“We all have certain gifts to be excellence. This gift differs from person to person. It may be so that your gift of excellence comes later in life than that of another. Just keep the following in mind: as long as you give your best, sooner or later your gifts will be exposed.” ~ Vishant Poeran
This article is based on my speech, on August 8th 2017, at the student Student Excellence Awards which was attended by students who graduated as the best of their school in Suriname. The speech I gave there is serving as a base for this article and is for everyone facing new challenges.
Written in 2017, but published in 2018
Within a week of this speech, I had this article written, but I did not find the timing right to publish it. I know that these words would mean something to people, but I had something different in mind. I wanted to publish this article when it mattered most. It was already the end of the school year then and maybe the words would be forgotten at the beginning of the new schoolyear. That’s why I chose to publish it at the beginning of this New Year. The school has already started and some partial results are already in. Maybe this can give an extra boost to those who did not perform well to perform better and those who performed well to perform much better.
One speech led to the other
On July 29th I was invited to speak at the Personal Development and Networking event organized by Rotaract. There I explained how simple acts of kindness can impact others and how we can all be an inspiration to another. Three days after my speech I received a phone call where I was asked if I was willing to give a motivational speech at the Student Excellence Awards event, which is organized by the Rotary Club of Paramaribo Central. For me, this was another opportunity to reach people with my messages.
My experience as an excellence student
Exactly 10 years ago I also attended this event, but as a student. In 2007, I graduated as the best student from Natin. For the greater part of my life, my goal was to be the best version of myself, where becoming the overall best was rather a nice to have than a must have. When I started my education at Natin I met and befriended many students. One such friend was Simon Noerdjan. Simon was also a grade A student who topped his classes since elementary school. Over time we started to study together and over the course of the years not only did we become best friends, we also loved supporting other students. We made sure that we and everyone else around us made it through. However, besides excelling in his studies, Simon was a very ambitious and aspiring young man. To illustrate how ambitious he was, I recall when most of us were enjoying our spare time and making fun, he was already working on and developing websites. When I was chosen to represent Natin at this event, I always thought that Simon deserved it more than I did, because for me he was just better. Graduating with the highest marks is a nice achievement, but for me, it’s never about being the best over others. It is all about inspiring and helping others reach their potential. I’m thankful for our times together and I’m happy to look back and see that we are still supporting each other, which fills me with greater joy than having been the best student.
Challenges that arise truly test our mettle
Nobody knows how many sacrifices you made to make it through this year and maybe no one will ever know.
- Some of you may have gone through a tough ordeal (mentally, physically);
- Some may have had to deal with heartbreak,
- Some may have had to deal with the loss of loved ones,
- Some had to juggle between study and work,
- Some had to deal with domestic issues which created more (unnecessary) stress,
- Some had family responsibilities (children, parents, grandparents etc.),
- Some had to travel long distances to attend school,
- Some had financial difficulties and so on
Regardless of these difficulties, you were still able to achieve your goals. Overcoming such odds defines our character. Even when things are not going as we had hoped, planned, expected or wanted, we still made it through. I believe that the support of people around us contributes significantly to our success. I am aware of the fact that there are many more people in our vicinity, but I shall name the most obvious and common. Our environment usually consists of:
- Our parents or caretakers
- Our friends or classmates
- The teachers
- Everyone else
These people not only provide us with a roof above our heads, food to eat, a school allowance and school supplies, but most try to create an encouraging and loving environment as well by being actively involved and concerned in our lives. They cater to our needs, wisely enough not always to our wants and tolerate our tantrums. We may bicker with our parents over small things, but parental monitoring and ongoing communication are helpful to our psychosocial health. And above all, our parents shape a place we can always fall back on. A place we can call Home.
Our peers, our gang, our besties or whatever you call your close friends nowadays. These are the people we deal a lot with and most of the time, these are the people with whom we can level the best. In times of need, they are the ones we count on, they help us grow regardless if we choose them right or not. Some peer groups encourage self-destructive and antisocial behavior, but most help us to cope with the stresses we’re dealing with. We engage in (thrill-seeking) activities together and perhaps share interests/ hobbies. Not only do our peers help shape who we are, boost our self –esteem, but they also give us a sense of belonging.
