Over the last 12 months I have learned a lot of things. As I reflect on the year, I cannot decide what has been the most important lesson, but what has become obvious is that giving up and quitting is easy while waking up each day and pushing through to win is hard. A win could mean different things to different people and is completely dependent on the end goal, but what goes underappreciated is that the path to victory also determines what feels like a win. In this piece I want to show you that even when things are not going so well, you can still experience forward progress and I think this is an important realization especially for those still in school trying to pursue a future to be aware of.
A classmate once said to me, “school is like a game. On the first day of class, you come in, and you are given a syllabus highlighting precisely what you need to know to pass.” If school is like a game, then the syllabus is like a playbook, but like any game if you follow the playbook there is no reason why you cant win. School can also be much like life, no, it is life, just a small fraction of it. Despite the endless amount of planning put into it, anything can happen. You can study a book cover to cover and still find material on your exam that you have never seen before leaving you wondering if the teacher is playing games with you. You can sustain a perfect GPA and still get denied from a school that has a minimum GPA requirement that is below your own. You can meet all the provision of a program of interest and still get rejected from each one that you apply to. You can get sick, you can get in an accident, you can get your heart broken, you can move to a different country, or things can change at home making it exceedingly difficult to do the things you need to do to be successful. All this put together makes the college years an awkward and exceedingly tough time especially for those who must work while going to school. Between the classwork, lectures, homework, your job, and your family, the days, and nights blend into each other. Overtime Saturdays begin to feel like Mondays, and Sundays feel like that one day during the week you slept in because you were too tired to wake up on time so you get up in a panic, get completely dressed and right before you walk out the door you realize its Sunday, and you do not have school.
To get by on a day to day, you need an arsenal of alternatives. There but a handful of things in life one should never have plan B for, but 99% of life I believe requires plan B, C, D, E, F and even up to Z. Each individual plan is like a path. Take a plain white sheet of paper and put two dots at polar ends. Label one dot A and the other dot B. While the quickest route from point A to point B is a straight line, the reality is that it is never that smooth. If you focus within the boundaries of that sheet of paper, the number of ways you can connect A and B is limited to how much room the paper has before you fill it up with ink. Some paths will be shorter, easier, and clearer than others, and some will be long, more complicated, and even required going into the back page before making it back to the front to reach point B. But that is all that it is, some paths shorter and easier while others are long and complicated. On the road of life, some will stumble, some will fail, there will be frustration, desire to quit, but you must not forget, once you get to point B, it will not matter how you got there, all that will matter is that you did. If point B is graduation, you and everyone in that pool will be graduates, if point B is marriage, you and everyone in that pool will be married, if point B is to lose weight, you and everyone in that pool will be skinnier. The only thing that will set you apart from those around you are the life lessons you learned along the way, and these are lessons you cannot learn in the classroom.
So, what are the benefits of struggling? Before I try to convince you that there are benefits to struggling through school, I need you to know that I know, it sucks!!!, and no one in their right mind would choose it if they could help it. But in struggling you become strong. You develop the confidence to handle rejections. Somewhere along the path, you end up realizing that when things do not work out, all that means that it was not a good fit and match or, it just was not your time. You begin to appreciate your small victories. You come to the realization true accomplishment is a compilation of a bunch of small achievement coupled with a lot of setbacks. You develop grit, tenacity, creative thinking, and an unparalleled ability to cope with difficult, stressful times. You become the perfect employing that any company would be lucky to have.