Former football coach, player, and analyst Lou Holtz made history when he became the first and only coach in college football history to lead six different organizations to bowl games. His 1988 Notre Dame squad went 12-0 in the regular season and became national champions with a win in the Fiesta Bowl. Known for his candor, humility, and quick wit, Holtz’s inspirational witticisms made him a favorite among players and a recently re-surfaced commencement address he made at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio is a prime example why.
In the six-minute clip that has racked up some 64 million views, Holtz shares the advice he wishes someone would have given him at 21 and explains why, despite his humble beginnings, he believes he was born with a “silver spoon in my mouth.”
These are the 3 rules Lou Holtz wished he knew when he was 21.Speech given at Franciscan University of Steubenville
Posted by Goalcast on Friday, September 8, 2017
Holtz was born in the cellar of his family’s Follansbee, West Virginia home in January 1937. He explained that for the first seven and a half years of his life, he shared a bedroom with his parents and sister. The home had a kitchen and a half bath, and while there wasn’t a ton of food to go around, Holtz joked that he “always had plenty to eat” because any time he asked for more his dad would say, “No, you had plenty.”
“There was no welfare. There was no food stamps. There was no safety net,” Holtz told the crowd of his upbringing. Nonetheless, he considered himself immensely blessed because he was raised to understand that his future did not have to be determined by his current circumstances.
“Why was I born with a silver spoon in my mouth? Because I was taught by my parents that life’s a matter of making choices,” he said. “If you get an education, you’re willing to work, and overcome problems and difficulties, in this great country you can amount to something. That’s why I was born with a silver spoon. I was in this country, and I was taught personal responsibility for the choices you make.”
He went on to say that the key to success is having “hopes and dreams and ambitions” and never losing sight of them. While it may be easy or comfortable to gain success and then sit back and relax, Holtz explained that his biggest regret was not pushing his historic team at Notre Dame to be better and do more. Moreover, he regrets not forcing himself to dream bigger.
“[At Notre Dame] we put it on top and we maintained it. That’s the thing I regret the most,” he said. “See, there’s a rule in life that says you’re either growing or you’re dying… It doesn’t have a thing to do with age… it has everything to do with trying to get better.”
While encouraging the graduates to “have something to hope for,” “something to dream,” Holtz warned against overcomplicating matters. He reiterated that the rainbow has but seven colors and music has just seven notes, yet Michelangelo and Beethoven were able to create masterpieces.
“I want to give you a simple plan,” Holtz said. “Life doesn’t have to be complicated.”
He proceeded to lay out a set of four things that he believes every person needs in life. Without them, the coach said, “you’re going to have a tremendous void.”
See, everybody needs something to do. Number two, everybody needs someone to love. Number three, everybody needs someone to believe in. In my case, it’s Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. But the fourth thing you need in your life is you need something to hope for. There is never a right time to do the wrong thing, and there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. Just do what’s right.
Enjoy life. Have fun. You’re going to have problems. You’re going to have difficulties. That’s part of life. Don’t tell people about your problems. Do you know that 90 percent of the people don’t care? And the other 10 percent are glad you got them, so you’re better off at keeping to yourself… but have fun with what you’re doing…
Do everything to the best of your ability with time allotted… Not everyone can be All-American. Not everyone can be first-team. But everybody can be the best you’re capable of being.
If you want to fail, you have the right to fail. That’s what great about this country… [but] you owe it to other people to do the maximum you can at each and every thing you do. It’s not complicated. And the last rule, is show people you care.
Holtz said that the rules he laid out are ones he has personally been using for nearly four decades, and his only wish is that he had learned them sooner. Ultimately, there are three words that sum up Holtz’s life and the legacy he hopes to leave behind, and, with his standard self-deprecating humor, he said they can be found on the base of the statue of him that stands at Notre Dame.
“I wish I knew those rules when I was 21. I’ve used them for the last 40 years,” he concluded. “There’s a statue of me at Notre Dame. I guess they needed a place for the pigeons to land. If you go look at it, look at three words on the pedestal: trust, commitment, love.”