Skip to main content

Practice, Practice, Practice

Kia ora and Aloha mai kakou!

I’d like to thank those that have provided our wonderful music. I’d also like to thank and acknowledge my beautiful wife for her introduction. I feel more confident that she is here with me. She doesn’t particularly like to speak in public, and when President Kauwe asked me to speak I thought it best to ask her first knowing she would most likely introduce me. (Secretly, I was hoping she’d say ‘no’). I’d also like to acknowledge in attendance today my mum, aunties, uncles, my mother and father-in-law, friends, and those watching this online, in the mainland, and throughout the Pacific. Thank you for your support.

I appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts, impressions, and ideas with you all, especially our students. You are what I would call my captive audience. As a father, I look forward to the drives to and from town with my kids for school, soccer, and volleyball games because they have to sit in the car and listen to me. They have nowhere to go for 45 minutes to an hour, just like you all here today. I hope to share with you a little more about what I do, how I can help and support you, and tie that into a spiritually uplifting message, sprinkled with some dad jokes, and humor.


I am the son of Robyn and the late Danny Kalama. Dad passed away a little over a year ago, on December 29, 2020, due to pancreatic cancer. He was a fighter; he battled this cancer for seven years. Dad was a convert to the church, and it was through the efforts of some amazing friends from Papakolea and the brotherhood of sports that he made his way here to Church College of Hawaii in the ‘70s. I miss him, love him, and I’m grateful for the many things he taught me. The most important things being to put the Lord (and others) first, to create choice experiences in my life that would allow me to strengthen my testimony, build my faith and be an effective husband and father, to be a contributing member of society, to love my country and to be proud of my Hawaiian heritage.

I am grateful for my mum, who has instilled in me many of the same ideals, a love for my family, culture, to be respectful, kind, and generous. Her bloodline comes through Tainui and Ngati Kahungunu in Aotearoa. I am grateful that she was adventurous enough to travel to a new country to pursue her interests and love of sharing our beautiful Maori culture here at Polynesian Cultural Center, where she and dad met. Mahalo mum and dad for your love and support throughout my life. I am standing here today because of you, Rachel, the girls, and many of our friends and family in the audience.

Mahalo to all of you for coming and bringing your supportive spirits. Whether you know it or not, you’ve made an impact on my life. You are all currently, at this very moment, impacting my life, creating one of those choice experiences with me. I am continually learning, growing, and striving to be the best of who I can become, and I appreciate your examples. I’ve been molded into the man I am today because of my life experiences and relationships with people. We’ll talk about these relationships a little more in a minute.

Now I know some of you may be looking at me saying, “What does this guy do?? I see him on campus, but I have no idea what he does.” That’s good. I have the same random thoughts about some of you. Shortly after Dr. Walker started in his new role as the Academic Vice President, he said to me, “Keni, I’m so excited to work closely with you! What do you do?” These devotionals are a great way to share who you are and what you do. I’m sure President Kauwe would love for you all to share some thoughts at a future devotional as well. I would encourage those of you that are invited to share a devotional to accept the invitation so we can all learn from you as we support our president and his request to teach, coach, and mentor our students.

Let me share with you what I do, and I will tie that into the title of my devotional talk, Practice, Practice, Practice. I am currently the Career Services Manager in the Ho’okele department. This department includes Recruiting, Admissions, New Student Orientation, Financial Aid, Career, Alumni, and International Student Services. Our director, James Faustino, is also the Dean of Students. Aside from supporting these divisions within our department, my main focus is employer relations, career/internship preparation and placement, and professional development.

Over the last six years and visits to about 15 countries (most of which I’ve gone to multiple times) in Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, I’ve been able to work with hundreds of employers, universities, students, and alumni. Collectively our Career Studio has assisted many, many more students with their professional development through networking, info sessions and one-on-one meetings, workshops, Career Fairs, and our APCC conference.

APCC 2022

Speaking of APCC, some of you may not have participated or may think it isn’t for you, but I’m here to tell you that it is for everyone. Your favorite employer or grad program may not be in attendance, but as it says in the title of this talk, you need opportunities to practice, practice, practice. Practice researching companies and grad programs before they come. Practice your elevator pitch, practice revising your resume, or introduce yourself to someone. APCC is for everyone, and it provides a great opportunity to practice for when you get the chance to meet your dream employer or the organization you want to work with in the future.

In this position, I’ve been fortunate to travel, build and strengthen relationships with employers/universities and our alumni around the world. It’s an amazing job, and I am blessed to be a part of this university and to work with all of you. I enjoy helping our students and want to contribute to David O. McKay’s vision of refining, developing, and supporting our ‘Genuine Gold.’

