Pennies on Sully

Dad’s “Sage” Advice for Freshman Success at College – New & Improved

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

I’m taking the remainder of the summer off from blogging. In the mean time, please enjoy this “throwback” post from the archives.

Pennies on Sully
Hey Freshman: Granger Smith says “Put a Penny On Sully”

There’s a whole new crop of new freshmen out there, so I thought I’d share the advice I gave to my son when he departed for college four years ago. I’ve adapted it a bit for a wider audience, but it’s basically the same. I’d be very interested in readers’ advice as well!

1. Stay Healthy: Mentally, Physically, Spiritually

  • You’ll get a mental workout at college, and remember that’s what you’re there to do. However, don’t forget to look for ways to learn new things outside the classroom–and make an effort to keep yourself mentally healthy by taking advantage of lecture series, plays, sporting events, etc.
  • Good physical health is crucial to good mental health. Work hard, but make time to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat properly. There won’t be enough gas in the tank for those occasional all-nighters if you don’t take care of the engine.
  • Stick with whatever spiritual practices you’ve grown up with, whether that’s regular worship at your local church/synagogue/mosque or just spending quiet time watching the sun come up. Many college students believe they’re on their own and they don’t have to tend to their spirit, but spiritual health is just as important as your mental and physical health. You’ll do a lot of growing in the next four years, and there will be considerable stress from school, relationships, and life in general so don’t add unnecessary stress to your life by removing the spiritual center you depend on (whether you know it or not!). Do work at an adult understanding of your faith and spirituality, but don’t abandon it. Bottom line here: if you’re using your religious practice as a means of rebellion against your parents or someone else–pick a different rebellion. You’ll only be harming yourself.

2. Make New Friends, Eat Your Lunch, and Drink Your Water.

  • This is the advice my son gave me every day as I left for work when we lived in San Antonio, and since it makes the same good sense for you that it for me did in 1994 I’m loaning it to you.
  • Don’t be a cave dweller.  It’s easy to remain locked away in your dorm room for four years making excellent grades and few friends…resist the urge. “To everything there is a season…” 
  • Make friends who aren’t like you. You don’t have to agree on everything or be the same in order to develop a friendship. Obviously, you should be true to your values and beliefs–never compromise those–but you can and should be friends with people who aren’t like you.
  • Try at least three new things your freshman year: join a club, go to a rally, see a play, go to a football game, take a road trip, enter a contest…don’t let the experience of college life be so big that it overwhelms you.  Challenge the experience to make you a better person.

3. Be Careful What You Choose, You May Get It

  • This warning isn’t a caution against taking chances; I encourage you to take (reasonable) risks.  What it does mean is starting with the end in mind, even visualizing it as a fait d’accompli, is an excellent way to discern if you really want something, or you’re merely dreaming; then make a plan to get there.

4. “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” (h/t RAF)

  • Success usually goes to the one who is prepared and has asked the question, “what can go wrong here?” Plan for and expect success, but don’t be crushed by failure.  The only real failure is quitting; never quit.

5. Guard Your Chastity

  • I know this sounds very old fashioned, but remember you’re there to get an education, not find a mate or a date. You may feel like you’re the last, or only, virgin on campus. Don’t believe the lie!  Do yourself and your future spouse a favor by remaining chaste.  If you do, you’ll then be free to give your spouse what you’ve saved only for her or him. Morals aside, respect the power of sex and leave it for later…there will be plenty of time.
  • If for some reason you are unsuccessful, or if you haven’t remained chaste before, see #1 above.

Learn from other people’s mistakes, you don’t have time to make them all yourself. – G. K. Chesterton

6. Sit In The Front Three Rows, Ask Questions, And See The Prof At Least Once In His Office

7. Have A Regular Schedule

  • The monastic religious orders and the military share a penchant for routine because it’s effective at training your mind to remember things, and to help develop habits of “life-balance” for your mind, spirit, and body.
  • You don’t have to be rigid about it, things come up, but having “reveille” and “taps”, “morning and evening prayer”, “workout time”, meals, and “study time” at regular intervals helps you stay balanced, fresh, and focused.  Also, practically speaking it’s also much easier to deviate from a plan than to attempt to form a new one from scratch at short notice.

