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January 2015
Second Chances

Tom Hogue  January 2015

“Remember, you’re sitting beside someone who was failing his first year of college”.


This sentence was said from a father to his son as the 14-year-old was getting out of the car to get on the school bus at 6:45 AM one dark morning. That father was me and my youngest son had difficulty sleeping the night before as he was contemplating how he could overcome his slipping grades at school.


The night before had been rough for him. Most parents can relate. For weeks, perhaps months, you ask your children if they have any homework, how things are at school, and so on. You want to give them the benefit of the doubt as they grow and believe everything they tell you. But eventually, you insist on seeing a status report just to make sure he’s been honest and things are going as well as you’re told.


It’s a shame, but it just so happens that in this particular case his assurances were misplaced. I was dumbfounded and hurt that he had been dishonest for so long. As I went from grade to grade they ranged from B’s to F’s, none of which are at his caliber. I knew better. I also recognize that much of this missing homework, missing projects, etc. were a direct reflection of his efforts at home.


So what is it that has been taking his attention at home? Well, on weekends in particular, it was video games. It was time to crack down again. So he lost his cell phone for a number of weeks and all electronics. I worked with him almost nightly and communicated with his teachers to catch up many late assignments, even at partial credit. All grades are now passing, with some A’s, B’s, and a few C’s. A great improvement for sure.


But before all those positive efforts took place, that evening of discovery was tough and our time of intense fellowship was not something he enjoyed. He surely had to be feeling pretty low. So as he got on the bus that next morning I had to remind him that he could do it, that he could overcome this challenge. I knew he could and I believed in him. And to show that I could relate, I reminded him of my story. That at one point in my first year of college, when I was going to Shippensburg University as a 19-year-old straight out of high school, I was working 60 hours per week and driving almost an hour one-way every day to school. I’d fallen asleep at the wheel and had two accidents. I’d slept through entire classes. I had been failing four out of five subjects before I was able to right the ship and pass the first year, only to stop right there and drop out of my bachelors program.


I’m now acutely aware that others have dropped out after one year of college, and perhaps initially felt like failures. But was that the case for Steve Jobs? Or for Bill Gates? Or for myself? Were we indeed destined to failure? Or perhaps in each case these individuals refocused themselves and were extra committed later in life when the second chance was given.


In my case I went back for computer education at the age of 23 and received my Associates degree with a 4.0 GPA and near perfect attendance. I was voted president of the entire university’s student Association for two terms.


I share this to say that failure is not the end unless you allow it to be. We determine our eventual success by making the least or most of the second chances in our lives. As a matter fact sometimes we have to create the second chances and then conquer them. My son took heart at being able to relate to his dad and find inspiration from my experience. I’m very proud of him for turning the corner and getting back on track in such a determined fashion. He has made the most of that second chance and has hopefully learned from this experience.


To him I say a heartfelt “Well done son.”

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