Sometimes I get philosophical about certain things. This is one of those times. So tune out if your not interested.
Why do some people overcome major obstacles while others fold early? It’s a subject I’ve thought a lot about over the years. Of course I have no definitive answer, but I do have some thoughts that I hope will be helpful to some as you seek to advance your careers.
Why do some very bright students ease up on studying and drift through their education while other less gifted students doggedly grind at their studies, and both end up with similar grades? Why do bright students continue to pursue top grades without diminishing their standards for excellence, while other gifted students will give up without really trying? And everyone has read about students that go off the deep end and make disturbing headlines. Why?
I have experienced these characteristics throughout school, but also in small and large corporations, non-profit organizations, government agencies and the public sector: There must be a difference between individuals who push through adversity and those who wither when it’s not an easy fix. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about an individual who grows up in poverty but succeeds in life and climbs to great heights. You’ve also heard of the privileged individual that has everything in life given to them only to have them squander it away. It reminds me of how hardship affects different people in different ways. It’s like fire:
- Some will harden like steel
- Some will burn up like paper
- Some will cause warmth and light like wood
- Some will cause lots of smoke but no flame
Each of us reacts and responds to life in a different way.
WHY? Why do some of us accelerate with hardships while others take their foot off the gas pedal? Some say it’s the stuff that you’re born with. Others say it’s the environment that you experience early in life. I say you’re born with a given potential on a blank sheet of paper, then your parents and the environment help to shape how you optimize that potential.
What I see as the role of a parent is to provide their child with the widest assortment of positive experiences along with encouragement to gain as much exposure and education as possible. From that base they will gravitate to their optimal potential and achievement, or not.
The wild card in this theory is the intangibles that can’t be measured in the usual way: Resolve, tenacity, determination, grit, persistence, willpower, diligence, doggedness. These seem to be the differentiators within each of us to extend the effort that moves you across the success line.
I like the way Winston Churchill expressed it. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It’s the courage to continue that counts”.
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