NUGENT: Six rules to gain American Dream

May 17, 2012 | « back

Advice from the mountaintop for those starting at the bottom

Tens of thousands of young people will soon toss their graduation caps into the air and begin their pursuit of their own unique American Dream. That’s cause for grand celebration.

Though I’m not a college graduate, I did graduate from the School of Hard Rock and Knocks and Common Sense some 50 years ago. With my trusty Gibson Byrdland guitar and a wall of amplifiers, I hit the road and received a Magnum-Cum-Very Loud Degree in logic, work ethic, pragmatism and pure animal tenacity.

As your not-so-humble Motor City Madman, I’d like to offer a few words to these new college graduates – words that no tenured professor ensconced in an ivory tower could possibly have taught.

Rule No. 1: Success has nothing to do with money. Nothing. Success is the unrelenting, dogged persistence to be the absolute best you can be at your chosen profession. Good is never good enough. Money always comes looking for the very best. Burn that into your psyche.

Rule No. 2:There are no guarantees and there never have been. The only guarantee is the gratification that comes from relentless effort, hard work and sacrifice, and even that is difficult to lasso in this tight job market. May I recommend following the U.S. Marine Corps mantra that has served all successful Americans forever: Improvise, adapt and overcome.

In this world of instant gratification, be prepared to be shocked that success is not easy, cheap or quickly. The opposite is true. The road to success is a very steep uphill path strewn with stride-breaking obstacles, and it always has been. Only mountain climbers climb mountains.

Rule No. 3:Scaling the mountain of success will exact a heavy toll on you, just as it should. If becoming the best was easy, everyone would do it. Instead, only a few become the very best. Equality is for sheep and Mao fans.

In order to become the absolute best, you will have to work much harder than your peers, which means getting up an hour earlier and going to bed an hour later. Sacrifice on so many levels will be incredibly difficult, but sacrifice will turn out to be the most important attribute to your success. Those who sacrifice the most, succeed the most. Know that.

Rule No. 4:The world is full of cheats, liars, lazy bloodsuckers and people who cut corners. If their house gets in your way, burn it down. Surround yourself with people of good will, character, intelligence and integrity who are also on a path to be the very best. Success breeds success.

Rule No. 5: You will make plenty of mistakes along the way. Mistakes are learning opportunities. Learn from your mistakes and then commit to becoming more persistent, more relentless, more committed and more focused.

Rule No. 6: While you scale your mountain of success, lend a hand to the person behind you and pull them up with you. Atlas doesn’t shrug in my book. Atlas commends, constructively criticizes, encourages and challenges those following him. Be an Atlas.

Learning to play the guitar as a youngster back in Detroit was the absolute hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I practiced nonstop because I wanted to master the instrument and become a musician, not to be a rock and roll star. Forty million pieces of music sold and 6,500 concerts later, I still practice the guitar every day and am again in the middle of the greatest musical fun tour of my life. Never, ever give up.

Go back and read Rule No. 1. Godspeed and good luck.