October 23, 2014

Why You Must Work Hard in High School by Andy Czajka

I had a life coach once upon a time. He was my coach long before life coaching became an actual profession.  He wrote me a life-changing letter that I have kept in a fireproof safe for over 30 years.  I want to share it with you now:

March 16, 1977

Dear Ann,

Why should a father want his daughter to get the best grades she is capapble of achieving?  I suppose that some fathers want their daughters to perform well in school so they can say to people they know…”Isn’t my daughter something special? She’s pretty; she’s popular and she’s very bright! Look how well she’ doing in school!”

But fathers who push their daughters to perform well in school simply to brag to their friends are, themselves, not very bright! Afterall, it’s really just an act of God if a daughter happens to be pretty or popular or athletic or bright. Why should a father take credit for that? And, in a broader sense, wouldn’t a father be a rather shallow person if he had to live his life through the accomplishments of his children?

But my reason for wanting you to do as well in school as you can is totally different. I want you to learn all you can and get good grades because, by doing so, you will improve the quality of your life. In other words, I want you to work hard for your benefit, not for mine.

You know, when girls reach their teens, many of them begin to feel their fathers are rather dumb. Fathers and sometimes mothers, are often looked at as being old-fashioned, not very smart, and certainly not in tune with what’s going on. Afterall, fathers are pretty old guys whose own teen-age experiences happened a long, long time ago. And since fathers were never girls, they certainly cannot be expected to know what is really important to a young lady today. Perhaps you feel that way too—it’s only human nature that you do. Let me tell you that as you look backwards ten years from now, you will have an entirely different perspective.

Let me tell you also that I am in a very good position to see the benefits of studying hard–and the consequences of not doing your very best in school. In my business, I’ve seen a dozen or more young ladies just out of high school working for us. In dealing with my clients, I’ve seen dozens more. At first, typing or doing other clerical work seems interesting and exciting to them. After awhile, that work becomes boring and tedious and they begin to question the value of what they are doing and even their own self-worth. Many feel they are in a terrible rut at only 18, 19, or 20 years of age! What a terrible position to be in! I want something better for you.

Some of the girls I’ve spoken about go off to further their education. Others have tried but cannot because they did not perform well in high school. In other words, they did not leave open the option of going to college, let alone the college of their choice. Now, not everyone should go to college. Maybe that is not the right thing for you. But don’t make the mistake of losing that option by not studying– by choosing instead to take the easy way out, ignoring your studies and playing your way through school.

Now I know you are not receiving failing grades. You may argue that your grades are not so bad that they would keep you out of college if you wanted to go. But there is a second and maybe more important reason for studying hard. The more you study and learn, the more your mind will expand to look at life a little differently than persons who are not well-educated. That is hard for me to describe and for you to understand, I’m sure. All I know is that the better educated and more knowledgeable a person is, the more meaningful and satisfying their life seems to be for them. Of course, there are exceptions, but less knowledgeable people seem to be inflexible in their thinking and less happy with themselves and the world around them.

Now you may think I’m overreacting to your mediocre report card. Why write all of this just because you are likely to get a couple of “C’s”? Well, I’m not writing this because of your report card. I’m writing because I care about you. I’m writing because I think it’s important for you to always live up to your potential for YOUR sake. I’m also writing because I think you are bright enough that if you really think about it, you’ll buckle down on your own without being forced into by your parents.

I’m seriously thinking about putting severe restrictions on your social life. I’m also seriously thinking about having you change schools next year. I don’t really know what I’m going to do yet and I won’t do anything until first talking it over with your mother. I’m not sure restrictions of any sort would do any good. You and ONLY you can decide if change your study habits and effort.

I hope you read what I have to say and that you will save it and read again from time to time. Remember that I love you and I want the best for you.

Love,

Dad

Andy Czajka 1936-1989

Comments

  1. Ann – Wow! Your dad was right. Maybe I’ll give this to my daughter as she is in the middle of finals!

    Call me…I have some health news. Laura

  2. This letter is filled with very loving and wise sentiments…clearly your Dad was a stellar person. And, is that a smooth fox terrier in his lap? I didn’t realize that the “smooths” went back that far :)

  3. Indeed, that letter is full of wisdom that continues to resonate to this very day! And yessssss! Those are smooth fox terriers. The one on Dad’s lap is Penny and the one on his leg is Chainsaw. As you can see, he had a way with animals too. For the record, here is the fox terrier roll call: Penny, Chainsaw,Copper, Rudy, Bob, Ted, Piccadilly, Scrubs,Julius and now CopperII! Ten fox terriers. Wow.

