Beliefnet

A story from The Power of Attitude.

YOU CAN NEVER STEP INTO THE SAME RIVER TWICE. Like that river your past is gone and the future is promised to no one. All you have is now.

Jim Valvano amassed an impressive career as a basketball coach and commentator, including when his North Carolina State team beat heavily favored Houston to win the NCAA national championship in 1983. But when he was awarded the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage in 1993, it had nothing to do with basketball. Valvano had incurable cancer and had been given less than six months to live. He ended his acceptance speech with these words:

"I urge all of you to enjoy your life. Every precious moment you have on this earth. Spend each day with some laughter. Don't be afraid to feel . . . to get your emotions going. Be enthusiastic, because nothing great can be accomplished without enthusiasm. Live your dreams."

Jim Valvano lived with passion and loved his life . . . he lived in awe.

A few months ago, a friend sent me a copy of an essay written by Samuel Ullman in 1920. It's called "Youth" and the words stirred my soul like nothing I've read in a long time. I'll share it with you:

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of 60 more than a boy of 20. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. Whether 60 or 16, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing childlike appetite of what's next and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from God, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and pessimism, then you are grown old, even at 20, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at 80.

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