“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey
Several years ago, I was contemplating going back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. I was wavering back and forth trying to decide when would be a good time to start. I had a lot on my plate at the time. I was working shift work (midnights) as a police officer, taking care of my grandfather (to include managing all his bills and upkeep on his house) and raising a newborn. Not really a good time to go back to school and finish a degree, right?
I completed all the application and student loan processes. All that was left was enrolling in my first course. This wavering went on for about a couple more weeks. One day I was on the phone with a young counselor, he was probably fresh out of college in his early twenties. I was telling him about my circumstances and was waiting for the right time to get started. It just wasn’t a good time to start. The next words out of his mouth completely altered my life.
This young, new counselor pimp slapped me with a dose of reality. He said in a stern voice, “When is it ever going to be a good time?!” He sternly followed up with, “Life can’t be placed on hold to provide you the conveniences you desire to complete your degree. It will never be a good time to start. Just do it and find a way to work around what is going on in your life.” This young counselor gave me some of the best advice I have ever received in my life.
When is it ever going to be a good time? This applies to so many situations in life. If you want something, you have to go get it regardless of circumstances. Life can’t be placed on pause for your convenience. The truth is anything worth achieving in life is going to be arduous and challenging. For the record, that was one of the most daunting and challenging periods in my life. There were times I felt that I can’t do this anymore, but I felt compelled to keep going, to keep pushing forward.
In the end, I achieved my goal of completing my bachelor’s degree and did so with a 3.93 GPA. However, my most significant achievement was not the degree or GPA. My most notable accomplishment was the realization that I can handle far more than I EVER believed to be possible. It was trying, to say the least, but I was able to accomplish my goal despite the many obstacles that stood before me. Adversity is the key to unlocking your real potential.
The point is you can fold like a cheap lawn chair or crawl your way to the summit; the choice is entirely yours. I chose to crawl to the summit. We tend to set boundaries or limits on our abilities without any evidence to support these negative limitations. YOU are capable of far more than you realize. Trust me, I’m living proof. There are others who have accomplished far more under extreme circumstances. They were able to achieve their goals. YOU have to want it.
I wanted to earn a masters degree, so I decided to go back to school once again. There were many obstacles in my way, but I remembered that great advice I was given years earlier and immediately jumped right in this time around. This time I set a lofty goal of completing my master’s degree with a 4.0 GPA. I knew this time around I was capable of handling a lot; however, I quickly learned that my newly established limitations were going to be pushed far beyond what I believed to be possible.
Two grueling years of lengthy research papers and other assignments were quite challenging. In the end, I achieved my goal of a 4.0 GPA. In retrospect, I was so tired that I vaguely remember writing those papers. They were excellent, but I don’t remember writing them. I was pushed to another limitation plateau. I’m not writing this to brag about those impressive GPAs (wink wink). I’m proud of my accomplishments. However, there are several points I’m trying to convey to those on the fence of pursuing YOUR lofty goals.
First, if you have a goal go for it regardless of the obstacles that stand in your way. There will always be obstacles, and more will come your way. Second, don’t listen to the little voice in your head that says you can’t handle it; screw that little asshole. You are capable of far more than you can imagine. Lastly, it isn’t about the end result or achievement (diplomas in my case). Your most significant achievements are not tangible but rather intangible assets; they are the lessons you learn along the way.
Those diplomas or impressive GPAs don’t mean SHIT in the game of life. They are significant achievements, so be proud of them. Take considerable pride in the lessons or intangible assets you acquire during the journey; these are priceless. Pursue your goals without limitations. Be open-minded and embrace the lessons learned during the journey. Those lessons are invaluable. Those lessons will take you farther in life than any piece of paper mounted on your wall.