If you were to take a survey of all 128 FBS head coaches, there may not be a better match for a commencement address than Mark Helfrich and Southern Oregon University.
The third-year Oregon head coach played and coached at Southern Oregon and, equally important, grew up as the son of two Southern Oregon graduates. "Literally my first memories of existence we lived up at Lilac Circle, which was then just kind of a rolling, grassy field," Helfrich said. "My most vivid memories were the crisp air and the lithia water."
Further, the man just understands how to live life. Helfrich never lets the weight of the job hang on him, and instead takes the hundreds of decisions he must like in stride, strides he makes while walking to a taco stand down by the beach.
Helfrich centered his speech on four pieces of advice for outgoing SOU graduates (transcription via Andrew Greif at the Oregonian):
1. Don't Kill Your Roommate (or: Details Matter). "It was a beautiful June afternoon much like today, commencement was in Lithia Park back then and everybody was having a great time. Especially the guys in the front, shirts off, bongo drums, they're still there. They're always having a better time than you.
"Our plan that afternoon was to have a big barbecue. We did this a lot in our house with our roommates and we had some incredible spreads. Each family brought their own thing. Being from the coast my dad would bring an obscene amount of seafood. There was music playing, maybe some Sheryl Crow, Tom Petty, Oasis maybe right at the beginning. My roommate came up and said, 'Dude, your dad's chicken is unbelievable.' This led immediately to four words out of my mouth that your graduation day festivities should be without. 'Call 9-1-1.'
"Because our roommate, who will be called A.J. in this scenario, a brilliant guy who is now a bigshot at Nike was deathly allergic to seafood and he'd just ingested about eight pounds of halibut. The rest of his commencement day consisted of being heavily medicated under the watchful care of Ashland Community Hospital and then he went out with the anthropology guys later on the town. So details matter."
2. Surround Yourself With People That Make You Better. "Put your cell phone down from tweeting the type of muffin you're having for breakfast and learn from other people. What you'll find out is sometimes those people don't look like you or talk like you, their politics are different than yours, but you can learn from anyone. Sometimes it's what not to do, but that's something.
Surround yourself with people that challenge and inspire you. It's a simple test. If that person walks into your life, does your life get better? If not, change your people or change your circumstances."
3. Love To Work And Love The Work. "Find something you love whatever that is, Shakespeare, physics, and throw yourself into it. Lincoln said not to underestimate the power of doing the right thing. Once more I'd say never estimate the power of redoing that right thing to your standard. With that you constantly seek to improve. We talk about this thing all the time, it's you versus yesterday, the never-ending quest to improve you and others in small steps. Be a little bit better than yesterday and repeat. This becomes a constant pursuit of better, not perfect, but better and what you'll find is you'll surpass what you thought was perfect two months ago just by focusing on the process of getting better."
4. Have a Great Attitude. "Your attitude and your perspective on life, and this maybe the most important and enduring piece of advice of all, your attitude is the thing most capable of combating the inevitable mini-failures that will happen in everyone's life. Military strategists guarantee one thing: Zero percent of battles go as planned. Your life will not go as planned. You might get fired, someone in your life might pass on, you might get married or you might not, you might have kids or you might not, who knows. As I sat here 19 years ago the plan was graduate school, medical school and beyond.
"My life went on this incredible journey of luck and love and wins and losses and the three greatest relationships I've ever known: My wife, Megan, and my two children. I'm the luckiest guy in the world and I try to work every day to deserve it."
View Helf's address below via KDRV-TV.