While in this position, I’ve made a few observations. I’d like to share some ideas and thoughts with you and offer some suggestions that will contribute to your professional development and performance. Throughout the preparation of this talk, I’ve had the impression many times to make sure you all understand that you are ‘THE Genuine Gold’ that President David O. McKay spoke of at the dedication and groundbreaking ceremony of this school. Please continue to think about that as you study here. Make a commitment to yourself that you will continue to add value to that Genuine Gold mantle you have inherited. Remember who you are and that whether you are on or off-campus, people are watching you. When you have a moment, please read or watch Elder Scott D. Whiting’s devotional talk on Genuine Gold from October 18, 2011.

As I mentioned, I would like to share some ideas that will help contribute to your success. For fun, let’s call these suggestions and ideas Keni's genuine gold nuggets of wisdom (I’d like to thank Vaughn Curioso, a senior visual arts major, for these illustrations.)

First Genuine Gold Nugget of Wisdom

Network, Network, Network- Create your global network while you are here in school. You might not realize how these relationships will benefit you or those in your network, but they will be very, very valuable to you now and in the future. Building your global professional network is included in your educational expense. The ROI on your educational expenses will not be fully recognized if you leave this network currency on the table. You are paying for this network as part of your education. People pay a lot of money and spend a lot of time trying to build the network that is at your fingertips and around you every day here at school. Challenge yourself and expand your network in class, at lunch, at work, in your clubs, and in other leisure activities. If you work at PCC, network there. Every year PCC hosts and entertains thousands and thousands of people. Take advantage of the opportunities to meet people and network.

Utilize the tools we have available here on campus. The Ohana Network and our LinkedIn BYU–Hawaii Alumni Facebook page are two very effective ways to connect with people. These are all amazing tools to build your network. If you need help utilizing these tools, please come see us in the Career Studio in the Lorenzo Snow Administration building--we’d love to help.

As an FYI, here is some data on the demographics of your current available network at school. On the left there, you’ll see potential numbers in the extended network from our other CES schools.

Get involved in ward and club activities, participate in class discussions so people get to know who you are. Dance in culture night and attend career fairs and other professional development events. Commit to learning a new language and culture. We are part of a global workforce, and you are some of the best prepared future employees of this workforce. You have a great education through our Holokai curriculum, amazing experiences and language skills (from missions and cultures from around the world), a huge network - from home, church, school, work, and your mission. Practice, practice, practice meeting people and building your network.

Second Genuine Gold Nugget of Wisdom

Relationships- Nurture, build and maintain the relationships you make through networking. 100% of what I do with work (and at home) every day requires a good relationship with someone, somewhere in some position. I’ve learned that 50% of the success of these relationships is up to me and the other 50% is up to whomever I am working with. This could be an employer, a student, boss#1 (Rachel), boss#2 (James), co-workers, and or my other four little mini boss#1’s.

They can smell fear, and lack confidence, don’t let them smell fear.

If that 50/50 balance is off, it strains the relationship and it might take or cause a disagreement, argument, or a constructive discussion to get it back in balance. In these relationships, I’ve noticed that people want honesty and transparency, but sometimes people don’t want honesty and transparency. Confused? Yes, I know…. sometimes people may just need someone to listen. Practice, practice, practice your relationships. Do your best to maintain these relationships. Put into your relationships what you want to get out of them. Equity in a relationship is wonderful. Be kind, gracious, and understanding, especially as we go through this current pandemic and challenging times together. Great relationships will help you in your career search and help you secure the job you want.

Third Genuine Gold Nugget of Wisdom

Attitude - Be positive. If you can be upbeat, positive, and supportive, go for it, be that, own it, embrace it. If you want to be a rain cloud everywhere you go, be the rain cloud, BUT DON’T GET UPSET WHEN THE STORMS COME. Storms will still come even if you are super positive, but you handle those life storms differently if you’ve determined and committed ahead of time that you won’t give in to the negative pitfalls of life. Practice, practice, practice being a peacemaker, forgiving, respectful, gracious, kind, tolerant, and understanding, practice having a positive attitude. Prepare yourself for situations that will take you out of your element. Self-awareness is great, and committing to yourself to be positive, no matter the situation, will help you to handle the difficult situations that are sure to come your way.

PJ Rogers

A quick story on positivity. For five years, I served in the bishopric with PJ Rogers. One morning in 2019, my brother PJ was having a bad day. He woke up and noticed their house was broken into, and someone helped themselves to their van. It was stolen. Lori, PJ’s wife, called me to ask if I could help find it, and we spent the morning searching for it.

