Success from a student’s perspective.

“Life is a race.” This brutal fact of reality is what drives Hindi movie 3 Idiots. Everyone would do well to listen to it. If you refuse to accept this simple way of the world you are either in denial, winning the race, or have never had to work for anything in your life. 

Students are pushed into the race beginning as young as 3rd grade. They are trained from the age of eight or nine to believe that a lack of intellectual capabilities diminish their value or what they can bring to the world. A simple example of this is the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Program. In order to be a part of this elementary-level program, students must pass a test that supposedly measures intellectual capability. Any so-called measure of intellectual capability at the age of just eight or nine is ridiculous, yet students and parents alike set great importance on whether or not they qualify for these programs. But that’s not the only problem. 

Another concern I have is with the concept of talent in itself. I had a conversation with a friend deeply invested in psychology and he explained to me what talent actually consists of. Talent, he said, is a measure of two things—intellectual strength and grit. From a test, you can only assess the first of the two in a student. There’s no way of measuring grit. You cannot test the amount of effort, hard work, and love a student puts into the work they did. So if we can’t measure grit, we can’t measure talent. 

The worst part of this entire situation is that society perpetuates the idea of tests determining intellectual capability, talent, and the value of a person all the way to college admissions. Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT supposedly determine a student’s college and career readiness. Since 1926, a number has decided whether or not a student will go to a renowned college or not. 

This is just the SAT. Don’t even get me started on GPAs, the grading system, or even report cards which students receive from preschool years. Students fall into a rabbit hole of doing things to be at the top of competition rather than to learn or be the best possible version of themselves. 

In one way, this can be attributed to their parents. Regardless of how supportive a parent is to their kid, whether they egg them on to follow their dreams or push them into a career they themselves failed to get into, parents are direct products of the toxic “life is an intellectual race” culture. It’s not their fault, because they don’t understand. They don’t understand that when they speak about promotions, how much money they make, the success of their kids, or even simply misconstrue an interest their kids have as a useless hobby or waste of time they are continually perpetuating the toxic cycle. It’s not their fault because when they grew up, they, too, were the kids who were quickly forced to learn that  life is a race. 

I have great parents. I love them, their support, and how they encourage me to make my own decisions and have never been too involved in my grades or test scores. Even they,however, have become accustomed to the demanding grips of societal standards of winning the race of success. 

Speaking of success, what is success? Success is a subjective word that the world has turned objective. Success cannot be measured; it can only be achieved, felt, or met by a standard one has set for themselves. But society has cultivated us to believe that success is a predetermined concept equating to  the amount of money one earns, how many years of experience they have at work, or their number of connections. If those successes are your own goals, then more power to you. If not—reassess your objective, your mission, and your aim. 

I encourage everyone reading this to think twice the next time you judge someone on their GPA, their SAT score, or their goals in life. Are you upset because it’s abnormal, proud because it’s exceptional? Regardless of what it is, it is inevitably going to become a part of the race. You can’t be upset, you can’t judge. Because these are the people actively fighting the system. 

In a way I most respect the kids at school that care enough to take the classes they want rather than what is required. This may seem counterintuitive but not if you think about what this action means. By not worrying about the race and simply living life for themselves, they’re gaining true life experiences. These are experiences that can’t be taught through a textbook, experiences that contribute to their personal growth and in turn, the growth of society. 

I want to make it clear before I conclude that this article is in no way meant to judge your goals, your attention to grades, or what you believe success means. This article is meant to spread awareness and to make you think twice about your motivations, the rabbit hole you are being sucked into, and the concept that life is a race. 3 Idiots isn’t a celebration of this mindset—it’s a reminder. A reminder that we must remember what life is truly about: learning, personal growth, and adding value to the world your own way.