Being a career and college counsellor means dealing with anxious parents, students on a roller-coaster of exams, grades, pressure and deadlines. Not to mention hormones.
I work with multiple students who have been brought up to believe that getting into a Top 20 international college is the definition of success. And given how poor these odds are, many of them have lost the ability to smile. As have the parents. There is a grim pressure hanging about them at all times — and almost everything they do.
But over the years, I have come to believe that success does not lie in a brand name. For 17 years I have asked students, parents, teachers, and business leaders what success means to them. The answers have been varied: Satisfaction. Money. Power. Fame. Helping others. Creating something new.
And here is what I have learnt: Success is about...
All your money and fame are worth nothing if you feel inadequate. Because this is so fundamental to success, we cannot let self-worth depend on something we don’t control — like having the most money or the brand name of a college one studies in; or the judgment of the other people since this is constantly changing. Self-worth must depend on owning our personal values, trusting our instincts and being our own best judges. And not having to prove that we are worthy to ourselves and others.
What is means for aspiring students: A successful student owns his/her goals; has a larger vision related to what he/she want to do in life. Because that is what engages him/her emotionally and intellectually. Not because he/she have something to prove. And college is a step along the way. Not the goal.
...having enough money
Success is having enough to provide for everything important: Education. Reasonable leisure. Social ritual. And medical expenses. But what does enough mean? Enough is when you start enjoying your own money. Enough is the point when you have the confidence to say, “I cannot afford this”, because you can afford something that makes you happy enough. Enough is the point when we begin to balance earning-oriented tasks with fun-oriented ones.
What is means for aspiring students: A successful student is one who can see the path to financial freedom after college. This may involve some years of struggle, but he/she has the practical sense and financial wisdom to choose the struggles with the eyes open.
...having goals that inspire
This means standing up for yourself, and for causes that mean something to you. Success means having goals that are motivated by self-worth and financial wisdom. “I want to never have to stop myself from buying a car I love.” / “I want to make an app that allows everyone to learn music.” / “I want to run a company that employs more than 1000 people.” / “I want to provide computer education to the children of migrant labourers.”
What is means for aspiring students: A successful student is one who has set academic goals and found dream colleges that take him/her towards their larger goals. And one who works passionately – even compulsively – to make these happen by making enabling choices. One who is driven by passion and self-worth rather than the fear of failure or the judgment of society.
...being open to failure
Failure is an inevitable stage of any great endeavour and often a clear indication of what course-correction is needed.
What it means for aspiring students: A successful student is one who has more than one route to his/her goals. And one who is willing to pick up, lick the wounds and get going again.
Enjoy the moment
Enjoy the chat with the checkout guy at the supermarket. Enjoy every bite of your lunch. Enjoy the music you listen to while you workout. Enjoy the breeze on your face on your way to school. Enjoy the time you spend with your family and friends. And, yes, enjoy studying.
The writer is Founder and CEO, Inomi Learning, a Gurugram-based career and college guidance firm. email@example.com