In February 2021, NASA landed its FIFTH rover on Mars in a mind-boggling and flawless demonstration of precision, planning, and execution. That human beings could, amidst all of the current chaos and madness of life on Earth, keep their eyes on an exceedingly distant prize to accomplish such a remarkable feat should be encouraging–even inspiring–to anyone pursuing tough goals.
1. Grades and scores are not the goals.
I’ve worked with enough dedicated students to know the allure of a concrete numerical marker of ability. No sooner does a test taker break 1300 on the SAT than he or she begins targeting 1400. Academic achievement may be expressed quantitatively, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. What matters much more is the knowledge that is behind those grades or scores, as well as how a student was transformed along the way. When I see a high ACT score, I see a representation of outstanding skill in reading, writing, problem solving, graphical literacy, scientific investigation, time management, and focus. If your score has not yet reached your standards, these are the areas to work on. Keep going!
2. You cannot achieve great things if you cannot prioritize.
How do you land one tiny object on an moving target over 131 million miles away from a moving platform? This is not some cruel test problem but just one of the actual challenges the NASA team had to overcome with a minimal margin of error. Yet, it’s not hard for anyone who lives in the United States to imagine how hectic the lives of each member of that team have been over the last two years. Prioritization becomes impossible when everything feels urgent, so reaching your most ambitious goals demands that the most important things stay most important, no matter what.
3. Curiosity and persistence matter.
We give our all to the challenges that mean the most to us. Athletes, artists, performers, and scientists all pour untold hours into their efforts because of an intrinsic desire to learn more, do more, and achieve more. Unlock the joy and playfulness in your work by exploring what questions about yourself or the world you really want to answer. That insight can ignite the kind of persistence and tenacity needed to climb the highest mountains and make the journey more joyful than you could imagine.