in which we continue the topic of achievement

Last week I talked about the pressure we face to perform well, and offered some general tips such as holistic awareness and goal setting. This week I offer more! In academics we are bombarded with messages of urgency: “Grab hold of opportunities while you are young, get an advantage!” “Do internships, get exposed, and gain experience!” “Work hard, go to grad school, arm yourself with qualifications!” “Participate, make your voice heard, make a difference!” “Do something meaningful, do something innovative!” How many of these do we hear on a daily basis, in some form or another? The path to achievement is often noisy, filled with people clamouring to be heard, because supposedly, the fastest, loudest person wins. We either throw our energy into attempting to be heard above everyone else, or fall silent at the daunting futility of our efforts. But I don’t think we have to hold on to that perspective of achievement. In fact, there are a couple of things I have come to learn over the last few years that I think speak directly against this.

 It is not about how much you say.

As a person who is often reluctant to speak up in class, I find participation marks a torturous incentive. The buffer marks of 10% are useful, and easy to obtain ONCE I overcome the hurdle of formulating a cohesive point that isn’t lagging too far behind the rapid-fire classroom discussions.

IMG_9071my well-informed thoughts.

The solution I have come to use is really simple:
  • Write points in my PDF when I am reading.
  • Recite one aforementioned point at the beginning or at the end of class discussion.
  • Being first or last helps the professor remember you better.
Hello participation marks.

If at first you don’t succeed….

Try and try again. As a poet, I submit my poetry on a regular basis to literary magazines. 90% of the time I get rejected. Am I discouraged? Yes. Do I want to hide in the corner and nurse my hurt feelings? Yes.

IMG_9069leave me alone.

But for every acceptance that comes my way amidst the rejections, I realize that through the process of critically learning how to handle failure, I become a stronger writer, and feel more grounded in my success. The same rejection is possible in written assignments, oral presentations, or finals. Don’t let it defeat you.  

You win some, you lose some.

Sometimes, you take calculated risks and they don’t work out. For an assignment, we were given vague instructions to construct collages that reflected who we were. A list of criteria was verbally given, and we were told that creativity was key. I decided to construct a collage reflecting a series of landscapes that represented the different cities I grew up in, and layered them on top of each other. Not a typical collage at all, as the only overt reference to my self was my Chinese name that I wrote over the Moon Gate structure I fashioned out of wire.


my collaging process.

I received a “C” on this assignment. Not a very cheery grade to behold, at all. I guess it wasn’t what the professor was looking for. But at this point, it really doesn’t matter. The collage is something that I enjoyed making, and enjoy looking at every single time. It's something I’m proud of. Nothing beats that. 🙂 On that note, however, I will probably offer my opinion in the upcoming course evaluations. If you have something to say, you should.

Finally, there is no “most important time of your life.”

There is no need to grasp at any “closing window of opportunity” because the Internet clearly shows us on a regular basis that successful people come in all ages. Be patient. Do your best in what you think is necessary in this season. That is a much better use of your energy than worrying over what you might be “missing out on.” Don’t fill your schedule at the expense of your health. Don’t beat yourself up for being less productive than others. Achievement is being able to look back and see growth, as we become more aware, more critical, and more attuned to the world around us.

IMG_9070my only attempt to draw ever.

Take a moment to enjoy how far you’ve come since September.  

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