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I was at a karate tournament last weekend, at The University of Technology. A quote mounted on the wall was what really caught my eyes and somehow allowed its contents to seep into my brain. It read, “Strive to achieve, not succeed.” I thought it was a powerful statement and food for thought and it seemed to resonate more than the numerous spin kicks I saw. I showed it to my friend and she remarked that success and achievement were the same things…. I thought differently. Striving for achievement, (something accomplished successfully, especially by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance) means that  striving to do one’s best, given the circumstances, just to feel a sense of accomplishment. Striving for success, (the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted), is striving to be the best in an area, disregarding the circumstances. My problem with the latter is that, it is the theory most widely taught and it usually sets us up for disappointment.

While the debate continues about The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Technology (UTECH), and which equips students better for life, I thought of something. UWI teaches students to strive to succeed and not achieve while UTECH lives by the quote in the gymnasium. UTECH ensures that students are given a perfect balance of practice and theory, which they believe equips them to achieve in the real world, not necessarily to be the best- but to be given a fair chance. UWI equips their students with theories and very little practice- equipping them to be managers and heads of whatever they choose. The sad part is, one must achieve before they can succeed. No one wants to employ a “21 year old kid” to be their manager- even if they are more than capable and excuses such as lack of experience are often tossed around- leaving the average UWI graduate disappointed.

Dr. Hebert Gayle of The University of the West Indies, told a graduating class at a primary school last Thursday, that life is 50% what you are given and 50% what you make it. So defend your 50%! It is surprising the hand we are dealt sometimes in this game called life. Imagine, you decided that success means becoming a successful politician. Did you know that something as simple as your physical features could determine whether or not you have a political future and hamper your “success”?

Look at the pictures below, who would you give your vote in a Presidential Election?

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If you are like the average person, you would more likely to choose the one on the left. Why? You don’t really know… They look similar but the one on the left looks more mature, trustworthy, more business-like , married etc. There is such a thing known as a Convincing Face, a part of the Halo Effect,  where the overall impression of a person influences how we think about their character. For those of us who don’t have the average phenotype, difference is usually frowned upon- unless you fall in the category of the Denzel Washingtons and Halle Berrys… Sad 😦

Based on how we look people form stereotypes and believe they can tell sexual orientation, competence, socioeconomic background and even IQ! Some people were given more talents than others which make it more likely for them to succeed. Some people have many talents but don’t get the opportunity to show or develop them.  The sad reality is that most people have what are called hidden talents, that will not surface in our traditional education system. We tend not to apply the Multiple Intelligences Theory. Instead, we test our pupils like in the cartoon below.

Some of us have many talents and the stage seems very near, but we never get pass the audition phase. My mother used to say a proverb, about when men plan, God wipes out. I used to wonder what was the use in trying, if God was going to do what he chose anyway. Then, that would mean my choice was not really my choice and if I go against his will, then I’d pay the penalty. I thought I was no better than Pinocchio- a puppet on a string, that is expected to just go with the motion. It was  then my mother reminded me of the Parable of the Talents as told in Matthew 25 vs 14-30. The guy who got 5 talents invested and got double returns, he would be regarded as the most successful in our society. The guy who got 2 also invested and got double returns, and he did well and achieved. The guy who got one buried it and the talent was taken from him and he was punished. His aim was to succeed and not achieve. Let’s face it, he was not given the same opportunities, so achievement and improvement should be his aim, since success will mean he will be compared to the guy with 5 talents. Had he been realistic, he would not have disappointed himself and his master, because one much achieve before they can succeed.

If Christianity is not your thing, your God would want you to try, the Universe would want you to try, karma would want you to try and science would be saddened if you tried to destroy energy.

Think about it… strive to achieve, be positive and work hard and you will be proud and satisfied. However, continue to work hard and give your full 50% and with good cards played in your favour success could be yours.