On Success

It’s been one of the hardest things for me to learn that I don’t always have to be perfect. It sounds obvious to most people, and who hasn’t heard it a million times, and yet, we all want to succeed, don’t we? For me, it’s always been school. My parents did a good job of teaching me that school was important. I wanted to go to college (whether or not I knew why I wanted to go) and I knew good grades was a big part of that. Now that I’m at college, though, I realize there is a good chance this is as far as I will go, and that if I go further, grades will probably not be the most important determinant of where I can go. My priorities have begun to change.

I was writing an e-mail to my mom last night and something I said caught both of our attentions.

I’m getting better at prioritizing what is important to succeed in absolutely in and what I need to judge by my own standards.

Honestly, I think this is one of the most important things one can learn to do in college. Our entire education system is so focused on preparing for the next step, most kids never take the time to consider what they are really getting out of their education. One of my art professors told us on the first day, “I do have to grade you, but don’t worry about it. No one will do poorly.  What does it matter how I grade you? When you escape from this minimum security art school, the world will grade you.” Education is supposed to be preparation for life, not for more schooling.

Education reform is a subject for another day, though.  Today it’s about the personal side.

I started letting go of my got-to-be-number-one mentality at the end of my high school experience. I was lucky to take my AP World History course junior year with an ex-college professor. She made it clear, too, that success would be by our standards; she could teach, and we could learn if we like, but it was up to us and wouldn’t affect her. Somehow, when you’re responsible for determining the criteria for your success, a letter on a sheet of paper doesn’t feel like a worthy goal.

This year, I’ve noticed myself getting more lax in terms of the “all-A student,” but that really feels like an outdated goal. My high school class had only 60 students so aiming for valedictorian wasn’t unreasonable. However, I know that in my huge university there are plenty of people smarter then me. Being Salutatorian never really paid off the way I expected it to anyway.

All of this is on my mind because I realized recently that I didn’t really care about my Philosophy midterm beyond passing. You have to understand, that is a remarkable thing for me to say, even now. And yet, it makes sense. I may or may not become a philosophy minor. Even if I do, it will have nothing to do with academic or professional aspirations.

Philosophy, as well as Sociology at present, are for me a break from the art world. It’s a chance to switch from creative thinking to logical reasoning. Work the other half of my brain. It feeds back into the art I do too. Even if all Sociology does is upset me sometimes, it gets me thinking.

If I pursue a philosophy minor, it will be to help me achieve eudaimonia. That is the beginning and end of the deal. My goal is to find out who I am and where I fit in the world.

It’s taken a long time to learn how to judge success this way, but I think it is one of the most important things I’ve ever learned.


6 Responses to “On Success”

  1. Moi Says:

    Yay! It’s about time! Granted, I’ve only gotten halfway there. I still expect to be summa cum laude, but I have given up on valedictorian, which is a step in the right direction. But yeah. Carpe diem! 😀 ❤

  2. Connie Says:

    Oh my God. You put a link to Wikepedia on your blog and now I’m going to have to destroy my hard drive.

  3. doug Says:

    nice job

    but while they should dominate everything you think and do A’s aren’t intrinsically bad either 🙂

  4. doug Says:

    I meant shouldn’t not should

    obviously I didn’t get A’s in spelliing

  5. doug Says:


  6. Momma Says:

    Replies filled with spelling errors and grammatical goodness…I only say it’s sad since on my own computer the little red squiggles show up to tell me when something is spelled wrong. Which isn’t too often. English geek, no?

    But yes – I believe it was Einstein that said something about imagination being more important than intelligence. In which case, I should be just fine in the long run.

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