Greatness isn’t measured by success

March 20, 2012

By Chris Volk

Hall Monitor Chris Volk Liberty High School

Amid the flurry, busyness and rat race of Liberty High School — essays, reading, spring sports, math problems, extracurricular activities, notes, the grade point average of second semester, science labs, the approaching SAT and ACT, researching college and daunting Advanced Placement tests — I, a junior, paused to reflect upon what truly constitutes greatness and on whether any of the aforementioned comprises any noteworthy bit of it.

For high school, success is determined by a letter grade, a certain percentage, what you missed and what you got correct, or the curve set by another. A little red etch upon a score sheet can seal your fate while a humble check upon a paper can knock your grade up just another .04 percent toward getting an A or B. Every added point helps your teetering grade, your position among others, your chance at a selective college and your dream of a prestigious career.

That A is greatness. That check is. That podium. That place above others where you are standing is success. Right?

Is success in fact greatness?

I would claim that this is not greatness. True, greatness is achieving the unachievable. But, it is also working in opposition to some force; a salmon swimming upstream. It is easy to follow success and your own wants, but it is not easy to set these aside. And what is truly greater than working against that which is strong, working against your own nature, working against yourself for another?

I may complain about homework but I am still doing it for myself. I may complain of restless nights, packed weekends or homework-riddled breaks but I am doing it for my own grade, gain, education and ultimately success. I am walking hand in hand with my own nature, desires, dreams, hopes and aspirations.

There is certainly nothing wrong with success. It is just not greatness.

Greatness is not climbing above others, standing upon a podium or maintaining a high grade, nor does a stack of score sheets characterize it. Everyone attempts to do this. Not everyone instead sacrifices themselves for others. Not everyone sits at the table of a lonely student. Not everyone does something nice without expecting a response in kind.

Not everyone decides to put aside success for another.

Greatness is truly selflessness.

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One Response to “Greatness isn’t measured by success”

  1. Karen Smith on March 25th, 2012 6:17 pm

    Thank you for your authentic voice. You are right. Success alone leads to emptiness and is why so many kids today are attracted to dystopia. They feel the disconnect. Well said, Chris.

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