8. Ask For Help When You Need It

  • Everybody needs help from time to time. Don’t be bashful about asking for help from Mom & Dad, from your priest, from friends, etc. Filter advice according to the source.
  • What you got you here won’t necessarily make you successful here. College isn’t the 13th grade…there are many more demands on you, and the University and others expect you to fully transition to independent adulthood while you’re here. At 18, you’re no longer a “kid”: you can vote, bear arms for your country, and legally make decisions on your own. You don’t have to do it all at once, so pace yourself.

9. Communicate

  • Keep your family in the loop with your victories and your struggles. As your parents and your family, we are excited to see you thriving on your own but we never stop being your mom and dad. We don’t want to run your life, but we want to continue to be a part of it. Call, Skype, email, text, tweet–whatever–but know you remain in our heart forever.

Dad’s Sage Advice for the Class of ’20

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Advice Column

A&M Students 1894The Class of 2020 is arriving at college this month, and so keeping with August’s “Advice That Sticks” theme, here’s the latest version of Dad’s Sage Advice for College – 2016 Edition

1. Keep Yourself Healthy

You can’t run at full throttle all the time-be sure to maintain your mental, spiritual, and physical health. Don’t be a cave dweller. It’s easy to remain locked away in your dorm room for four years making excellent grades and few friends-resist the urge. Eat right, exercise, and attend to your spiritual health. Beer and Xbox is not a hobby, and just because Mom isn’t there to get you out of bed on Sunday morning doesn’t mean you don’t have to go to church.

2. Remain Authentically Free

There’s plenty of things “out there” that will steal your freedom-never let your or someone else’s appetites prevent you from choosing what’s good for you. There are all sorts of “freedom stealers” from the benign (video gaming) to the downright dangerous (drugs, alcohol, porn). Don’t let the “freedom stealers” prevent you from being the amazing person you were born to be.

3. Guard Your Chastity

I know this sounds very old fashioned, but remember you’re there to get an education, not find a mate or a date. Believe me, with all the other drama involved in getting through college, you can do without relationship drama. Regardless whether or not you’re a virgin, respect the power of sex and leave it for later–there will be plenty of time.

4. Make Friends 

Find a group of people who share your values, and with whom you can be yourself. Additionally, it’s good to make friends with people who aren’t like you. You need both kinds. You don’t have to agree on everything or be the same in order to develop a friendship. Everyone needs friends who can build us up, and challenge us to be better people.

5. Be Adventurous but Not Stupid

Don’t compromise your values or your safety, but don’t be afraid of new experiences either. Join a club, go to a rally, see a play, go to a football game, take a road trip, enter a contest. Challenge the college experience to make you a better person.

6. Never Quit

Success usually goes to the one who is prepared and has asked the question, “what can go wrong here?” Plan for and expect success, but don’t be crushed by failure. The only real failure is quitting; never quit. No matter what happens, good or bad, be able to say you’ve done your best.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. – G. K. Chesterton

7. Go to Class, Do the Work

I know this seems basic, but it’s very easy to become overwhelmed and get behind. You do have to do the work. In the game of football, all you have to do is travel 10 yards and you get to keep going. Make enough first downs and you score a touchdown. Remember why you wanted a college education in the first place, and keep making first downs until you get to the end zone.

8. Remember, You’re Never Alone

Ask for help when you need it, talk to people, share the load with others and allow others to do the same. You have to take tests and do some work on your own, but that doesn’t mean you have to be by yourself. Include your profs in that as well–they’re there to help you learn. College is a team sport.

9. Remember, We Love You.

Keep your loved ones in the loop and stay connected. As a Dad, I want you to know your family wants you to succeed and be your own person–but we want to remain part of your life, too.


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

Pennies on Sully

Dad’s “Sage” Advice for Freshman Success at College – 2015 Edition

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Practical Leadership

Pennies on Sully
Hey Freshman: Granger Smith says “Put a Penny On Sully”


It’s time to welcome the Class of 2019 to their collegiate careers! Below is my annual “advice” to new freshmen–updated of course!

