Out of 60 people I was sucking miserably at anything higher than basic addition or subtraction. Fractions, basic algebra, geometry – whatever, forget about it. 33% in an exam paper was considered a high score for me. Mathematics was like a foreign language. I would go to class thinking I had done well “this time around” only to be met with red pen all over my paper and another fail mark. One particular day I sat an exam and barely passed. Maybe by one or two marks. During the class after the results were given out the teacher went through the exam question by question to explain how the answers were derived. Then it happened… My heart sank. Again. I was marked right for one question when in fact my answer was actually wrong. After class I pulled the teacher aside… “Sir, excuse me sir, you marked me right for this question… But I got it wrong. Could you please fix it?” The teacher replied… “Ivan, it’s only one question, it’s ok.” “No sir, it’s not… It wouldn’t be fair, I got it wrong, can you please fix it?” That one correction meant that my pass result turned into another fail. I essentially sealed my own fate.
Why do you think I did that? What effect do you think that one decision had on my life?
Let’s fast forward four years from that day 16 years ago. Four years of maths coaching later. Countless hours of study. Over 100 students in the cohort. I was ranked top 3. I was taring to shreds people in higher grades above me. I would look at a question and already knew the answer before I even put pen to paper. Whether the solution was 1 line or two pages I owned the curriculum. It didn’t matter that it was maths… Subject or situation aside… The same outcome applied to almost anything I set my mind to in life. It had nothing to do with intelligence, IQ, memory – nothing of the sort.
It came down to standard.
If I could sum up one of the most important personal attributes for anyone who cares to aim for anything in their life, no matter what that may be, it is the personal standard at which you hold yourself accountable to. It doesn’t matter what anyone else expects of you, it is your standards alone that determines whether you win or loose in life. In life you are only ever competing with yourself and as long as your standards are far higher than anyone else could ever set them for you, you will always strive for more.
I’ve heard people say that some people have too higher expectations for themselves and they inevitably fall under too much pressure. I say to that – rubbish. You probably won’t get there the first time. Maybe not even the second and you’d be lucky if you achieved what you want by the third attempt, but there will come a time eventually that you will make it and you will need high expectations and personal standards to get there.
Embrace the personal challenge.
Before I wrap this up I will challenge you to one more thing… Carefully choose whom you spend most of your time with. Your reference point for a high standard is based hugely on whom you aspire to be as well as whom you spend most of your time with. If that means getting rid of excess baggage, bad relationships, negative people, hopeless individuals and poor company then I suggest you take a close look at your social group and whom you interact with on a daily basis. That move alone can raise the bar.
I dare you to raise your standard. I dare you.
Image linked courtesy of gbhbl.com.