This I Believe

Derek - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Entered on January 22, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: work
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I believe that working hard and smart can make seemingly impossible goals attainable. To work hard and smart, I do not mean to be blindly working hard, with no idea of where one is going. Working hard and smart, however, does mean to be working diligently with a clear conscious plan to reach one’s goals.

Every year, there is a state-wide piano testing where the participant has to play three memorized pieces in front of a judge. To help the students prepare for this, my teacher holds a student recital one week before testing day where each student performs their prepared pieces for the test. Last year, I thought I was well prepared for the recital. I was wrong. When I was on stage, I was halfway through a piece when my memory slipped and I lost my place. I remember stammering to the teacher in front of the audience, “…Can I start over?” All that my teacher said was, “It’s your choice; pretend this is like testing day and do what you would do.” With full embarrassment, I restarted my piece – and this time without losing my place – finished the piece. I took a hasty bow and walked down from the stage, not even daring to look at my teacher’s stern face, and sat down. I was really disappointed at my performance, but what worried me more that day was “What is going to happen to me on testing day?” My goal was to score high on testing day, but after that miserable recital, I seemed to be in horrible shape.

At home after the recital, I figured out my mistake. Before the recital, I had been working hard, but not smart. I had been working hard without a clear plan of what I needed to get done. When I was practicing my pieces, I was not being smart and did not really think about what I was doing. Therefore, on recital day, I was a complete mess. I planned to change that for testing day. I realized that my main mistake on recital day was an insecure memorization. During the week prior to testing day, I worked hard and smart, with a clear plan to acquire a solid memorization and to make my pieces nearly “flawless.” By working hard, I diligently practiced everyday. By working smart, I practiced with a plan to fix my memorization and errors while polishing what I was good at. The afternoon after the test, I was jumping up and down in the air when I received a phone call from my teacher telling me that I got a perfect 100 on the test.

I realized that just working hard does not guarantee that I will accomplish my goals. Instead, I believe that working hard and smart with a definite plan can get you anywhere, as it made me accomplish my goal of scoring high on that testing day.