This I Believe

david - Newark, Ohio
Entered on December 4, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: work
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I believe potential is overrated. Without hard work, perseverance, and all of the other virtues that we are indoctrinated with since birth, potential will never translate into success; until it bears fruit, potential is… just potential. Talent doesnt go far on its own, however, when a talented individual utilizes his/her god-given ability with focus and determination, good things happen. Champions are made, rags are turned to riches, the secrets of the universe itself are unlocked and harnessed for the good of all mankind. It has taken me a long time to realize that cliche really is true. I didnt always believe that hard work is the key to success.

In grade school, i was identified as a gifted student, and enrolled in my school’s gifted program. (im not trying to brag or say im a genius or anything like that; im pretty sure that MENSA doesnt want me.) For several years, i studied with the same teacher, and towards the end of my stay in the program she had become well acquainted with my less than scholarly attitude. I remember one day in particular when the issue came to a head.

It was my seventh grade year, and i had just returned from my family vacation. I was supposed to have brought my homework with me and have it completed by the time i got back, but i didnt do it. (after all, i was on vacation.) After class, she confronted me about it. I couldnt understand why she was so upset with me; in my young mind it was just a few math problems, busywork to keep us occupied and prop up the grades of the students who didnt test well. After I had shared my opinion with her, i could immediately see my mistake by the expression on her face. “You have so much potential, but you are just wasting it,” she said with equal parts frustration and disappointment.

It has taken me many years to understand why she was so upset. I know now that she genuinely wanted to see me excel, and she knew that it would never happen if i didnt learn to be diligent. She understood that in the real world, excellence is more effort than ability, that potential alone doesnt cut it. The issue wasnt the homework at all, it was that i had failed to grasp that crucial lesson.

It has taken a while, but i finally realized the importance of hard work. A few quarters ago, I failed one of my classes, an introductory foreign language course. I didnt fail because i lacked the ability to understand the material; i failed because i didnt do the work. I was relying on my natural ability and my previous experience with the language to pull me through, but it wasnt enough. It cost me a bruised GPA and an ego that is positively black and blue, but for perhaps the first time in my life i can say that i get it. I have probably always understood the value of hard work(although i would never have admitted it), but now i finally am starting to believe in it, and that makes all the difference.