There’s a whole new crop of new freshmen out there, so I thought I’d share the advice I gave to my son when he departed for college four years ago. I’ve adapted it a bit for a wider audience, but it’s basically the same. I’d be very interested in readers’ advice as well!

1. Stay Healthy: Mentally, Physically, Spiritually

  • You’ll get a mental workout at college, and remember that’s what you’re there to do. However, don’t forget to look for ways to learn new things outside the classroom–and make an effort to keep yourself mentally healthy by taking advantage of lecture series, plays, sporting events, etc.
  • Good physical health is crucial to good mental health. Work hard, but make time to exercise, get enough sleep, and eat properly. There won’t be enough gas in the tank for those occasional all-nighters if you don’t take care of the engine.
  • Stick with whatever spiritual practices you’ve grown up with, whether that’s regular worship at your local church/synagogue/mosque or just spending quiet time watching the sun come up. Many college students believe they’re on their own and they don’t have to tend to their spirit, but spiritual health is just as important as your mental and physical health. You’ll do a lot of growing in the next four years, and there will be considerable stress from school, relationships, and life in general so don’t add unnecessary stress to your life by removing the spiritual center you depend on (whether you know it or not!). Do work at an adult understanding of your faith and spirituality, but don’t abandon it. Bottom line here: if you’re using your religious practice as a means of rebellion against your parents or someone else–pick a different rebellion. You’ll only be harming yourself.

2. Make New Friends, Eat Your Lunch, and Drink Your Water.

  • This is the advice my son gave me every day as I left for work when we lived in San Antonio, and since it makes the same good sense for you that it for me did in 1994 I’m loaning it to you.
  • Don’t be a cave dweller.  It’s easy to remain locked away in your dorm room for four years making excellent grades and few friends…resist the urge. “To everything there is a season…” 
  • Make friends who aren’t like you. You don’t have to agree on everything or be the same in order to develop a friendship. Obviously, you should be true to your values and beliefs–never compromise those–but you can and should be friends with people who aren’t like you.
  • Try at least three new things your freshman year: join a club, go to a rally, see a play, go to a football game, take a road trip, enter a contest…don’t let the experience of college life be so big that it overwhelms you.  Challenge the experience to make you a better person.

3. Be Careful What You Choose, You May Get It

  • This warning isn’t a caution against taking chances; I encourage you to take (reasonable) risks.  What it does mean is starting with the end in mind, even visualizing it as a fait d’accompli, is an excellent way to discern if you really want something, or you’re merely dreaming; then make a plan to get there.

4. “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” (h/t RAF)

  • Success usually goes to the one who is prepared and has asked the question, “what can go wrong here?” Plan for and expect success, but don’t be crushed by failure.  The only real failure is quitting; never quit.

5. Guard Your Chastity

  • I know this sounds very old fashioned, but remember you’re there to get an education, not find a mate or a date. You may feel like you’re the last, or only, virgin on campus. Don’t believe the lie!  Do yourself and your future spouse a favor by remaining chaste.  If you do, you’ll then be free to give your spouse what you’ve saved only for her or him. Morals aside, respect the power of sex and leave it for later…there will be plenty of time.
  • If for some reason you are unsuccessful, or if you haven’t remained chaste before, see #1 above.

Learn from other people’s mistakes, you don’t have time to make them all yourself. – G. K. Chesterton

6. Sit In The Front Three Rows, Ask Questions, And See The Prof At Least Once In His Office

7. Have A Regular Schedule

  • The monastic religious orders and the military share a penchant for routine because it’s effective at training your mind to remember things, and to help develop habits of “life-balance” for your mind, spirit, and body.
  • You don’t have to be rigid about it, things come up, but having “reveille” and “taps”, “morning and evening prayer”, “workout time”, meals, and “study time” at regular intervals helps you stay balanced, fresh, and focused.  Also, practically speaking it’s also much easier to deviate from a plan than to attempt to form a new one from scratch at short notice.

