Our Society's Definition Of Success

Our Society's Definition Of Success

It's so misguided.

Since we were little, we have been taught that school is important. We have to stay in school and do well. When we would ask why, we were prompted with the typical answer of “You have to get into college and be successful!” Once in high school, the pressures of getting into college became heightened and much more real. Junior year, we began to take our Scholastic Aptitude Tests and started drafting lists of schools we would apply to in the fall.

Throughout the whole process, everything felt so hectic and there wasn’t much time to take a step back and evaluate why you were doing all this. Sometimes it even felt like we were being pushed into this. We had to do well, because we had to get into college, because we had to get a degree in order to be successful. Without a degree, we wouldn't be able to make money to support ourselves for the rest of our lives.

We’ve been told this for our whole lives, causing our ultimate fear to be “not succeeding.” Thoughts would constantly run through the back of my head, making me worried about getting a job that paid well enough and doing well enough in college to succeed in the “real world.” I was worried about being a disappointment and a failure, and I thought that’s what I would be if I didn’t get into the right college and declare the right major.

All of these are facts that have been ingrained in our heads not only by adults since we were little, but also just by the society and the system we use to function in, in this country especially. It’s pretty much true that if you don’t get a well-paying job you won’t be able to make enough money to be considered “successful” in our society, at least financially. When we talk about people who are successful, that generally comes hand in hand with being very wealthy.

I don’t feel like I can conform easily to this system we live in, and I don’t want my life to be defined by it. I don’t particularly enjoy or thrive in any of the fields that are considered to make good money, and I don’t want to focus my whole life around making enough money anyway. I think it’s unfortunate that the world works in a way that rewards those who are wealthy, since experiences and travel and mostly anything that we want costs a lot. Those that are financially well off can pay for a plane ticket, and those who aren’t, can’t. It’s unfortunate to me that the latter group of people are basically being told by society that they can’t have these things because they are not successful enough to have them, because they don’t have enough money for them. It may not be direct, but that’s the message this system sends.

To me, success is something different. Success is not doing well on a test that was designed to make me fail if I can’t memorize 100 vocabulary words. It’s not getting a job that pays a lot, if that means I’m not happy doing the job. Success to me isn’t making money, ironically, at the cost of pushing aside all the other things I love to do. Working a standard office job and having my family live in a nice area in a nice house is not my definition of success. If I’m not happy with the quality of my life separate from my income, then that is not success.

Success is being a good friend even when you feel like you get nothing in return. It’s being able to reflect and improve yourself as much as possible. It’s being open to learning as much as possible and wanting to broaden your horizons as often as you can. Success, to me, is being a person that contributes something to society, and is a positive addition to our world. It is not defined by a piece of paper proving you graduated or a stack of money in a bank account. It’s defined by your quality of life, your happiness and your effect on the world around you.

So next time you feel obligated to follow the path our society has provided for you, remember to take a step back and evaluate if it’s going to make you successful, in your own eyes. If it’s not a positive contribution to your own quality of life, then it’s not success, even if everyone else is saying that it is.

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It's Time To Admit 'Natural' Intelligence An Outdated Idea

It's not about how smart you are, but about how hard you work.

Elementary school was a weird time. MAP tests, AR reading comprehension, PACT and PASS and virtually any other acronym you can think of for the standardized tests that ultimately distinguished whether or not you were considered relatively gifted. And, while in theory, this may or may not have prepared students for the rigorous curriculum of more challenging courses, I still have to ask: Is this really necessary at age 8?

Don't get me wrong, preparing kids with the highest quality education is what I'm here for... but it's also relatively difficult to decide who's "gifted and talented" and who's not.

Maybe I'm wrong, but with the rise of the gifted and talented curriculum in the early 2000s, came the plateau of the "honors kid burnout" in the 2010s.

Similar to the stigma of the participation trophy in kids sports, the establishment of a "more advanced curriculum" for students as young as 7 or 8 (I put that in quotations because, realistically, these courses were not significantly more advanced), in my opinion, unintentionally reinforced the idealized form of "natural intelligence".

Natural intelligence ultimately presents the idea that "smart" individuals should be able to learn or even simply have the knowledge, without the need to practice, memorize, or really study anything. You weren't considered "intelligent" if it took you more time to learn something, or you had to ask for help. Facts and memorization, intellect and intuition, came naturally and you either had it or you didn't.

This is problematic on multiple fronts.

The process of reaffirming elementary school students (again, this comes from my own personal experience and observation of those with similar experiences), and reinforcing the idea that they are "naturally" smart, gifted, or talented is great in ego-boosting throughout public school.


Entering into an actually academically advanced environment, whether it be Advanced Placement courses, or Dual Enrollment, or even as far as into college, there becomes a problem.

Students that have been told throughout a vast majoring of their lives that they were naturally gifted with intelligence have very early in life placed a negative association with studying, working hard, or having difficulty with something.

