Two Paths: Personal vs. Collective Success

February 08, 2013 by John Andrew Williams

When I was in school, I totally bought into the system. I got mostly A’s. I got accepted to an Ivy League university. I graduated cum laude with a degree in Latin and ancient Greek. I applied to graduate schools. I was accepted to Harvard.

I had what would be generally considered an elite education.

So it surprised a lot of people when I decided not to go to Harvard.

I had already started teaching high school Latin and I really loved it.  During this period, I carefully considered my options.  Doing so, I realized that there was a huge need to have Academic Life Coaching skills in classrooms.

I started my adult life believing that if I got good grades, I’d be prepared to be successful. I wasn’t. I struggled for five – yes FIVE years – financially on my high school teaching salary. I didn’t know how to do what many adults figure out with time, trail and error: start a business, buy a house, buy and maintain a car, make wise decisions, network… and the list of missing practical skills goes on.

Add to those practical life skills the other necessary skills of being creative, having self-knowledge, and knowing how to manage default and empowering perspectives.

I knew that I could take a well-traveled path of personal success and become a professor.

The path far less traveled (and the one that quietly called to me) was to dedicate my career to fill a need that I saw in education and academia.

I choose the path of collective success.

I paid for that choice for sure. Living month-to-month financially for years was tough. Learning how to start a business and serve people in a creative and meaningful way, while still getting paid, was a definitely a challenge. Setting up a business while having two children (who are now 5 and 3) was, at times, insane.

But now looking back – having climbed a mountain, learned how to do it and now help others do it too – I am so incredibly thankful for the challenges.

The irony here – and I hope you can tap into it as well – is that when we work for collective success, the personal follows. And it just doesn’t follow on a small scale. It’s deep, thrilling, meaningful, sustainable, and especially fulfilling.

Also read: You Can Tell How Well You’re Doing by the Quality of the Questions You’re Asking

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