Focus on Your Goal as a Way of Success

By Alfred Tang

(Math, Physics, and Computer Science Instructor at The Edge Learning Center)

Everybody knows that Michael Jordan was one of the greatest basketball players of all time. His signature move was his slam dunks that made him look as if he could float in air. But not everybody knows that he failed to make the varsity basketball team in his sophomore year because he, standing at a height of 5 foot 11, was considered too short. Michael made up for his height, or the lack thereof, by trying really hard. Many times he was so tired that he just wanted to quit. But the thought of not seeing his name in the locker room always got him going again. As we know, his effort paid off.

In science, there is the myth that you don’t need to study if you are smart. That may work when you were 12 years old. It is not going to work when you are a junior or senior. Science and engineering majors are the hardest working students in universities. Many of them started working hard when they were in high school. Success is 30 percent genius and 70 percent sweat. To do well in math and physics in high school, you have to work hard. The source of that drive is your desire to succeed. You want to succeed because you have a picture in your mind what success feels like. That picture is your focus.

For many students, that picture may look like accolades from friends, teachers, and family praising you as a whiz kid. Nobody will mind being showered with all kinds of awards and recognitions in school. However if the focus is praises and recognitions, you will get depressed when you don’t do well in a test. More importantly, you will stop trying when the praises are gone. Some students give up too soon when there are too many bumps on the road. It is why you focus needs to be a bit more than praises. In the case of Michael Jordan, I am sure that there were many naysayers who doubted his chance of making it in basketball before he was famous. If your identity is always wrapped up in what people say, you may not go far.

Your desire and your picture of what success looks like have to come from a reason bigger than other people. Growing up, I did not always do well in physics. When I was a freshman in a small college, I had a super awesome physics teacher who believed in me. I started doing well. All the professors and students thought that I was a physics superstar. That kind of expectations helped me a lot to drive myself to work hard. I was a small fish in a small pond but I felt like a big fish in a big pond. Then I transferred to MIT where almost everyone was smarter than me. The limelight was definitely not on me. It was very difficult for me when all the praises were gone and I suddenly found myself a small fish in a big pond. It took me many years to find myself again and to shift my focus from what people think to what I wanted. It takes a lot of maturity and security to not care about what people say and keep focusing on your goals. To do that, you really want to know what you want.

While you are still in high school, take time to look around to see what are out there that may interest you. Of course, you want to focus on your studies. The reality is that your chance of getting into a good university depends on a big part of your grades. You can come to our center to get help and to make your studies more successful. But having done that, you also want to spend a little bit of time to learn things that are outside of your studies and try to do things that you are not very good at. You never know. Sometimes the things that you really like maybe things are you have never done before or are not very good at. Find out what are the latest ideas in STEM. Basically, expand your horizon and not to be too narrowly focused. Success is like driving a car: You have to know where you are going. While you are on the way to get there, focus on a point farther ahead and not the spot right in front of the car. That way, you steer straighter and will not be distracted every time you hit a bump on the road.

About The Edge

The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which student gained early acceptance to schools such as Columbia, MIT, University of Chicago, and more! Check out the rest of our 2018-9 Admissions Results!

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