It was September, 1973, and I was a junior attending High Point High School in the metropolitan area of Washington, DC. From 1954-1994, my high school only had two principals. Frank Tracy had just taken over in the fall of 1973, and he wanted to leave his mark early on. It was a hot September afternoon when he held his first assembly in the gym.
My graduating class had 751 students, and the classes before us and after us had about the same. This meant the assembly had over 2,300 people including teachers, administrators and staff packed tightly into the muggy gymnasium.
As Mr. Tracy began to speak, I noticed he was speaking to the students, not at the students. Somewhere into his speech he paused and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I want to share with you the secret to success. The secret to success is really quite simple and it comes in just 10 little words. Like the Gettysburg address delivered by President Lincoln in 1863, these are all simple words. In fact, each word has just one syllable and two letters. It is when you string these 10 little words in this particular order that they become the secret to your success. I don’t mean just your success at High Point High School; I mean your success throughout life.”
Now let’s be clear; I am a 16-year-old boy, so am I really listening to what he’s saying? What is more important? Well, Girls, Cars, Sports, and Food just to name a few, and the day of the week and time of day will actually determine what is most important at any given time.
The truth is, I am not entirely sure whether I remember this speech from the fall of 1973 or graduation for the class of 1974. Or maybe in the fall of 1974 (my senior year) when he had the same assembly. Maybe it was at my graduation or at the graduation for the class of 1976. In fact, even after I graduated, many of my friends’ younger siblings heard the same words. Several years later, when I became director of youth activities at my church, many of those kids were graduating from High Point and subsequently heard the same words. I then heard them again at their graduations.
In reality, I did not realize I was actually living the words until nearly 20 years after I graduated from high school. Somewhere along the line I realized I had never had a job where I relied on a salary to pay my bills. Every job in my adult life has either been 100 percent commission or my own company. As a manager, I received a small salary with the bulk of my income coming from the production of others on the team.
Once I came to this realization, I began to practice “living the words” on a regular basis. I even purchased a card with the 10 little words and sent it to Mr. Tracy.
I have had the pleasure of speaking on a regular basis in the Washington, DC metro area in the last decade. In a few of my workshops, I have had High Point graduates in the class and as I begin this story they look at their neighbor in the class and say “I know the words.” That is the impact that Mr. Tracy, and these 10 little words had on everyone.
As I walked through Camden Yards on Opening Day of the 1999 Baltimore Orioles baseball season, I noticed a man coming towards me. As I looked closer, I realized it was Mr. Tracy. I stopped him and said “Good morning, Mr. Tracy. How are you?” He responded, “Good morning, Mr. Gregory. I am wonderful. And how are you?” It had been nearly 24 years since I graduated and he still remembered my name.
I can truly say these 10 little words have been my personal focus in my life, both personal as well as professional. I guess you could say the words have been my “True North,” and I would like to continue the Frank Tracy tradition and share them with you now. Please write them down and read them every morning before you begin your day. Remember, each word has just one syllable and two letters:
If it is to be it is up to me
It is not up to your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, your aunt, your uncle, your cousin, your friends, your company, your boss, or even your co-worker. It is up to you and only you.
Gregg Gregory’s unique business background, provided him a clear understanding of business and how different people work. More importantly, he learned how to ensure different personalities work together successfully to accomplish the organization’s mission, goals and objectives. Gregg brings 25 years of real world business experience to being the dynamic certified professional speaker that he is today. You can visit him at TeamsRock.com
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