Living with It: The success-full mindset

Elisa Fang, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Reader,

Motivation is a scam.

Is what I’ve thought sitting and staring, in all my senioritis-infused glory, with the thought of the workload from the classes I love looming in the many tabs of my computer screen — this article included — wondering why I do what I do, and why I’m willing to spend so much energy doing it.

As I am writing this, Sean, a person on the clear opposite spectrum from my own feelings of responsibility to work, is telling me I don’t have senioritis, because having senioritis means that your production value has to match your lack of motivation.

He actually might be right. In senior year, I’ve suddenly found myself at a point where most of my workload comes from classes I’m truly interested in — I’m just not used to being motivated to do things solely because I’m interested in doing them.

I’ve fallen into the same mindset with the same traps everybody tends to set for themselves, heading into sophomore year with the expectation that I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity I have, all the time. Which is kind of a dumb way to approach opportunity.

But that was my idea of how to be successful.

The idea of pursuing success in this time of my life is kind of an odd idea. Quite honestly, I’m not sure what I really want to do in my future — I don’t have an answer to a dream job. And the burden of choosing what you want to do with the rest of your life at the age of 17 and 18 when you choose your college major is also a myth, because, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, most people don’t actually go into the field they studied in, excluding the notably dedicated people who go and get graduate degrees. I don’t even have a clue what success means in the long run, besides the generic get good grades, go to college and get a good job.

A problem with being so deep-rooted in our pursuit of success is we also sometimes forget how often success is a purely luck-based thing. What series of events had to take place to give someone the opportunities they’re exposed to? Our accomplishments are all a combination of the hard work we’ve put into things and being at the right place at the right time.

This also means that there will never be a definite equation toward success, and that all your accomplishments are uniquely yours. No one innately deserves a success over another person —

College apps included.

Teenagers are notoriously bad at perceiving time in the long term. Some of our teachers have been teaching for twice as long as we’ve been alive, and it sounds long, but we’ve only lived half of it, so it makes little difference. CNBC says that most people’s salaries peak somewhere through their forties — for us, that’ll be past 2040. The abstract concept of being successful is a manifestation of our ambitions — but it’s hard to tell how long our five-year plans can last when we’re in the most volatile time of our lives.

So our motivations shouldn’t be driven by achievements — at least not right now. This is probably the time when things are most likely to go wrong, and the only time where it’ll be completely okay that things are going wrong. I kind of wish I didn’t stress myself out so much in the process.

I used to get annoyed when hearsay successful people decide they have enough experience to advise people on how to be successful, and the ever elusive compiles lists from their quotes. According to them, Jeff Bezos recommends “[learning] from your mistakes” and “[thinking] big,” which is both rather unhelpful, and also pretty intuitive advice. But there’s no set equation toward success — so there’s really not much better language to give advice about success.

That’s why it’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” and not “The 7 Habits of Successful Teens,” anyway.