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Day 23 - It is OK to Push Yourself

MVP

When I first read about the writing challenge topic, my mind flicked over several different moments in my past. At what point would the advice offered be the most practical? (Or most interesting for a post!) When I was in primary (elementary) school? High school? University? Various points of my career?

One moment stuck out the most.

This was way back in primary school (grade 5). There were two grade 5 classes, and the teachers had swapped classes for the week to change things up. The second teacher was giving us some math work to do in class and spent some time going over it.

I was an eager student striving to please, so I finished the work quickly and put my hand up to say I was done, expecting something else to do. The teacher snapped at me, "What do you want? A goddamn brownie?!"

Inside my child mind I thought, "Hell yeah, I want a brownie!" But it was also a shock and it gave me some pause. I didn’t know how to respond to that. Afterwards, I would often think back to that moment and subsequent work would only involve "just enough." I would lose the strive to seek out more, to push myself.

Therefore, I would tell my younger self, "It is OK to push yourself; it is OK to want to learn more! Never let anyone else tell you to stop trying to improve yourself."

Many years later I overcame that hurdle, but sometimes I wonder how much damage was done from that moment. My brother is a teacher, and I've had discussions with him about that time. He remembers this teacher and has commented that with what they know about teaching now, her style of teaching was detrimental to students. From firsthand experience, I can't disagree.

I still had to push myself to put my hand up for this task though!

26 Comments

It is amazing how those events set out life long patterns of behavior and self talk. One of the biggest lessons I took out of High School came from my geometry teacher. He talked with me after class, I think a friend of mine was there as well but I am not sure. I was very upset about how my grades where going. I mean I was an A student in math, so getting a C on a test was devastating. Mr. Gross told me too look around at who was in my class. They were 1 and 2 years older than me. They were struggling too. He said, think about that. You are here ahead of your peers, think about all of those people who have yet to get where you are. As you get older you will find that your friends and associates have a tendency to be similar to you in education and achievement. You will seem more and more average in your peer group. Don't let this get you down, always remember to look outside that group. See how many people there are who have not had the opportunity or achieved the level of success that you and your peers have.

I know I paraphrased that, but his one talk, helped enlighten me a little. I look at what I have achieved in my life and think of all those who right now and in the past do not have running water. Lacked shelter from the elements. Can simply walk to the refrigerator and grab something to eat. Don't live in fear that a small scratch or cut will lead to a fatal infection. Who live their lives surrounded by violence. That one talk in high school left a mark that has led to a mind set of gratitude for the luck and fortune I have.

I am glad you talk with your brother about your experience shuth . I hope it helps him realize that in those formative years he has the power to program what those kids will be like as adults and sometimes it is just one remark.

Level 9

I had a math teacher in high school who helped me understand why it was important to push myself. I had also found school to be easy. Read the material and pay attention in class and an A would be my reward. I never really had to push myself to get the A. In hindsight that was unfortunate. This math teacher never let me feel I had learned it all. If I showed a mastery in one area, he moved on to the next.  I learned more math in 4 years than I did anything else. I this went with me to College. I found myself not just answering the questions I was asked but also others that I just wanted to understand. I quizzed my professors and looked at every angle of every problem that I was presented. I’m not the most intelligent but these challenges help drive me to continuous discovery and learning. I went into the workforce ready to push past the expectations I was given and grow faster than I ordinarily would have. Like I said, I’m most definitely not the most intelligent, but I hope I make up for it in drive and desire to continually learn and grow.

Level 14

I had two teachers in high school that made all the difference. One taught math the other physics, both Jesuit priests.

Both believed in me! Both unlocked my desire to do better. Both gently push me and that made me push myself even harder.

The younger George only vaguely appreciated their efforts. The older George acknowledges their insight and vision of me in the future.

He's to Fr. Joe Crowley SJ and Fr. Bill Burns SJ, rest in peace and know I carry on because of your faith in me.

Level 10

Very insightful write-up.

It is amazing how much influence people in one position of leadership or authority could have on us growing up.

This is a wake up call in using such position wisely and also to us to encourage ourselves and others not to settle for less.

Excellent work is rewarding.

It is surely OK to push yourself.

I felt this way throughout high school. Just get it done, don't push yourself to go above and beyond. Part of this was probably a lack of passion which stemmed from a lack of interest in any of the classes I was taking. Technology was not offered at my school, the closest we got was graphic design. Once I found focus in college this mentality changed and I focused a bit too hard lol. It would have been nice to spread that passion over a longer period instead of having it burn so intensely during university.

I remember a situation like that when I was an exchange student in high school.

it was in one of my first days in math class, I wasn’t quite settled yet and my language skills were Imporovement worthy.

we had the assignment to do the odd numbered questions 1-20, as I didn’t understand odd, I did 1-20. one I realized my mistake, I didn’t bother doing even or odd, l just did all questions. The exercise helped a lot when I went home and got back to my old school, I was able to fit back in class just nicely.

hard work usually pays off.

MVP
MVP

Thanks Tom. We take a lot of things for granted and sometimes it is easy to forget that people have had different upbringings or are currently living in poorer conditions.

MVP
MVP

I'm glad you discovered that understanding early on. A lot of students go into shock at the difference in teaching styles between school and college/university. There is no compulsory attendance to lectures, study is outside of class, you need to organise to speak with your lecturers, etc.

