“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Don’t embarrass us.”

The last words I heard from my parents before every high school football game and wrestling match seemed to convey a focus on results, on triumph. I felt enormous pressure to succeed and make them proud.

Eventually, I understood that my parents’ potential “embarrassment” would stem not from losing, but rather a lack of effort. To fail was acceptable, but to give it less than my all was not. Working hard, win or lose, meant I could go home with my head held high.

I attended an urban high school ranked among the lowest in the state. For many, it was a place to idly wait until old enough to drop out. Several former teammates are in prison for violent crimes. Despite this setting, my parent’s insistence on maximum effort and their examples at work and at home gave me confidence that I had the tools to succeed in any environment.

I’m not sure where I will go in my life. I have personal and professional goals, yet I’m still searching for my calling. Nonetheless, I know that with my work ethic and the values my parents instilled, I will succeed.

And, of course, that I won’t embarrass them.

— Kyle Caven