October 1, 2013 by Benming Zhang
“Ambition is a passion, at once strong and insidious, and is very apt to cheat a man out of his happiness and his true respectability of character.”
- Edward Bates
Ambition. There is universal acknowledgement yet so different and in many forms. It is dynamic and personal. Even so, it is part of the American character – the very notion of the American Dream feeds on the capacity to succeed independently and comfortably.
Like the American Dream, there is a Tribe Dream every student feeds on here. The Tribe Dream could be little more than to graduate with a college diploma, or as wide as to make the most impact on the school. Look around, and ask a student for a list of all that he’s involved in. It could be breathtaking by the sheer volume of involvement in a wide array of interests. Of course, the Tribe Dream cannot exist without the opportunities that this institution offers. While “opportunities” usually shed a positive light, ambition can twist and bend them for the worse.
I caught the bad end of ambition. As all dreams are capable of doing, I became disillusioned with my capabilities. At the start of my freshman year, I knew I could call this campus my home. With that, I went ahead and took full advantage of what this campus offered. What began as an ideal situation became my next realistic nightmare. My first mistake was taking 18 credits. I found the commonsense to bring it down to 17 credits (not really “commonsense” at all) along with rowing, two other clubs and fraternity pledging. By mid-semester, I was worn out and grades slipped. I became overwhelmed with my slipping grades, and saw my social life gradually collapse to stress. My morale gave way all throughout finals week, during which I simply gave up on salvaging my grades.
Best practices: What could have been avoided
What I lacked is at the core of all ambitions: organization. At times, I became overwhelmed with the influx of quizzes, projects, problem sets, midterms – you get the picture. You have to find your own way to organize, but my main point is when organizing, allow free time for yourself. There have been days where I rushed endlessly from class to committee meetings, and this self-imposed, harried lifestyle beat the energy out of me before I got around to homework. In addition, ensure that you articulate attainable goals. Instead of writing “Get 4.0 GPA,” note a specific way of reaching it. This works: “Get a 4.0 GPA by following my new study habits, and prioritizing studying for exams a week before.” This captures the ideal into a workable form.
Disorganization begins by lacking priorities. Without priorities, ambition will invade and multiply invincibly into our core as cancer does. An ideal setting would call for equal attention to and for everything. In this world, especially in the Tribe universe, such things are nearly impossible. Prioritizing means putting more time into important matters, and leaving others that can survive for tomorrow. A simple practice is creating a list with As, Bs and Cs. “A”s garner (and demand) the most attention, with the rest declining in order of priority.
When ambition becomes overwhelming, and everything seems to be crumbling, don’t let up. Recollect yourself and plan for change at your next chance. I took Winter Break to reorganize my study habits and prioritize my attainable goals for the spring semester. I made marked improvements, and so can you should you ever fall into a similar situation.