We eventually found it, but because the van was stolen, and PJ had to teach a class that morning, he rode his motorcycle to the location the van was found. After the police showed up and did their investigation, I left to go back to work and told PJ to call me if he needed anything else. A few minutes later, I received a phone call from Lori. She told me PJ tipped his bike over and needed help picking it up. My heart sank because I could only imagine what really happened. I know PJ and know he didn’t want to worry Lori about what really happened. As I arrived on Kam Hwy in front of Hukilau, I saw him lying in the road with a badly broken leg. The first thing he said to me was (in my best PJ voice), “Quick, take a picture.” I told him no and tried to scrap him off the road. He said it again, “Take a picture before the ambulance comes, that’s a gnarly broken leg.” Upset, I told him ‘NO! You’re an idiot.’ He calmly said to me, “Keni, it’s a broken leg, it’ll heal but my feelings won’t if you don’t take the picture. I’m just glad I didn’t smash my head or get run over. Now take the picture.” We peeled him off the road, gave him a blessing, and got him in the ambulance while the policeman wrote him a ticket. Upset, I crumpled up the ticket and threw it back to the policeman so the ambulance could leave. PJ took the ticket and said he would take care of it. With all that happening, he still managed to be happy, grateful, and positive and posed for this overly enthusiastic photo at the hospital.

Choose to be happy. You do have the choice, understand that and control what you can, and leave the rest to this magical universe PJ lives in--I mean, we all live in.

Fourth Genuine Gold Nugget of Wisdom

Organize Yourself- Students often come into my office asking for help with their internship, job, AT, or OPT search. I am more than happy to help, I love helping; that’s why I’m here. One thing that will help both of us is to create YOUR vision of success. This could include where you want to live, who you want to work for, and even what position you are looking for in that specific organization. You may also want to create a contingency plan, a plan A, plan B, and maybe plan C. Help me, Help you.

Organizations and professionals in the industries you want to pursue are looking for organized, motivated, and focused individuals. They want to hire those that have a vision and are motivated to help their organizations succeed. Do a personal inventory of your skills and abilities, write those down, and see how you make the right fit for the organizations you are pursuing. Make sure to know what you are bringing to the table. Understand your fit with the organization and show them how you can apply your skills, education, knowledge, experiences, good attitude, and personality with them. Formulate an idea, be intentional and specific while planning your success, and envision ways you can create the outcome you desire.

Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect but start creating it, revise, edit and improve it now, and practice, practice, practice, so that you can be better at executing it when it’s game time.

Fifth Genuine Gold Nugget of Wisdom

Failure- Don’t be afraid to FAIL! - When you do fail, fail with a focus on your successful outcome - failures in life will happen no matter how hard you work to avoid them. In my experience failure is often unintentional. This devotional talk maybe a failure even after all the prayers, sleepless nights, stress, and work I’ve put into it. If that happens, I will deal with it. I’ll debrief with myself, it’ll sound something like, “self how’d you do? Okay… What can you improve on? Your jokes… Okay…” I’ll debrief with boss#1 and review what went wrong, make revisions, edit as needed, and look for another opportunity to improve and redeem myself. I hope in that case I don’t fail at this devotional because I’d prefer not to do this again in the near future.

Don't quit, and don't give up. Failure is interesting; it actually helps unlock some intangible, unforeseeable opportunities that could actually bring you much happiness. Embrace it as best you can and be grateful for it. Fail with humility and in the event offenses are made (while failing), be quick to reconcile, apologize, move on and recommit yourself to do better.

Recently I was on a monthly Utah Polynesian Professionals networking call with Tumua Anae Tavana. She’s a Laie girl, amazing wife, daughter, sister, and mother of three beautiful children. She is currently the VP of Premium Experience for the Utah Jazz. She’s an NCAA All-American at USC and 2012 US Women’s Water Polo Gold medalist. During her presentation, she showed us this picture of them after winning the gold medal. She mentioned that “all you see in the picture is a success, what you don’t see is the 5,000 failures that got us there.”

Individual failure is your stepping stone to continued success. Practice, improve, execute, and repeat. Remember we wouldn’t know good without the bad, sweet without the sour, success without failure.

Sixth Genuine Gold Nugget of Wisdom

Church Callings- Church is a great way to increase your skills and develop new ones. Look for ways to execute your callings to the best of your ability - the skills you gain and the things you learn as an RS president, EQ president, Executive Secretary, Sunday School teacher are transferable into the workplace.

