My life forever changed on my first day of classes during freshman year at university, where I quickly learned key secrets for success. After a terrible 8am hour with one of the worst humans to ever grace the classrooms of my alma mater, I strode across campus for my 9am class in English language skills.

That’s where I met Ron Forsythe, one of the most influential humans I ever knew.

A Rough Orientation

My first class with Forsythe was English language skills. ELS 099. That’s right, it wasn’t even a 100 or 101 course. Remedial English was my lot at that time. I was insulted really, having always been fairly bright and decent with words. Yet I was awful with standardized tests, from the SAT to the assessments forced on me during freshman orientation.

I wanted out of a course that wouldn’t even be worth three credits. They had placed me in Math 099, which surprised no one, but they let me test out of that on day one with what was even a simple quiz for math-challenged me. I wanted out of ELS 099 too but was never given an option.

Thank God for that.

Seeds were planted during those first four months with Forsythe. I began to crack through a shell of low self-esteem. A professional passion began to emerge. A journey had begun in which I would discover what I was meant to do.

I was pulling steady Cs in core classes for my major, history, and couldn’t drop that horrible 8am class with the worst teacher I ever had fast enough, but I was numero uno when it came to Forsythe’s world. I didn’t miss, waver, or lose focus.

All these years later, I still have an early exam on sentence patterns because of what he wrote atop the page:

teaching for success

Never underestimate the power of encouraging words

The Secrets for Success

Now back to that first day where you’ll understand how locked in I was when the great man boomed this preamble:

“You need four things to succeed,” he said with a flash of four fingers at us. He ticked them off, one digit at a time.

“Command of written and spoken language. Social skills. Analytical skills. And spreadsheet/computer skills.”

From that moment on, I became obsessed with the number one item on his list—command of written and spoken language. As far as I can tell, those 4 items haven’t changed in the past couple decades.

Forsythe’s 3 Rules for Success

You might notice Forsythe’s three rules in that image too.

  1. Show up.
  2. Be Prepared.
  3. Participate.

I would learn a lot over the next seven plus years of higher education, but those few lines of poor handwriting would hold the secret to just about everything any of us ever need to succeed.

Learn the language.
Connect with others.
Think critically.
Understand technology and how to present what you learn.
Show up. Prepare. Engage.

It’s all there!

So how are you doing with these items?

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