Tag Archives: achievement

Happy Labor Day! This holiday deserves a special place in our hearts, and not just because it marks the point at which all New York state students return to school. On Labor Day, we honor the contributions that workers have made–and continue to make–to society. We are all, in a very real sense, workers. Where our labors take us depends entirely on our sense of purpose and the clarity of our goals. Once you’ve fixed your eyes on a worthy prize, be smart about your efforts and try to have some fun, but, more than anything else, commit to doing the work.

Few things take the wind out of a student’s sails faster than seeing someone they consider beneath them–in a strictly academic sense, of course–score much higher on an important test. The pain increases exponentially when high stakes tests are involved. I’ve seen the bad sides of plenty of good high schoolers when their classmates’ test scores come up. Yet, this uncharitable mix of jealousy and self-loathing usually misses a fundamental point about effort and achievement that Ava at Bookbear Express explains clearly: Here’s what I know: if someone’s much better than you at something, they probably try much harder. You probably underestimate how much harder they try. I’m not saying that talent isn’t a meaningful differentiator, because it certainly is, but I think people generally underestimate how effort needs to be poured into talent in order to develop it. So much of getting good at anything is just pure labor:…

Read more

While the current college admissions cheating scandal has left most Americans appropriately mortified, some people consistently take away the wrong messages. Do not conflate access with achievement. The slur about scions of privilege who are “born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple” stings because we instinctively recognize the emptiness of unearned rewards. How, then, should students acquire the test scores, grades, and achievements that will win access to the colleges of their–not their parents’–dreams? Earn them. All parents, even the misguided malefactors at the heart of these cheating scandals, want the best for their children. Real success in life comes from real effort, sacrifice, and even struggle to confront challenges, overcome obstacles, and forge authentic skill and character. If you don’t quite believe that success is connected to hard work, take some lessons from those that have experienced massive amounts of both: The price…

Read more

Not all time is created equal. I frequently overhear my high-school students talking among themselves about the amount of time invested into schoolwork. Competitive energy fills the room, with each student attempting to outdo the next when it comes to how many hours they put into a project or how late they stayed up the night before. While the desire to be among the best is not lost on me, the metric used to assess this dedication and pursuit of greatness is flawed at best. Before entering college years, I implore students to learn to work smarter, maybe even harder, but definitely not longer. Devise a plan of attack Nothing great comes to fruition without careful planning. When time seems in short supply, diving right in often seems to be the best option, but this results in countless time wasted moving in the wrong direction, or not moving at all.…

Read more

It’s been a long, long time since Sophocles asserted, “Success is dependent on effort,” but these words still ring true. We take for granted that exalted and inextricable connection between effort and achievement. And because effort is the engine that powers the machinery of success, we are supposed to focus our praise on exertion over outcomes, or at least link the two. But is effort all its cracked up to be? Effort is fuel burned. Achievement is miles traveled. Effort is hours of study. Achievement is grades earned. Effort is working up a sweat. Achievement is a job well done. Certainly, one depends on the other. Unfortunately, one does not guarantee the other. Too often, we see people mistaking the two: “I spend hours a day in the gym but still can’t bench 230 lbs/run 5 miles/fit into my old jeans.” From the outside, solutions may appear obvious, but the…

Read more

5/5