Tag Archives: effort

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…

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No one who lived through the 80s could forget Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Robin Leach’s encomium to American opulence. But wealth, at its best, offers much more than lavish mansions and gold-plated yachts. Once life’s necessities have been taken care of, parents and children alike are free to dream, to plan, and then to devote resources to achieving even the loftiest of aspirations. And what is more aspirational than college admissions? The SAT might have been created to democratize college admissions but the oft-reviled exam has, in recent decades, been condemned as a “wealth test” or, even worse, a Student Affluence Test. However, critics who point out the correlation between student success and parent income tend to unfairly minimize the contributions of the former in favor of the latter. Anyone with experience in standardized testing can assure you that scores cannot be purchased. Wealth may open access to…

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The phrase “paid the cost to be the boss” resonates with those willing to pay said costs. Just about everyone, at one time or another, aspires to bosshood. Who wouldn’t want to be the boss, enjoying all the perks and prestige that come with the title? But how many are willing to actually put in the work, to strive, suffer, and separate from everyone else? As AC/DC so evocatively explains, it’s a long way to the top (if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll). This weekend, for some inexplicable reason, I took on a brutal home improvement project. The task appeared deceptively simple: remove decades of thick paint from wrought iron rails. Research suggested plenty of ways to remove the paint, from a wire brush to a brush head for a drill to caustic chemicals. Unfortunately, as I invested in each method, I learned that the job always required scraping with…

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A restless urge to compete impels all great success in a way that less ambitious emotions cannot. Often, we are competing with others for some coveted prize or championship. Other times, we compete with ourselves, to beat our best time or turn out our most perfect effort. Even when we strive against the seemingly unyielding barriers of space and time, we are competing; those who break speed records or delve impossible depths compete against reality itself, and sometimes even win. The highest test scores often go to the fiercest competitors. Make no mistake: greatness will not simply fall into your lap. Championships, awards, and glory go to those who fight relentlessly for them. On the day of your official ACT or SAT, your competition is far greater and more vast than you can probably imagine. If you want to earn a 99th percentile score, you’ll have to best more than…

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“If you work hard and you do your best, you can do anything.” “If you try to do your best there is no failure.” “You can only do your best. That’s all you can do. And if it isn’t good enough, it isn’t good enough.”   Parents always exhort their children to do their best, invoking effort as the ultimate signal of commitment. And seeing our kids pour themselves fully into the challenge at hand fills us with pride; no matter the outcome, we say, they did their best… And yet, when dedication diverges from success, praise for “doing your best” can feel like a consolation prize. At the upper levels of achievement, doing your best is simply the price of entry, rather than a guarantee of victory. Seth Godin, as usual, sums up the problem with effort alone quite nicely: “By defining “our best” as the thing we did…

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