On one of my last visits to Korea, we met a CEO of a larger company that was not a member of our church that mentioned to us saying he “loved our church for what it does for its members.” He told us that his CFO was a member of our church that did not graduate with an accounting degree but was the financial clerk in church for several years. The skills he learned as a financial clerk were applied in the workplace and he was able to not only secure a position within his organization but later became the CFO of this company. There are so many skills that come from doing your calling well and then using those skills in your professional life.

Execute your callings and practice, practice, practice honing your skills while here on campus. Soft skills in the workplace are very valuable. Focus on being reliable, punctual, enthusiastic, and energetic now.

Seventh Genuine Gold Nugget of Wisdom

Mentorship- Find a good mentor and build your motivation, rhythm, and momentum now, and learn how to be successful while you are here in school. Four years will go by quickly. Don’t squander your time and look for ways to create your success every day.

I want to share a quick baseball story with you about having an effective mentor--my Mr. Miagi experience with my dad. Growing up I played sports. This is one of those things my dad instilled in me, a love for sports. I loved baseball and football. For baseball, I realized that if I wanted to be as good as my teammates I needed, at the least, to go to practice and apply myself every day. Status quo stuff. I also realized that if I wanted to be the best I could be, I needed to do more outside of practice. This is the extra stuff, a little more challenging and difficult. I would go to the gym in the morning before school to work out, I would practice by myself hitting baseballs in the batting cage, I would throw the baseball hundreds of times a day at a square my dad put on the wall that represented the strike zone.

A strike zone is about 17” wide, the same size as home plate, and the height of it may change a little according to the batter. Dad would make this square smaller and tighter to help me hone in on a smaller strike zone. The aim small, miss small mentality.

He would also coach me on other in-field positions and would make me field the ball with a small glove so that I focused on watching the ball come all the way into a smaller pocket. This improved my eye-hand coordination.

He taught me how to pitch curves, knuckles, split-finger fastballs and he taught me how to do this with a softball so that I could see the threads better since a softball is bigger. A few tweaks to my body mechanics and little changes to my pitching stance increased my fastball from 88 mph to 92-93 mph consistently with less arm strain. Not having a sore arm ensured I could close out more of our weekly games or pitch longer as the starting pitcher.

For batting practice, he pitched fastpitch underhand to me. He stood closer to the plate than a normal pitcher, which is about 60’. Dad would pitch at about 40’. He did this underhand so that I had to pick up the movement of the ball underhand and decide if it was a curve, knuckle, or fastball in my preferred swing zone or range, all within a split second. He even coached me to bat left-handed against right-handed pitchers because the ball came into me instead of away from me when I swung.

All of these little tips and tricks resulted in a great high school career that led to college. Unfortunately, it all ended with a painful shoulder injury (need for a plan B). Finding an effective mentor will allow you to do more in a shorter amount of time if you are willing to be taught and are humble enough to be coached. In my experience, those that are close to you, that love you and care about your success, share constructive criticism with you because they want you to be successful.

Eighth and Last Little Genuine Gold Nugget of Wisdom

Follow the Spirit- I feel like I could just end it at that. Follow the spirit. This is probably the best Genuine Gold Nugget mentioned today. As I look back on my life, I recognize that the times I have followed the spirit the blessings have been tremendous. Sometimes it wasn’t what I wanted but the experiences that came from the decisions I’ve made by following the spirit have blessed me throughout my life. Practice, practice, practice, following the spirit in your life. Follow the spirit and things will fall into place and while in school start filling your nugget bucket with choice experiences that will contribute to your success.

I’ve always wondered why David O. McKay chose gold as his metaphor to describe those that would come to this school. As I was writing this talk, all I thought of was the value gold has no matter what form it's in. It is also highly valued wherever you go in the world, just like you, and all the amazing places you come from. You came here with value, and you’ll leave here with an increased value. That value is being refined through the amazing experiences you are having. Some experiences might not be really exciting, some may be negative, some might be absolutely amazing and unforgettable. Use all of these experiences to refine YOU and practice, practice, practice so that when you get your dream job opportunity, you can secure it with confidence.

Use today as your personal groundbreaking ceremony to envision where you want to be at the end of your graduation. Commit to yourself that you will contribute your best to your BYU–Hawaii experience. You are a part of an organization that requires your best, that has brilliant expectations, and a respectful standard for you to live up to. Commit to yourself that you want to be a part of that standard, continue to be prayerful, faithful, and obedient, and I promise great things will happen for you in your professional pursuits. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.