MVP
MVP

It's interesting how time changes our perception of people. What seems irrelevant or minor to us when young, our older selves can put it into perspective.

MVP
MVP

This reminds me of something similar when I was in high school. I talked about it on Day 1 (https://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/solarwinds-community/contests-missions/december-writing-chal... )

Basically, we were given a set of instructions on a piece of paper with #1 being to read through the whole list and do what it says. Impatient me read the first few instructions then starting doing them. If I had read the whole list, the final instruction was to ignore all the previous instructions and just put my name in the corner. Oops.

Interesting how just quick moment in your childhood can have ramifications that will continue on into adulthood. For me it was a positive experience. I mentioned this in the Day1 post. An event in my 8 year old T-ball championship game (I won't bore you with the backstory). But the even was so impactful that I have spent my entire life trying to relive that high that I experienced that day. So many life decisions I have made, so many big ideas, so many ways I have decided to approach a solution... has all been based on the experience of that day.

I've done so many wonderful things to date. Marred, had children, traveled the world, etc.. never even  have come close.Don't think I ever will. But I continue to try.

Level 11

Similar situation where I was told that I would amount to nothing by a Head Teacher.  I only wish I was able to go back and show that Head Teacher who I am today.  But then I wonder was it their way of pushing me to do more, as I was quite lazy in education as I found it pretty easy, so I didn't really try my hardest.

There is a wonderful anecdote from the man who owns the "Weatherspoons" chain of pubs (This is in the UK for my US colleagues).  When he was first opening the pubs he wanted a name that would stick, but he didn't want to call it after himself.  He remembered that in school a certain teacher had told him he wouldn't amount to anything.  So he named the chain after that teacher, a Mr Weatherspoon.  Knowing that everyday that teacher drove past and saw said pub chains, that he'd know how wrong he was.  

Level 12

So very true, to be the best you can learn more

Level 15

One of the greatest things we can do in life is continue to push.   Greatness comes from trial and error.  Failure from trying and learning from it has delivered all the best creations of our time.  you can not make an omelet with out cracking a few eggs.

Level 10

'Push yourself again and again. Don't give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.' - Larry Bird

Level 13

This is a subjective thing as well... Some people just recat differently than others. For example, a teacher snapping at me might have helped me at certain times. We all need the proper motivation to do what needs to be done to succeed. Finding what that is..... That's the tough part!

MVP
MVP

"Never let others tell you to stop or quit trying to improve yourself." So true. We so often give others power over our lives. Most of the time we have the power to move forward or change things, but if we give others power over ourselves we will eventually lose power ourselves,or at least feel so strongly that we have lost our own power that it will take something big or major to get power back into our lives. The best way to prevent this is by being proactive along the way. "Never let others tell you to stop or quit trying to improve yourself."

Level 15

Never let anyone else tell you to stop trying to improve yourself.

Precisely.

I was also a gifted, yet overwhelming lazy, math student. I had a similar experience with a classmate who ended up being a bit too competitive for my taste. She would belittle anyone who she saw as a threat to her class standing. Even going as far as telling some that their efforts were wasted because they'd never use this kind of math pumping gas or digging ditches. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Coincidentally, ran into her years later while I was consulting at the company she worked for. Apparently she had a reputation of being this person.

Level 13

If your not pushing yourself and learning something new all the time.  Retire

Level 12

Push your self just beyond your limits.  That way you can grow a little each time.

MVP
MVP

Having just gone through the process of choosing my daughters next school (High School) I had several conversations like this with friends. How teachers and the approach of the school makes such a significant impact on your being. I remember teachers that were such positive forces in the way they taught, encouraged and supported their students. The period of your life spent at school is within that 'formative years' range and for very good reason and so to have a teacher have such a negative impact which continues through adulthood is shameful.

I know several teachers and I know it is a hard vocation, but the reason it is a vocation and not just a job is the influence of our teachers shapes everyones lives, whether they know it or not.

Level 20

I got in trouble for asking too many questions in school.  I'm glad it never stopped me.

Level 20

Reminds me of the geniuses that think they'll stop fake news with algorithms...

How unfortunate that teacher made such a mistake.  And how powerful it was to your life.

Thank you for reminding us of the value of a good teacher, and the impact a poor teacher can have on us all.

This is a little bit within the jumble of thoughts I had for the day I wrote as well. I would hope that people don't simply acquiesce and remember that we are in the roles we're in because we have risen to the challenge.  I don't think I would have taken a teacher holding such a perspective lightly.

Level 14

When I started Scuba Diving I really liked it but knew how dangerous it could be so I pushed myself.  I became a Divemaster within 2 years, passed my IANTD Technical Nitrox and racked up a load of dives.  Now, 22 years later, I have over 1000 dives under my belt, have dived most of the best wreck sites in the world and have had a brilliant time.  Most of those have been below 40m which would never have been possible if I hadn't pushed myself. 

About the Author
I've been working in IT since approximately 2006 but only moved into Networking and Network Management in 2010. I initially began working with Cisco gear but got pushed into network management and monitoring with SolarWinds in late 2011. SolarWinds consulting now takes up the majority of my time as I run my own consulting business. I live in Melbourne, Australia and I'm an avid gamer - typically spending my down time playing various PC games. Pew pew pew!