By Bob Wieneke
NOTRE DAME — Legendary former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz may be 82 years old, but he can relate to the challenges many young adults face today. And he has a simple and logical formula that can help:
Do what is right.
Do everything to the best of your ability.
Show people that you care.
“I have been your age, whether you are 21, or 25, or even 18,” offered Holtz, the author of a new book, “Three Rules For Living a Good Life: A Game Plan for after Graduation.” “But most of you have not lived in your ninth decade like me!”
The Hall of Fame coach wants to help young adults avoid mistakes that he’s made by sharing his experiences. “Life’s a matter of choices,” Holtz said. “Whoever you are, good or bad, it’s going to be because of the choices you make.”
The idea for “Three Rules for Living a Good Life” came from a commencement address Holtz gave at Franciscan University of Steubenville a few years ago.
In addition to his legendary status on the sidelines, Holtz is a husband, father, broadcaster, philanthropist and motivational speaker who uses a combination of one-liners and serious anecdotes to make his points.
Don’t go through life so bitter that your wife will need to hire pallbearers for your funeral.
A player once told Holtz that he found a teammate’s wallet before the teammate had lost it, having to inform the offending player that he in fact had stolen it.
Holtz points out that his birthday candles cost more than the cake.
Beyond the one-liners, though, Holtz shares relatable stories that helped shape him, such as how he and his wife moved on after their house was destroyed by fire. “There is never an easy way to handle your problems, but you can cope with them,” he writes. “But the thing was, we didn’t lose anything in the fire that we were going to take to heaven.”
Holtz’s advice: “Don’t let your problems make you bitter. Also, don’t tell anyone your problems.”
Holtz also relates how he took the right path in moving from one job to another, and lessons he taught his children. “I used to tell my children about their future: Find something you like to do, find something you do well, find somebody to pay you to do it,” he said. “If you can’t find somebody to pay you to do it, you have a hobby. If you can find somebody to pay you to do it you’ve got a career. That’s the difference. It’s not hard.”
As much as the book is directed to recent graduates, the same lessons can be applied to anyone in the workforce.
“I think whether you’re 23 or whether you’re 53, it teaches you how to make good choices. One of the problems we have in life is we complicate things,” Holtz writes. “For example, in coaching I had two mandates — graduate the athletes and win. Business has two mandates — satisfy the customer and make a profit. That’s it.”
Just as he emphasizes that life should be simplified, Holtz also stresses that people of any age need daily goals — reasons to get out of bed. For Holtz these days, that reason is helping his wife, Beth, who is battling cystic fibrosis, a progressive lung disease. If he and Beth were able to walk a certain distance one day, Holtz will see if Beth can stretch that distance the next, even if just by a little bit.
“No matter your age, you have to have something you want to accomplish, what gets you up every day,” he said. “It’s true that everything starts with a dream or a goal or a purpose. It doesn’t have to be big, lofty things.”
Holtz intersperses faith throughout the 96-page book, with examples ranging from quoting the Bible (“Do to others whatever you have them do to you”) to utilizing the talents that God gave him.
“I don’t know how people function without faith,” he said.
Holtz goes to great lengths to make sure he’s simply sharing his life experiences. No preaching. No lecturing. Just relating things that he has experienced and believes. And he believes that what’s contained in the book can be put to work to help readers live a better life.
“I think learning how to make good choices is the secret to success in everything you do,” Holtz said. “Those three rules will help you always make good choices. You’ll never need a fourth.”
Bob Wieneke is the curriculum sales and marketing manager at Ave Maria Press. He covered Notre Dame football as a sports reporter at the South Bend Tribune for many years.
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