  4. Kelly Evans says:

    This is a great letter written by an amazing Dad. His thought process reminds me so much of my Dad during the same era. We were so carefree and they were very analytical. When I was in college I called home and complained about who knows what now and a few days later in the mail I received a role of toilet paper from my Dad which as I unrolled it he wrote on it, use this to wipe your tears and compared my “problems” to what his life was like at my age. He quickly put everything in great perspective as only Dads can do! I am passing your Dad’s words of wisdom to my girls. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Man Ann I still miss your dad, our whole family does we still talk about him when we get together. I really liked sitting down and talking to him. I’ve got to say he’d probably be pretty proud of you and your family.

  6. What an awesome letter to have. It explains where your wisdom and drive comes from. Thanks for sharing it with us all. You’ve made your dad proud with your own children. His effect will continue to trickle down.

  7. David Nelson says:

    Great letter. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. I read the letter a couple of days ago. It needed a couple of days of digestion. Each time I read it, I adore your Father more and more. To bad I never had the opportunity to meet him. You must have taken this letter to heart, because look at where you are today.

  9. Ann, what an amazing letter! It definitely is a keepsake to have forever. I wish I would have had the privilege of meeting your dad. He obviously was a smart, wise man! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Ann!! This is amazing. What a brillant, moral man! I agree with his reasoning. It is sad that so many parents these days only want their kids to do well so it can be a feather in their cap. Some parents will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their children are pretty, popular, and intelligent instead of worrying about their happiness or quality of life. I commend you and your father for this philosophy. I hope more families will take after this example.

  11. Ann, what a great letter, I hope I can take the inspiration from this letter and utilize it with Alex and Nick. I remember the times when your dad and I would play catch on the farm with the “Putt” what great times. We had many good conversations and we all miss him dearly. Thanks for sharing.

  12. andy czajka was truly one of the finest men to walk the face of the earth. there is not a day goes by that i do not think of him.he was so full of wisdom and had so much integrity.wish he could have stayed with us longer.he had so much patience and worked so well with young people. he also taught me a thing or two.i know my children were proud of him because he as three grandsons named after him.

  13. I may be able to narrow it down when I get home later today, where I can see the dates on some follow-up letters. I interviewed for a job opening at SDR. I wanted to take some graduate courses in Ann Arbor that coming summer, but wanted the security of having lined up a job that would start in the fall.

    I managed to get several job offers, and SDR offered the lowest salaries of them all. But, I just liked him so much that I decided to go with SDR anyway.

    I only worked at SDR for two eight month stretches, and I have had many jobs since that time, but that period always stands out in my mind as when I learned the most and most enjoyed my work.

    I always thought Andy was a bit overprotective of me as a young adult just starting to make my way in the world, but I could also see that he struggled with himself to not be that way.

    I went looking for Andy, today, because I was hoping for a job reference, after many years of being out of paid work. And, I find this page.

    I’m now 53 years old. Just about the age I calculate he was in 1989. My own son, an only child, recently turned 18 and moved out. I just sent him a link to this page.

    For any people who read this and remember me from back in the day, you can visit my profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/traciefgib to see what I’ve been up to, career wise.

    Shout out to Skip, Tony, Joanne, Mark, Bill, Wendy, Terri, Carol, Ellis, Eugenia and Paul, that tall new guy with the curly hair who was deathly alergic to onions.

  14. I notice the “Subject” of my comment just preceeding this one is not displayed…the reason being that that space was intended for the URL of my website, if I wanted to supply it. What I said, there was something like that I met Andy for the first time on approximatey the day that he wrote that letter.

    I’m sitting, today, in the Seattle airport, watching the snow fall in flakes the size of Chef Boy-R-dee meatballs. It has been a few years since I have seen snow, living as I do, now, in Monterey. Seeing this reminds me of Michigan. So, that’s how I came to think of Andy and to kill some time trying to find him.

    Just yesterday I was talking to someone who knew Andy. I told him that we had stayed in good touch for a good decade or two. I always kind of assumed that I’d be able to track him down. I guess I did. I recognize his handwriting on that sample page you’re showing.

    You know, he didn’t just have a way with words. He also did cool math tricks.

  15. Dads and daughters — the best combos in the world. You were, and are, loved!

  16. I happened upon this letter and it brought tears to my eyes….my brother told me something very similar and loved me like your father did….
    I can see that you made him proud!
    Bravo il mio amico!

  17. William King says:

    Hi Anne. Great site. My mom wanted me to have a look. But I would be remiss if i didn’t point out that Tiger is missing from the canine roll-call. ;)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] truly a great guy.  For anyone who wants a flavor for the kind of man he was, I have published a letter on annholm.net that  he wrote to me in high school when I was screwing up my grades by not trying. [...]

  2. [...] truly a great guy.  For anyone who wants a flavor for the kind of man he was, I have published a letter on annholm.net that  he wrote to me in high school when I was screwing up my grades by not trying. [...]

  3. […] Now things could have turned out rather badly if it weren’t for my father who wrote me a letter of support- basically saying that he loved me and wanted the best for me. He urged me to give my full effort because my world would be opened onto me if I did. I would have an interesting life.  And you know what?  He was right.  You can read that letter here . […]

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