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The Value of Effort
       My fifth rule of learning states: “If you put in your best effort, you can be proud of the results.” A year ago, I started the new academic year by considering how one’s effort directly relates to the results that are achieved. Reviewing this concept should be meaningful, as a new academic year will be starting all too soon.
       In physics, work output must be less than work input, as some work is always lost. You cannot have 100 percent efficiency. This similarly applies in the real world, including the school environment. However, do not let this fact keep you from investing any effort. If you do not show any effort—that is, you do not invest any work—do not expect to gain anything meaningful in your classes.
       Again referring to physics, effort is a force applied against inertia. Inertia is the resistance to change. This means that effort is wasted if no useful work is done. You can expend a lot of effort pushing against an immovable wall. This can also apply to the classroom. Make sure that your time and energy are expended in a meaningful way. This should be resolved right when the school year starts and should be maintained throughout the year.
       This decision is your choice and it directly affects your personal outcomes—both in and out of school. As Jean- Paul Sartre stated in Existentialism and Human Emotion, “…choice is possible, but what is not possible is not to choose. I can always choose, but I ought to know that if I do not choose, I am still choosing.” How your life unfolds always depends on both your choices and effort. Also keep in mind Jean-Louis Etienne’s view that “Everything looks impossible for the people who never try anything.”
       Etienne is similarly correct regarding this new academic year. If you are not willing to try, you cannot succeed. If you are willing to try, you may be surprised at how well you do. Despite what negativisms you may have heard about a course or teacher, start off with a serious and honest attitude and the corresponding effort. In like manner, take a positive attitude toward school. As David Gardner stated in an article in Phi Delta Kappan in 2007, “…make learning fun. Think about it: the things we all do well tend to be the things we enjoy doing. But when I say learning must be fun, that doesn’t mean it comes without effort. When learning is fun, it is interesting, challenging, and rewarding.”
       I would like to close with the thoughts of two famous individuals. The first is Helen Hayes, who said “My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that ‘achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others, and that’s nice, too, but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.’” The closing note is from Thomas Edison: “If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” Try to astound yourself and those around you!
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