Success is something that most people aim for, others might consider it as the unreachable, they might think of it as a gift that is offered only to the lucky ones. Its definition defers from one person to another as well as its effect. A person who has always been succeeding in his life might consider success as something natural, it doesn’t need any effort and well, it just happens!
Our understanding of “success”, begins at an early age, it begins at school, where they start evaluating us based on certain criteria that divides the students in two categories “the successful” and “the unsuccessful”.
It even becomes a label: “uh never mind him/her, he/she is “unsuccessful”, he/she failed his/her class”. At school, our perception of life begins and its effects are carried inside us all our lives. When I was a student, difference wasn’t much appreciated and labeling was a “norm”, it was even very popular not among students only but among teachers as well. Some teachers actually humiliated their students for failing a test, they grounded the ones who couldn’t follow the system, to them “difference” was a synonym to a “sin”.
A month ago, I was asked to help a teenage boy in his studies, “a failure”, that can’t manage to study alone or pass his exams and if he continues this way he might fail his class. I never had an experience in teaching before and didn’t really know if it’s going to work, but I was genuinely willing to help. He came to me stressed, full of worries and doubt, he couldn’t focus and was very uninterested in his studies, he felt bored even from the thought of studying. “what can I do? How can I make him interested?” at some point I felt helpless, I myself became stressed and I thought of just quitting and leaning the responsibility on someone else.
But something stopped me and made me step back and think, his stories about his successful friends, how one made a discovery and another won a scholarship, what was about these stories? Why is he telling me about them?
– “what’s your dream?” I asked him
– “I don’t have one!” he answered.
– “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
– “I want to work”
– “in what field? what’s your dream?”
– “I don’t know, I don’t have a dream, dreams don’t happen”
A boy at his age saying this was a bit disappointing and sad, I couldn’t understand how a boy like him, as special and smart as he is didn’t have a dream. So, I insisted and asked again.
- “if dreams actually happen, what would your dream be?”
- “I like to study computer science.”
So, he has a dream but he is just afraid of getting disappointed. The thought of quitting was still on my mind. I didn’t want to give up on him, but me making an effort alone wasn’t going to get us anywhere. His efforts are essential in order for him to succeed.
One day as I was driving, I heard someone on the radio saying “if you want someone to act nicely, treat him as he already is a nice person.”
“He is right” I thought to myself.
The other day, while I was teaching the boy, he was unfocused and uninterested, and every time I said to him that he is smart, he just mocked me. I got angry!
“I can’t do this anymore, I’m sorry! I just can’t”.
I left full of anger, I needed some fresh air to clear my mind. Then I came back and decided to actually talk to him and tell him honestly what I was thinking.
I told him that I never taught before, and that teaching isn’t really my thing but I care for him and I know that he is a really smart boy, all he needs is to focus and actually study and if he is not willing to collaborate, my time is precious and I’m not willing to waste it. And again, he mocked me for saying that he is smart. I looked him in his eyes with an extreme sincerity, I said but you really are a smart boy.
And that was actually enough for him to change. He didn’t only succeed, he excelled!
That teenage boy is a lesson and a true inspiration for everyone including myself, for success isn’t “fate”, success is a decision, it is a choice we make. failure isn’t a lifetime virtue or something to be ashamed of. On the opposite, one cannot really appreciate success unless he experiences failure.