By: STEPHEN SALISBURY
I’d like to talk to you this week about the constant struggle that many of us deal with especially in college between expectations and reality.
When I came back to school full time in 2013, I had an expectation for myself that I was going to get straight As in every class; a perfect 4.0 in college was my number one goal.
I did OK my first full semester worth of classes, which happened to be a combination of three spring classes and two summer courses. It was a lot of hard work, but I thought to myself, “You got this,” and started to psych myself up for a full load in the fall: 17 credit hours.
And then: chemistry. Oh my goodness, did chemistry try to kick my butt.
I had two lectures a week; a lab lecture; a discussion session, in which we took our weekly lecture quiz; a weekly lab; and a specialized instruction session designed to help work through homework for the main lecture section.
I had five different instructors for this one class, and I was still struggling. I spent nearly every waking moment working on chemistry.
I told my wife, “If I never see another chemistry book in my life, it will be too soon.” I began to come to the realization that my goal of a perfect 4.0 was already at risk, and this was only my second semester.
I was lamenting my plight to an economics professor who was serving as my mentor at the time when he told me something so simple that has helped me get through and get past that chemistry nightmare.
He said, “Stephen, believe it or not, there are going to be some things that you simply are better at than others. Sometimes we do our absolute best and we still fall short of our expectations. The point is to work as hard as you can, and if you don’t quite get what you want, you can settle for what you get knowing you gave it your all. If you allow yourself to get defeated every time you fall short of a goal, it is likely you will never strive to achieve anything.”
No professional motivational speaker is ever going to tell you this, but this conversation with my economics professor has had the most profound impact on my success as a college student.
While I didn’t quite get the A I wanted in that chemistry course, I was satisfied that I had worked real darn hard and got the best grade I could that particular semester. Plus I got As or A-pluses in everything else, so I was happy.
I share this story because as president of the student body and president of our Student Government Association, people often believe that you have the ability to solve every problem they bring to you. While that is certainly a goal, or even a personal expectation, you soon discover that this is not even close to a reality.
So, do you not try to answer every question or solve every problem? Of course not. You wouldn’t pursue this job if you didn’t want to try. When people talk to me about issues they are having, my number one response is, “Send me an e-mail.” This way I have a standing document that I can use to constantly remind me of a problem someone is having and to keep doing my best to solve it.
I spend several hours a day going back through my emails to see if I’m making any progress toward the expectations I have of solving problems that have landed in my lap. Frankly, this is the ongoing mission of our SGA every day. Each week people come to us and want us to solve a problem for them.
Whether it is a financial need for a club or a personnel need for a campus committee or a physical improvement for the campus, we are constantly bombarded with the expectation that we can help solve these problems.
Do we solve some of them? Yes. Can we solve all of them? No. But, the goal is to try to do our best, take what we can get, realistically, and move on to the next task. This is how you make it through college successfully. You work as hard as you can and, at the end of the day, you rest in the satisfaction of knowing that you may not have gotten the perfect score, but you earned what you got and nobody can take that away from you. Then you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.