouble, Mr. Page,” said Delfino. “I’m not passing my classes.”
This didn’t shock me… as Delfino was in a rigorous chemical engineering track and carried a course load of Advanced Trig, Advanced Physics, and three other classes that I couldn’t even spell out for you.
I almost asked him why he didn’t take a few easy 1 credit breather classes, like badminton.
That’s what I did when I was at Hope.
But he kept talking, which probably prevented me from saying something stupid.
“No one knows,” he said, wiping his eyes with the napkin. “No one knows. Not my dad, not my mom… you’re the only one I can tell I’m going to quit.”
I could sense the burden Delfino was struggling with.
He was the first in his family to go to college and he didn’t want to disappoint everyone who had faith in him.
“I’m glad you could tell me, Delfino,” I said. “But I’m really the wrong person you need to talk to, you know. Because I’ll always be there for you whatever you decide. You know that. And sometimes that’s not a good thing. You need someone who can help you see all of your options so you can make a good decision, one that’s best for you.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
I wasn’t planning on having to keep yapping.
I was in a jam, but luckily, I recalled David Zach’s words.
“Delfino, what are you really failing at? What’s causing you to feel so horrible? Is it the chemical engineering track… or is it college itself? If it’s just chemical engineering that’s stressing you out, what the heck? Change your major to something else. How many times have you mentioned your interest in business or accounting to me? The biggest failure would be is staying with chemical engineering if your mind and heart are elsewhere. Changing your major is not failing. And leaving college is not failing. Not doing what’s right for you is the only possible failure if you ask me.”
Now, even though what I said is well understood by all of us, I could tell Delfino had never considered this before.
His strong inner drive to succeed and be a source of pride to his family didn’t allow for any unplanned pivots, time outs, or detours.
At least any pivots, time outs, or detours free of some disappointment and shame.
“Delfino,” I said. “Remember the man I came in with to the restaurant with a few weeks ago?”
“Well, he’s a pretty famous futurist. And he reminded me that each one of us lives by our principles… and that we play in our fads and work in our trends.
That’s about it, Delfino.
You’re a tremendous young man with great principles and standards. And that will never change as fads and trends and difficulties come and go. You know that, don’t you?
You could leave Hope. Or stay and study accounting. Or you could choose an entirely different career plan… but it’s your principles and beliefs that truly make you YOU. Those are the important things. College classes and campus life are so much like those fads and trends. They’re important too, I guess. But not more important than your bedrock principles. And you’ll carry those with you wherever you go and whatever you choose.”
I then sat back and was amazed.
My mish-mash of David’s concepts must’ve actually struck the right chord in Delfino, for minutes later he started to sketch out the meeting he’d have with his college advisor the next day.
When I got home later, Cindy was eager to hear how it went with Delfino.
It’s funny how she’s never all that interested when I come home late from a school board meeting, but what I can I tell you.
She genuinely adores Delfino.
But I made the mistake of emphasizing David’s fads-trends-principles concept in my recap.
Because Cindy’s response was more principle (AKA predictable) than fad or trend.
“Hmmm.” she jabbed. “Where was David Zach 15 years ago when we needed help with our girls?
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