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On Success

Joey Shen

Jan 18, 2023

On Success

One tendency I have noticed among my peers is the desire to achieve success, whatever that means to them. Almost all students chase a higher grade in a course, a better result in a competition, or something else. While this chase is admirable - one can only improve when they are ambitious - not many students feel truly successful when they achieve their goals. Instead, our students chase a pernicious and unattainable form of success that comes from proving they are “better” than their classmates.

Our perceptions of success have been warped by the belief that it comes from engaging in unending, unhealthy competition with everyone around us. In believing so, we incorrectly measure our success and growth by viewing it through the lens of someone else, leaving us with nothing but feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction. This concerning but prevalent tendency to see life as nothing but competition causes us to lose sight of our strengths and accomplishments. This perception is flawed; the only person you should evaluate your growth and accomplishments against is yourself.

A few years ago, our school invited an Old Boy back to the school as a keynote speaker for an assembly. This alum, a retired fireman, shared the experiences that led him to his profession. Hailing from a long line of lawyers, he was naturally expected to continue the family tradition. However, as he spent time with his relatives and around his father’s office, he realized that he just couldn’t “see [him]self” as a lawyer. Instead, he decided to defy the expectations placed on him and joined the Vancouver Fire Department. Quickly falling in love with the profession, a temporary job became his permanent career.

Through nearly 30 years of service, he saved countless lives, educated the public on fire safety, and contributed to making Vancouver a safer place. Most importantly, his passion for firefighting never diminished.

While our school has produced countless scholars, intellectuals, and leaders, this fireman remains the biggest source of inspiration for me among all of the alumni I have met. Instead of conforming to a predetermined path, he pioneered his own, placing his own dreams before anyone else’s. To me, that is the physical manifestation of success. To me, this man has reached the pinnacle of success because he can do what he loves and does it well.

I encourage you to think about this fireman from now on whenever you feel pressured to engage in competition with others. I encourage you to dispel the notion that success is reaching the peak of a mountain. Instead, I encourage you to adopt the idea that success is reaching a higher crest every single day.

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