Students that have gotten straight A's throughout middle and high school simply by glancing at notes before the exam or by using common sense are have already been conditioned to associate something as simple as making flashcards or asking a teacher for help with failure.

Natural intelligence, natural talent, and virtually any idea that individuals have to be born with a skill in order to be significantly gifted is more often than not, counterproductive.

Making the goal of public education something as one dimensional as letter grades, and conditioning students to view them as more of a ranking system than as a showcase of hard work, does more than just discourage morale. It encourages efficiency. It encourages academic dishonesty. It encourages getting an A by any means necessary because, for someone who has been defined as "naturally intelligent" most of their life, they have no room for disappointment.

Children, especially in this day and age, need to be conditioned to view hard work as honorable, as respectable, and in no way a weakness, or something to be ashamed of. There are no "August Rush's" in this reality, but there are more than enough "Rudy."

Teaching kids that it was their hard work and their dedication that really got them that grade, alter how they view more than just grades. Encouraging hard work, diligence, dedication, and even something as simple as effort goes farther than just academics. Kids that are more encouraged to take risks and think creatively become kids that are more willing to try, regardless of the outcome.

Because life isn't really a grading system, but a test of skills and attitude.

It's not how smart you are, but how hard you work.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Steve Carell, Send Elisabeth to UMich, Not UW-Madison Because They Don't Know What It's Like To Be The Best

Why would you want your mascot to be a badger?

Steve Carell,

Thank you for blessing the University of Michigan campus with your presence on Tuesday.

Of course, our university's greatness speaks for itself, but in case you need more convincing that this is the best school for your daughter, here are six reasons we're better than UW-Madison (and every other school that wants to recruit Elisabeth).

1. How could UW-Madison have the craziest game days when we have the craziest game days?

Perhaps you've heard of The Big House. The University of Michigan is home to the biggest stadium in the United States (and second largest in the world), and every single game day it's filled with students, alumni, and die-hard Michigan fans who bleed maize and blue. Come sing “The Victors" and "Mr. Brightside" with us, and listen to James Earl Jones narrate the most hype pregame video before we chant “Go Blue!" Have I mentioned that we also have Harbaugh? UW-Madison just has a badger. 'Nuff said.

2. UW-Madison doesn't have the largest living alumni body of any university in the worldwe do

The Leaders and Best are everywhere. You could yell “Go Blue!" in the middle of a forest and I can almost guarantee someone will chant it back. The Michigan name is well-respected, and Elisabeth is guaranteed a vast network in any given field because once a Wolverine, always a Wolverine.

3. Our State Street is better than UW-Madison's State Street

Watch the streetlamps and State Theater sign light up S. State as you visit the M-Den for all of your Michigan gear needs. And don't forget to dip into Piada, Sava's, or Totoro for some delicious eats. Ann Arbor wasn't rated the best college town in the U.S. for nothing (sorry, not sorry, UW-Madison).

4. Wanna talk views? Try the Arb

Nichols Arboretum isn't part of our campus tours, but in this hidden gem, you'll find all of nature's best right on campus. Walk through miles of beautiful woods and go tubing down the Huron River in the summer. Come winter, though, find us sledding down some hills on dining hall trays.

Or the Diag

What is Bascom Hill compared to our glorious Diag? The crisscrossing diagonal walkways that give it its memorable name are always bustling with activity, from student activist groups to performers to dogs! You can't forget the dogs. I've walked out of Hatcher many, many times blown away by the sheer beauty of this school and its amazing students. Elisabeth will, too.

5. UW-Madison traditions got nothin' on ours

Being a Wolverine is walking through the fountain in Ingall's Mall at orientation and then again in the opposite direction once you graduate. It's happily waking up at 7 AM to tailgate your way to the Big House. Being a Wolverine is screaming "Mr. Brightside" at the top of your lungs at every game and party. It's never stepping on the M in the Diag, even when it's completely covered in snow, and painting the Rock on Hill Street in the pitch black, freezing cold. Being a Wolverine is spinning the Cube on your first visit to campus. But most importantly, it's the irresistible urge to shout "HAIL!" and "GO BLUE!"

6. No one, literally no one, beats the Michigan icons

President Schlissel is our king, Reggie the Campus Corgi is our wholesome teddy bear, Harbaugh is the crowning jewel, Tom Brady is the GOAT, and Billy Magic? Well, you'll just have to come to Michigan to learn about the utter brilliance of Billy Magic.

The University of Michigan is one of the leading universities in the world. Our students fight for real change on campus and in the world. They are incredibly talented and multi-faceted; Elisabeth will always have something new to learn from everyone she meets. Our campus will give her all the tools to become the next best Carell.

Steve Carell, make the right choice and send Elisabeth to the only school that will make her a Leader and the Best.


The entire UMich student body (but especially your biggest fans, Jessica Jung and Riya Gupta)

Cover Image Credit: Instagram | uofmichigan

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