8. Ask For Help When You Need It

  • Everybody needs help from time to time. Don’t be bashful about asking for help from Mom & Dad, from your priest, from friends, etc. Filter advice according to the source.
  • What you got you here won’t necessarily make you successful here. College isn’t the 13th grade…there are many more demands on you, and the University and others expect you to fully transition to independent adulthood while you’re here. At 18, you’re no longer a “kid”: you can vote, bear arms for your country, and legally make decisions on your own. You don’t have to do it all at once, so pace yourself.

9. Communicate

  • Keep your family in the loop with your victories and your struggles. As your parents and your family, we are excited to see you thriving on your own but we never stop being your mom and dad. We don’t want to run your life, but we want to continue to be a part of it. Call, Skype, email, text, tweet–whatever–but know you remain in our heart forever.

Dad’s “Sage” Advice for Freshman Success at College

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

Pennies on Sully
Hey Freshman: Granger Smith says “Put a Penny On Sully”

 

 

 

“Learn from the mistakes of others – you don’t have time enough to make them all yourself.”
-G.K. Chesterton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a whole new crop of new freshmen out there, so I thought I’d share the advice I gave to my son when he departed for college four years ago. I’ve adapted it a bit for a wider audience, but it’s basically the same sage advice I told my son. I’d be very interested in readers’ advice as well!

1. Stay Spiritually Healthy

– Stick with whatever spiritual practices you’ve grown up with, whether that’s regular worship at your local church/synagogue/mosque or just spending quiet time watching the sun come up. Many college students believe they’re on their own and they don’t have to attend to their spirit, but spiritual health is just as important as your mental and physical health.

– You’ll do a lot of growing in the next four years, and there will be considerable stress from school, relationships, and life in general so don’t add unnecessary stress to your life by removing the spiritual center you depend on (whether you know it or not!).  By all means grow and expand your mind, but your freshman year is not the time for spiritual experimentation.

2. Make New Friends, Each Your Lunch, and Drink Your Water.

– This is the advice my son gave me every day as I left for work when we lived in San Antonio, and since it makes the same good sense for you that it for me did in 1994 I’m loaning it to you.

– Don’t be a cave dweller.  It’s easy to remain locked away in your dorm room for four years making excellent grades and few friends…resist the urge.   “To everything there is a season…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

– Try at least three new things your freshman year: join a club, go to a rally, see a play, go to a football game, take a road trip, enter a contest…don’t let the experience of college life be so big that it overwhelms you.  Challenge the experience to make you a better person.

3. Be Careful What You Choose, You May Get It

– This warning isn’t a caution against taking chances; I encourage you to take (reasonable) risks.  What it does mean is starting with the end in mind, even visualizing it as a fait d’accompli, is an excellent way to discern if you really want something, or you’re merely dreaming; then make a plan to get there.

4. “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” (h/t RAF)

– Success usually goes to the one who is prepared and has asked the question, “what can go wrong here?” Plan for and expect success, but don’t be crushed by failure.  The only real failure is quitting; never quit.

5. Guard Your Chastity

– Some time at college you’ll be tempted mightily to surrender your chastity. You may feel like you’re the last, or only, virgin on campus.  Don’t believe the lie!  Do yourself and your future spouse a favor by remaining chaste.  You’ll then be free to give your spouse what you’ve saved only for her or him. Morals aside, respect the power of sex and leave it for later…there will be plenty of time.

– If for some reason you are unsuccessful, remember you’ve only lost a battle not the war, then see #1 above.

6. Sit In The Front Three Rows, Ask Questions, And See The Prof At Least Once In His Office

– This is probably the best advice I received from my upperclassmen at Texas A&M.  Not only does it endear you to the prof and put you in prime “question” space, it enables you to see without dodging tall people’s heads and hair bows.

– More than once a prof gave me the benefit of the doubt because he knew me personally.

7. Have A Regular Schedule

– The monastic religious orders and the military share a penchant for routine because it’s effective at training your mind to remember things, and to help develop habits of “life-balance” for your mind, spirit, and body.

– You don’t have to be rigid about it, things come up, but having “reveille” and “taps”, “morning and evening prayer”, “workout time”, meals, and “study time” at regular intervals helps you stay balanced, fresh, and focused.  Also, practically speaking it’s also much easier to deviate from a plan than to attempt to form a new one from scratch at short notice.