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 relies heavily on having algebraic acumen.Calculus is when you find out whether you can do algebra Click To Tweet
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. (Tony Robbins says people work harder to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.)
- 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.
I became a Dean’s List student only after I decided to change my behavior. No one did it for me.