Alumnus Corner: Ryan Bakke (LWW class of 2016)


Ryan Bakke

Hello, my name is Ryan, and I am a 2019 college graduate holding two bachelor’s degrees in accounting & finance from Trinity Christian College. I was grateful enough to finish five years’ worth of course work in three and a half years. This summer I passed the CPA exam, and I started my first full-time job this July as a consultant for a large management consulting firm in downtown Chicago.

But just under four years ago I graduated from Lincoln-Way West, and I would like to take some time to share my story. I lived in New Lenox for most of my life but went to a Joliet district grade school. At first it was very hard for me to adapt to Lincoln-Way West because I didn’t know any of my classmates. This was a burden at first but looking back on this experience I believe it helped me build character.

At Lincoln-Way West I was a member of the football, basketball, and volleyball teams, as well as a member of the scholastic bowl team. I met many great teachers and coaches at West that helped plant lifelong learning opportunities. What I remember the most about Lincoln-Way West was the slogan on one of the shirts that they handed out on the first day on school; it said “Be A Warrior.” Being a warrior to me meant representing my own character, and understanding that no two individuals are the same. To be a warrior means to be yourself! By being a part of many sports teams I learned how to communicate and work together with other people. I believe being a part of a sports team means being a part of something that is greater than one individual (and employers love to see teamwork on a resume).

The advice I would like to share with you today can be broken into three categories: 1. Controlling the Controllables, 2. How to achieve with schoolwork, 3. Wisdom from others

Controlling the Controllables:

It doesn’t matter the stage you are in your life– from getting an education to being on a team to working in your career. I believe there are eight areas that everyone can get better at. These are skills that you can take with you in an education, athletic, or career setting.

  1. Be on Time: It matters. you always want to leave a good impression.
  2. Work Ethic: You can control how hard you want to work. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
  3. Energy: Have energy and passion for all the work you do, so that you are ready for more obstacles to come.
  4. Body Language: Body Language is everything; how people interpret your postures determines the way people decipher your actions.
  5. Go the Extra Mile: Going the extra mile means staying late, putting in extra work, and building lasting and meaningful relationships.
  6. Be Prepared: A wise mentor of mine once said “When preparation meets opportunity, luck won’t play a factor.” I have also been told, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Whatever obstacle you are wanting to tackle in life, make sure you are prepared, because luck won’t play a factor if you’re truly prepared.
  7. Be Coachable/Teachable: People want to be around others who are open to new ideas. You never learn anything inside your comfort zone.
  8. Attitude: This is the most important of them all. Attitude is your outlook on a situation. “Life is 10% what happens, and 90% how we react to it,” so have a good attitude!

How to Achieve with Schoolwork:

I can define my schoolwork/education strategy into three areas: 1. How to effectively retain information. 2. How to effectively study and ace an exam or assignment. 3. What you can do outside the classroom to help boost your grade.

  1. Personally, I have completed 17 years of various education, and I have taken extremely difficult licensed accounting/financial exams, and I still struggle with effective notetaking. But the first step is to always attend class and the next step is to take sufficient notes. I then make flashcards because they are easy to make and are great for retention. I recommend making flashcards and studying them before you go to bed, spending 30 minutes before bed reading flashcards as opposed to spending thirty minutes on Instagram/Twitter. It will be more beneficial for you!
  2. Do NOT wait to the last day to do something. Whether it is studying for a test, an assignment, or a project, the day before the due date is the time to cross the t’s and dot the i’s not begin an assignment. The more time you can lay your eyes on the assignment before it is due, the better off you will be. I changed this habit from high school to college, and I went from a 2.9 GPA in high school to a 3.7 GPA in college.
  3. What you do outside the classroom can be the most important thing in your education process. If you take the time to ask additional questions, visit your teachers/professors for office hours, and prove that you are dedicated and diligent with the coursework, you are more likely to get on the professor’s good side. This is important when it comes to final grades. If your grade is borderline and you don’t show up to class or submit any homework, your professor will most likely fail you, but if you exert hard work and go the extra mile, they are more likely to round your grade and pass you in the class.

Wisdom from Others

Some overall advice/motivation that I can give you stems around three ideas. 1. You can’t go back and change the past. 2. If you believe it you can achieve it. 3. Take the opportunity and circumstance you are in and overcome and conquer.

  1. The great C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, once said “You can’t go back and change the past, but you can start today and change the ending.” WOW, is that powerful. You are in control of your destiny. It doesn’t matter what happened in your past. You decide the future. You are able to write your own book.
  1. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right” HUH? This quote is interesting but read it over again. Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t you’re right. The first step to achieving a goal is to believe in yourself that you can!
  1. This is my favorite part. Take the opportunity and circumstance that you are in and overcome and conquer!

Listen guys, this is across the board. I learned in life that there are people with circumstances and situations who were a lot worse than mine, but they played the hand they were dealt with, and they are winning with it. It’s only an excuse or a bad situation if you label it that way. Perspective drives performance every day of the week. How you view what you do will affect how you do what you do. Play the hand that you were dealt like it’s the one you always wanted


 In loving memory of my good friend Chris, may you rest in peace.