Believe it or not, I wasn’t always good at math. In fact, I was quite marginal, at best, in high school algebra (8th grade). I started to develop a little more in Analytic Geometry, (11th grade) and the Calculus (12th grade), but alas success in Calc depends on having algebraic acumen.
At age 17, I entered college as an Engineering major. I struggled through Calculus I and Physics (both for engineering majors) before changing my major to Applied Mathematics. During my freshman year, I actually toyed with majoring in Secondary Education to be a math teacher, but I ultimately settled on becoming Finance major with a minor in Applied Statistics by the beginning of my sophomore year (what the heck, I already had a plethora of math courses).
But my first semester freshman year, I thought I would waltz through college the way I did high school — engineering courses and all. I reasoned I was smart and had a good memory. High school had come somewhat easily for me. Although I didn’t really apply myself, I did manage to graduate 23rd in my class of 116 students. How hard could college be? It’s just high school with ashtrays… or so I thought.
Surprise! I “earned” (probably given — I was an athlete…) a 1.53 GPA that first semester. As a result, I was placed on academic probation! I had until the end of that school year to get my cumulative GPA above 2.0.
Second semester, I was improving, but I came down with a bad case of mono. I missed three weeks of classes. (I was actually attending!) I still managed to earn a 2.62, which brought my cumulative GPA above 2.00 — barely — to a whopping 2.04! As it turned out, college was not like high school.
Then I met a girl. I quit the Varsity swim team as well as attending classes again. It was déjà vu all over again. I was reliving my first semester freshman year. My grades sucked again, 2.02.
I figured if I wanted to have a life with this girl (who ironically is my ex-wife), I’d have to make something of myself. Second semester sophomore year, I earned a 3.77. And I made Dean’s List every semester thereafter.
I’m not sure exactly what happened. I remember a talk my Aunt Danice had with me. She’s a high school English teacher, and she even gave me a book about college writing.
I was aware of what I had done to myself, and I knew where I wanted to be. I knew what I had to do; I just had to do what I knew.
About that time, I read the Tony Robbins book Unlimited Power. The critical step — a step often omitted these days — was asking myself where I would end up if I did not change.
- Where was I? In a hole, and I was smart enough to be doing better.
- Where did I want to be? I wanted to learn and earn better grades.
- Where would I be if I did not make the necessary changes? Not in a good career with decent pay and benefits… My parents asked if I wanted to end up pumping gas, bagging groceries, or flipping burgers
- What did I do? Since I didn’t want to live in a van down by the river, I decided to change.
I share this story with students not to impress them, but rather to impress upon them that they can achieve any goal they decide on. If I was falling short of my goals, it was my fault and I would either have to decide to change or I it would be the same as wanting to be doing badly (I am writing a book called You’re Failing Because You Want to Be). While I didn’t change my destination overnight, I did change my direction with that one decision to change my behaviors.