It was September 1966. I was 14 years old and had just started my freshman year at Calvert Hall College High School, an all boys Christian Brothers school with origins going back to 1845. Relocated in 1960 from the heart of Baltimore City to Towson (Baltimore County) MD, Calvert Hall was more than a high school to me. It was like I had grown up there with Pop being a teacher and coach at The Hall starting in 1961. During the ensuing years I would spend many a day coming over to The Hall after grade and junior high schools spending time with the football and basketball teams watching Pop coach absorbing everything I could about motivation, leadership and developing players to their full potential. While I would get to know all of the players (and memorize their numbers) I would also meet many teachers, as well as the family of Christian Brothers. The Hall was like a second home to me. Consequently, it made my freshman year a little less intimidating than it ordinarily might be.
In one of my first classes at The Hall we were introduced to a poem by Edgar A. Guest entitled “Good Enough”. Written in 1927, some 40 years later as young boys striving to become young men, we would read and reread the poem until the point where we knew it like the back of our hands. This early lesson in education taught me “The Law of Learning” was quite simply “repetition”. Years later, when I run into fellow classmates, we can still “fill in the blanks” with these simple words committed to memory over 45 years ago:
Edgar A. Guest
My son, beware of “good enough,”
It isn’t made of sterling stuff;
It’s something any man can do,
It marks the many from the few,
It has no merit to the eye,
It’s something any man can buy,
It’s name is but a sham and bluff,
For it is never “good enough.”
With “good enough” the shirkers stop
In every factory and shop;
With “good enough” the failures rest
And lose to men who give their best;
With “good enough” the car breaks down
And men fall short of high renown.
My son, remember and be wise,
In “good enough” disaster lies.
With “good enough” have ships been wrecked,
The forward march of armies checked,
Great buildings burned and fortunes lost;
Nor can the world compute the cost
In life and money it has paid
Because at “good enough” men stayed.
Who stops at “good enough” shall find
Success has left him far behind.
There is no “good enough” that’s short
Of what you can do and you ought.
The flaw which may escape the eye
And temporarily get by,
Shall weaken underneath the strain,
And wreck the ship or car or train,
For this is true of men and stuff—
Only the best is “good enough.”
So much has happened in the world, not to mention my life, since 1966, yet it is clear to me that fundamentals, like those contained in “Good Enough” have stood the test of time and are just as, if not more so, relevant in today’s hectic and fast paced world in which we live. Whether it be in our professional lives, in our marriages, as parents, or as sons and daughters, in relationships with friends and others, and last but not least our relationship with God, “Good Enough” is never good enough. Start by reading out loud these simple, yet profound words, and then applying “The Law of Learning” by committing them to memory. Then focus on putting the underlying fundamentals into action. In the final analysis, if we constantly strive to be the best we can be, we can avoid the pitfalls Mr. Guest cautioned us on in “Good Enough”.
It was 34 years after being introduced to “Good Enough” that I would walk the halls of Calvert Hall with my son Joe as he started his freshman year; it was the same halls that I had walked together with Pop from the time I was 9 years old. Gone was the barber shop, the senior lounge that came right out of the malt shop in a scene from a 1950’s “Ozzie & Harriet” TV show. The football stadium was new and modern, the baseball stadium reassembling a minor league ballpark. Adorned by other new buildings and a cafeteria that looks like in came out of a college campus, at its core was still “The Calvert Hall family”. Only a handful of Christian Brothers remain on the school grounds as their residence has become the equivalent of a ghost town. Yet despite all the changes, nothing can erase the wisdom contained in “Good Enough”. Just like players in sports need their coaches, nothing can change the fact that employees for a business need leaders who will motivate, lead by example and develop their team to its full potential. Whether you are the player, employee, coach or business owner, don’t ever settle for “good enough”. Always give it your best, even when it seems like there’s nothing left to give. When it appears darkest, it typically right before the dawn. Walk by faith and not by sight and honor God by always giving it your best. Now put a smile on your face, be thankful for all your blessings and go out and have a great day!!! May god bless you!!!
Joseph V. Carlozo (Joe)