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The Webb Wilder Credo

By Bill Stork, DVM

I've checked email, voicemail, snail mail and text messages. I keep expecting to be invited to speak at a graduation. So far, nothing.

Though it is said that unsolicited advice is self-serving, that hasn't stopped us yet. By my way of thinking, new grads and old timers alike could benefit from the simple, all-encompassing truths so eloquently stated by a 60-year-old rockabilly singer, guitar player and actor from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

After his first gig, on Easter weekend 1985, at George Street Grocery in Jacksonville, Mississippi, Webb Wilder was asked at the conclusion of an interview if he had anything to add.

“Work Hard, Rock Hard, Eat Hard, Sleep Hard, Grow Big... and wear glasses if you need 'em.”

The Webb Wilder Credo was born.

Work Hard. A wise man once said, and I paraphrase, because Dad spoke the vernacular of construction: “You can work hard enough to overcome a lack of intelligence, but you can't be smart enough to get past lazy.”

Parents and mentors have pelted us with clichés since the day we could understand the English language: "Hard work is reward unto itself," "What is asked of you, is the least you can do." Groups of words don't get to be clichés without a whole lot of truth (though I promise someday we will challenge some of them). Your next step in life may be college, technical school, apprenticeship, military or farming. If you wake up every morning assuming there will be work, and look for the reward, you'll find it. There are few pleasures greater than building, fixing something, or helping someone.

Rock Hard. Whether you are a sophomore in college or a 45-year-old mechanical engineer, learning never stops. Whatever your pleasure: bike riding, badminton or gangsta rap, never get so absorbed in the pursuit of a what's next that you deny yourself the joy of today. That can be a week on the big island of Hawaii or a cup of coffee with your mechanic, after a half hour in the gym. Prepare to be amazed at the power of small pleasures.

Eat Hard. Mom told us to chew with our mouth closed and never talk with food in your mouth. As a kid, our family of three sat down for dinner around our oval, mahogany 4-leaf table, under a $20 oil painting of the Last Supper, nearly every night of the week. In college, on the first note of Waylon Jennings singing Waymor's Blues at the end of The Dukes of Hazzard, no fewer than 20 of us would amble to the cafeteria like a herd of cows.

My friend Scott Clewis is one of the finest men I've ever known. His father was a Chicago City Alderman, and eventually an Illinois Senator. He had meetings nearly every night of the week, but first he would go home and put his feet under the dinner table with his wife, daughters and son. Only after learning about their day's accomplishments and challenges would he dismiss himself to the business of the city and state. The evening meal is about taking on nourishment, to be certain: feeding the body, the mind and the soul.

Sleep Hard. There will be entire volumes written on the fine art of a good night’s sleep and the beauty of the seven-minute nap. Productivity is lost when we spend too much time between them. If we are awake, live. If not, sleep.

Grow Big. Some combination of genetics, nurture and nutrition will dictate your height, weight and circumference, but we are fully in charge of the people we become. In life we will meet people from every walk, race and religion. Every one of us has been straddled with pre-conceived notions at some level. Throw them out. Just as we did with our parents, listen to and watch all those we come in contact with. Rather than criticize that which we don't agree with, let us appreciate and internalize their strengths and beauty. Make them part of us.

Wear glasses if you need them. All the better to see, of course. Use good vision to not only see others for who they are, but also to understand from where it is they came. Seek not to judge. If so, ask not what your fellow man or woman does, or who they are. Ask if it is the best they can be.

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