RIO GRANDE — Life, according to Jim Tressel, is all about people.
The Youngstown State University president and former head football coach at Ohio State University told a capacity crowd Thursday night at the University of Rio Grande’s Davis University Center that “life’s a lot more fun when you first remind yourself of all the blessings you have.”
Tressel was the keynote speaker during the 79th Gallia County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet.
Tressel became the ninth president of YSU on July 1, 2014, after serving as vice president for student success at the University of Akron. Prior to his stint at Akron, he was the head football coach at Ohio State University (2001-10), where his teams won the national championship in 2002, in addition to seven Big Ten titles and eight BCS bowl games.
As head football coach at YSU from 1986 to 2000, Tressel’s teams won four Division I-AA national titles.
“One thing we used to tell our teams, from the time we were at Youngstown State to Ohio State, is that you need to start every day with an attitude of gratitude,” he said. “Sure we have hardships. There are hardships everywhere. But when you start comparing your list of blessings to your list of hardships, we’re certainly fortunate here in this country. We’re certainly fortunate here in this state.
“Life is more fun when you’re grateful.”
Tressel said there will be times when life doesn’t go as planned.
“But if you have the right attitude, and if you have the willingness to count your blessings versus the things that don’t go the way you were hoping, you’re going to be able to handle anything that comes your way,” he said. “And you’re probably going to become better for the more difficult things that happen in your future.”
Tressel said people’s lives are busy and have become even more so with technology, but that it hasn’t hampered Americans’ – particularly Ohioans’ – work ethic.
“I think it’s healthy to have some reflective moments,” he said. “In my busy life — and this is my 43rd year in higher education — there have been those moments where I’ve had the opportunity to sit back, reflect and ask myself very important questions: Am I where I should be, doing what I should be doing? Am I doing the things I was put on this Earth to do? Am I fulfilling my purpose? I think we all ask ourselves, ‘What is my purpose in life?’”
Before one can answer that, Tressel said four “boxes” must be checked, the first of which is relationships with other people.
“It’s not where you coach or where you work or where you are,” he said. “It’s with whom. That’s everything. Do you feel good about who you’re with, wherever it is? And if you don’t and you can’t check that box off, we’ve got to do something about that.”
The second “box,” according to Tressel, is feeling valued and having autonomy.
“The only way we can become the best we can possibly be is to feel valued, be thinking about solutions and all be in it together,” he said.
Next, Tressel said feeling good about one’s self is an important box to check to answer the question about one’s purpose in life.
“I’ll bet you if you thought back to a moment in your life where some really good things were happening, it would also coincide with the moment in your life where you were feeling pretty good,” he said. “It’s just the way it is.”
The last box, according to Tressel, is maintaining perspective.
“It is hard to keep things in perspective when you’re really passionate about it. We allow ourselves, sometimes, to get drawn into the things that are exciting and fun and maybe lucrative, or whatever,” he said. “All of a sudden we lose our perspective until life brings something along like a family member’s illness or a tragedy of some sort. I think we have to work hard to keep things in perspective.”
Tressel said evaluating one’s self is a constant process.
“We have to constantly think about how we can check the boxes off. It’s not a one-time deal.”
Tressel closed his talk with words from a poem penned by Edward Everett Hale that he said sums up what people can do for the collective whole.
“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And that I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I shall do.
“If we do that, we’ll live with the results.”