Define Success

successIn many school district mission statements I read, the words “success” and/or “successful” often appear.  Preparing children to be successful after a PK-12 experience… what exactly does that mean?

Will their education provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their world? Is that how one becomes successful? Is it about attending a post-secondary institution?  Is it about a paycheck? Is it about contributing and giving back to society?

[cc licensed photo by RambergMediaImages]

The other day, I had a conversation with some friends about the push to send more kids to college. I brought up the fact that, perhaps, not everyone needs or should go to college. There was a hushed silence right after I finished my sentence… imagine a teacher saying that maybe college isn’t for everyone?!?!

I quickly followed up with an explanation- my point isn’t that some kids aren’t worthy of a college degree. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. For some kids, college isn’t worthy of them. Not everyone needs to spend exorbitant tuition fees (and dormitory costs, and textbooks, and…) to find their niche in life.

There’s a young man I know, about 22 years old, who attended a trade school and learned about auto mechanics. He LOVES cars. He can tell you nearly anything you want to know about an engine. He can fix nearly any vehicle. At this time, he is employed by a very large company in our city, and he makes a very nice living. More importantly, he’s very happy doing what he does. A typical four-year institution was not in his master plan.

I told his story, and instantly, a friend replied, “Oh, and he will probably make more money than most of us will in our lifetime and not have the same amount of debt from all those college loans!”  A few others replied with more statements about how much money this kid would go on to make.  As I asked them a few questions, it became very evident to me that their measure of success was the amount of money he would make.

Is that what we’re supposed to be preparing kids to do after they leave school? Make a lot of money? Is that the measure of “success?”

Silly me, but I thought it was something as simple as this:

  • find your strengths
  • find your passion
  • find a way to make the world around you a little better than how you found it

That’s MY definition of being successful. What’s yours?