0273 – Redefining Achievement

What does achievement mean to you? Money? Great job?

This came out of my mouth today:

“GPA becomes a number. Resume becomes a piece of paper. Experience becomes your life.”

I was… pleasantly surprised. It just sounds 100% like me. It came during a time when I was speaking too fast for my brain to plan what I say next (I tend to do that a lot – it’s a very hazardous habit. Use at your discretion), so what came out of my mouth was just unplanned.

The crazy thing is that this quote really sums up my exact thoughts on what education is all about. It’s really not about numbers, grades or how packed your resume looks. It should be about the journey – how much you learn, how excited you are. Achievement shouldn’t be tied to numbers or pieces of paper, let alone numbers that don’t really matter. By the way, if you haven’t seen Ken Robinson’s TED talk, it’s phenomenal. He claims that our school system kills creativity and steers students towards conformity.

“But GPA does matter”, you might say. “I wanna get into grad school.” Well, fair enough. That is true to a certain extent, but only because the system is broken. One of my favorite cartoons is this one above that describe what we call “rat racers,” those that are on an endless pursuit of achievement as traditionally defined. You work harder and harder to try to achieve a certain goal, but once you’re there or almost there, the goals are now set even higher. The fact that the system is this way does not mean that you blindly follow it. If you’re unhappy, why keep running?

This used to be my problem (still is actually, but less so now). You know… I always wanted to win all those achievement awards, honors, accolades and all the other flowery stuff you can say about people.

But… what is achievement without happiness? Or perhaps a better question – should you call anything achievement, if it comes at the cost of your well-being?

I’m not happy with the way it all works. Are you?

Let’s #redefine achievement.

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9 thoughts on “0273 – Redefining Achievement

  1. mwolverine March 22, 2012 / 1:45 am

    Awesome post. I’ve watched Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk and LOVED it. I started off at college the same way where I wanted to do a lot of academic things and quickly, like trying to speed into pharmacy rightaway. But I definitely agree that experience is most important, which is why I wanted my 4th year here and didn’t want to try to apply to Pharm so early. I wanted to have undergraduate experiences, because I didn’t want to just focus on numbers and grades. I’ve realized a lot of things. Also, nice comic strip of the rat racers.

    • Pete W March 22, 2012 / 5:53 pm

      There is also a fine line between having the undergrad experiences and finding the time balance. Like I said, don’t do the ASB thing. You’re overcommitting yourself again haha. I’m cutting down on stuff next semester!

      • mwolverine March 22, 2012 / 10:40 pm

        Oh I’m not! Lead team would require me to give up everything to be dedicated to them. But I may consider being a site leader.

  2. jhconradd March 22, 2012 / 2:11 am

    I do agree with a lot of what you are saying. Although, I do not think that education should be about a journey. I think saying education is about a journey detracts just a bit too far from its purpose. However, I do believe it is about how much you learn and not what your GPA is. There is a large distinction to be drawn between those who are educated and those who have sat in colleges for 4-5 years. One of my favorite quotes on the subject is by the economist Thomas Sowell, “Education is not something that can be given to anybody. It is something that students either acquire or fail to acquire.”

    • Pete W March 22, 2012 / 5:55 pm

      Ah. Nice quote. Thanks for sharing. I’m curious – you said that saying education is about the journey detracts from the purpose. what do you think is the purpose of education? I think we might be coming from two different perspectives here, so I’m interested in seeing where you’re coming from.

      • jhconradd April 5, 2012 / 12:35 pm

        I might just be splitting hairs when I say this, but I think that the fundamental function of education is to learn. My only problem with calling education a journey is that it immediately elicits thoughts of my friends saying that they want to “experience college.” I think that college has turned much more into an experience than it has an education, and that is and was my main area of contention. What do you think?

      • Pete W April 5, 2012 / 3:09 pm

        Well, what’s wrong with college being an experience?

        Education is not just about the classroom stuff. You learn both inside and outside the class. Experiencing college can also mean taking advantage of all the opportunities that we have to learn and grow.

      • jhconradd April 5, 2012 / 10:57 pm

        There is nothing wrong with college being an experience. It is an experience by definition. Everything is an experience. The problem is when we begin to turn college into an experience. That is to say, the act of going to college is more valued or valued equally as what you learn in college. There is a difference between those who are educated and those who have simply been in schools.

      • Pete W April 5, 2012 / 11:05 pm

        Hmm. I see what you’re saying. Then the question that needs to be asked is what going to college means. For me it really is about learning; that’s why I believe learning is the experience. There is definitely a difference between being in school and being educated, and I’d claim that right now the way my classes are structured, many students are in school simply to be in school, not to be educated.

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