Friday, April 20, 2012

A Formula For Success

As a teacher in either a high school or college setting for the past 11 years, I have certainly heard some great excuses. This year in particular, although I am sure I have felt like this near the end of every school year, I simply cannot stomach any more student excuses as to why they can’t come to class or couldn’t get work done.

It surprises me and disgusts me even more, however, when a student expects to receive a passing grade for doing nothing. I get down at times, wondering what happened to our work ethic. Of course, I have to remind myself that for every one student who makes excuses, there are several more who do work hard. And certainly, there are legitimate reasons why we occasionally cannot do something or cannot attend a class. It’s the ones that make it a habit of doing nothing that frustrate me.

It was a moment like this today, which I don’t want to discuss publicly, that inspired today’s reflection. Why do some people feel they deserve things that they don’t work hard to achieve?

You can’t pass a college course without attending and doing the work, but some people seriously think they can.

You can’t expect to be physically fit if you don’t try to become fit either.  It takes a commitment to be in shape, and we can’t expect it to happen without doing something about it. Now, just like there are legitimate excuses for being absent at school, there are some legitimate excuses in this area too: genetics, for example. 

Fitness, education, career: Whatever you want, you have to work for it. It’s common sense, but sometimes we need a reminder. You want the best job? Work hard.  You want the best education? Study hard. You want to be in shape? Exercise hard. 

To be more specific, I’d like to share a formula for becoming who we want to be that has worked for me: 


You first have to visualize who you want to be. I knew, for example, that at some point in my life I wanted to be a college professor, so I pictured what that would be like. I imagined the joy I would have in a college environment. I closed my eyes and saw the thousands of adults (even if I am exaggerating) eager for an education to improve their lives. 

After you visualize, you make a goal and you say it out loud to those you love and trust. I told my friends and family that I wanted to be a college professor. I told them this was something I was going to do. Saying it out loud to others helps hold you accountable. They will ask you about, and you will be forced to talk about what you are doing to achieve your goal.

Once you announce your goal, you must plan. What will it take to do this? I decided I needed another degree and that I needed college teaching experience. I planned how I would make those two items happen.

Then you have to follow through. I went back to graduate school to earn a second master’s degree. I inquired about teaching part-time, and I picked up a night class at the college so that I would have more experience.

Ultimately, you repeat this cycle. You simply keep visualizing the goal, keep talking about the goal, revise your plans as necessary, and keep working at that goal. The journey may be very long and full of obstacles, but you keep working. The number one virtue you need here is patience.

Of course, you can connect these steps to virtually everything you want to do. Let’s connect it to fitness.

You first have to visualize the person you want to be. What will your body look like? How will you feel? What will you be able to do? If you get exhausted walking through a store, visualize how you would feel if you could walk all day and not feel tired. Picture yourself in a swimsuit, the way you would like to look. The visualization process is very important to following through with our goals.

Then make a goal and say it aloud. My most recent goal was to complete P90X2 and spend 90 days working hard to finish the program. You better believe I told my friends and family. I put it online, and I talked about it because I wanted people to ask me about it. I wanted people to encourage me to keep working.

Then you plan. My days are very busy, and my commitments frequently vary. I started by making a monthly calendar of all of the workouts I would complete each day of the month. Then every Sunday, before the work week begins, I make revisions as necessary based on new meetings or new commitments I may have made. My calendar is detailed and precise with the time I will exercise and the program I will be doing. I prioritize that time just as I would prioritize an important work meeting.

And of course you follow through and stick with it. No matter what! I had to drive to a work conference that was 8 hours away, but I stuck with it. I revised my fitness plans, but I included fitness while I was gone. I have some 12 hour work days, but I find a way to incorporate my fitness routine: get up earlier, do it over lunch, modify the routine to fit shorter times, whatever is necessary.  

I keep visualizing my goal: to simply be in better shape and to have a more physically toned body. I can mentally see who I want to be, I announce my goal as to how I will get there to others, I plan the specific journey every step of the way, and I do it.

By far, I am not perfect, but I share this advice because if something is really important to you, then this formula works. VISUALIZE, SAY YOUR GOAL OUT LOUD, PLAN, and FOLLOW THROUGH.  


  1. Love this post, Joe! It's just what I needed to hear. I want to become a Teachers Assistant in the UK, and I had been volunteering for about 2 yrs before I moved and had childcare issues which prevented me from volunteering. Come September, my youngest is starting full time schooling and I will have more time to either volunteer or look for paid employment. I have completed an on-line course and am now qualified as a TA, but I lack the confidence that I can get a job. I completely fold during interviews! I have always struggled during interviews... Any advice on becoming more confident during this process? -Jen

    1. Absolutely, Jen. You can definitely do this! When do you think you will begin the interview process? Let's find a time to talk on the phone. I would love to do a mock interview with you :)

  2. I will start applying in September... not sure if/when I will get an interview. Even the thought of a mock interview sounds scary! LOL but yeah, that would be cool! I'll get you on the phone once we get into our new house!