Gilbert Fellingham, professor of statistics, delivered Tuesday’s devotional address. As a statistician, coach and Latter-day Saint, Fellingham has a unique view of the world. He spoke on six rules that he’s learned during his career that aid in our temporal and eternal journeys.
Rule one: Focus matters Through working on projects for with the men’s national volleyball team and the Philadelphia Eagles, a professional football team, Fellingham learned how to utilize seemingly small data points to help guide coaching outcomes. He also learned to not become stuck on less relevant data or assumptions that would inhibit the team’s success.
The spiritual principle behind these experiences, said Fellingham, is that our focus should be on the Savior.
“Don’t let your focus wander so your time and energy are focused on things that just don’t matter much in the eternal scheme of things.”
Rule two: There is no substitute for hard work Fellingham illustrated how to follow this rule with a story about an inspiring high school swimmer, Chris. Though Chris was one of the smallest athletes on Fellingham's team, his work ethic was astounding.
“Don’t give up!” Fellingham told listeners after recounting the story. “Good things will happen if we keep our focus on the Savior and continue doing the things we have been counseled to do.”
Rule three: Develop your talents Working as a coach in rural western Washington helped Fellingham realize that the development of talents takes time but is worthwhile. Working with a freshman named Erica, Fellingham struggled to find the best discipline for her to join on the track team. Eventually, they discovered that she had a natural talent for the javelin, and after years of practice, she went on to make the 1996 Olympic team.
But we’re not all meant to be Olympians. However, just as Erica worked hard to find her place on the team, so must we be patient in discovering talents. Fellingham emphasized that the Lord will reward us for our efforts to use our talents to bless others:
"Your reward is the same for developing your gifts, regardless of how the world views them, and you."
Rule four: Little improvements can have big benefits After analyzing the data behind the effects of changing the scoring system of volleyball, Fellingham realized that little improvements can reap impressive rewards.
Making little changes in our spiritual practices and growing according to the Lord’s timeline can be difficult but the Lord will help us develop “line upon line.” Thus, “we need to retain our humility and allow the Lord to teach us a little at a time.”
Rule five: Always be willing to grow Fellingham pointed out that professional athletes must have a growth mindset and learn to accept mistakes if they want to improve.
Similarly, we must recognize that "mistakes in mortality are mandatory," even if they are uncomfortable since the reason for our mortal existence is to learn and grow.
"Don’t turn down opportunities to grow because you fear failure. The Lord will always be there,” Fellingham added.
Rule six: Don’t make excuses Olympic marathoner and former BYU student-athlete Jared Ward didn’t make excuses when he struggled in a class taught by Fellingham, he said — and neither should we.
“Just as world-class athletes must take charge of their training, so must we take charge of our own lives. We are responsible for the choices we make.”
As we use our God-given agency to accept mistakes, work hard, focus on the Savior, and make little changes in our life, we can be blessed “with the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives and be our best selves.”
Next devotional: W. Mark Bassett, General Authority Seventy, will deliver the next devotional address on Tuesday, November 16, at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center.
Bassett’s remarks will also be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org, KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYUradio 107.9 FM and SiriusXM 143.