The people with specific expertise and those who not only educate us but are also a mother/ father figure for most of us when we are at school. If we can bond with them, they can become our friend or perhaps part of our family. I’ve asked some teachers what makes them happy and they’ve told me that it’s the success of their students. I also heard of some teachers who gave extra classes and would pay the school transportation for several students who could not afford to do so.
These are all the people we don’t know on a personal level, but see everywhere, be it around us or on the internet. It can also be an encouraging or inspirational quote or story you’ve read on a digital platform or perhaps the stranger who complimented you or made you smile this morning.
I acknowledge the fact that there may be people out there who are bereft of any social support, while others have a helpful and stimulating environment. Know that in the end, only you can choose whether to accept or reject the help/support of friends or family in your environment, because they are there. You just need to look closer.
Most of you have already made choices for the next phase of your life. If you haven’t, take your time and if needed ask for advice.
Follow your own dreams instead of that of another
I received a lot of messages from people who are interested in a certain profession, but their parents want them to do something else or do not approve of their interests. Sometimes parents may force their dreams onto their children because they were unable to achieve them. It’s also quite common that parents expect their offspring to follow the same career path as them, for various reasons (profit, comfort, wealth, status, maintenance of image, sentiment etc.). They want their children to have some assurance when they’re gone. Things like: “Apply for this job, because you know that the company will not shut down, you’ll have a good salary, certain privileges and health insurance” are heard quite often. Their concern is quite comprehensible, but is having insurance and a good salary enough to be happy? How many of us choose a certain study or profession just for the financial gain, incentives, and amenities that come along with it? Is our physical and mental health, family or our relationships worth the money? Should we choose what our parents want or what we want?
People who are employed in fields they are passionate about or love their job, are quite fortunate and yet shamefully scarce. People who stick to jobs they do not like, become fed up with their work and will lack mental and personal development. They become accustomed to the monotonous rhythm of their job which decreases their job satisfaction and performance. Their self-esteem spirals down and all this takes a toll on their mental health. Eventually, most become ill and depressed, some life-threateningly.
Note, that most people may not know what they are passionate about doing, especially students who have just graduated. How do we find out? By working in various fields, trying out several jobs that fit well with our skills and values and in which we feel motivated. Remember, our dreams do not have deadlines. Sometimes we try for months or even years to accomplish our dreams and if we don’t like the outcome we give up. We live in such a hurry that we want the desired results or outcomes immediately. We can’t make our dreams happen overnight, only with patience and perseverance can we see them unfold. If we give up on a dream, that means we don’t want it bad enough.
And if you do, I would suggest to keep working on it, even if it takes you your whole life to make it come true. Never give up on those dreams, even if it becomes reality right before you die because the sense of fulfillment will negate the time we have spent chasing them. I often say that: “We are not afraid to die, rather we are afraid to not have lived and not taken the chances we had gotten.”
No one is expected to get things right all of the time
For every new phase, be it a new study, a job, marriage or having kids, the cycle of hard work starts all over again. You will make plenty of mistakes, make sure to own up to them and take responsibility for your role in it. You will suffer losses and sometimes have to start from scratch again. Everyone goes through these stages and only those with grit, perseverance, and determination succeed. Because only if you really want it, you will work for it, regardless of the circumstances, odds and setbacks. So don’t give up when you meet with adversity. When things go smoothly, take caution, because that may lull us into comfort. And when we remain comfortable for a lengthy period of time, we do not want to venture outside of our comfort zone and become less eager to learn or try new things.
Life will not be easy nor will it be fair to you, but if you’re determined and willing, you will ultimately succeed in your endeavors. I encourage you to make choices that align with the things that give you a sense of fulfillment. You’ll be happier and more at peace with yourself.
Know your worth and know what you’re capable of. If you do not know it yet, find out. If you’re willing to work for something and you want it bad enough, you will always find ways to accomplish them.
Enjoy life: celebrate your smallest achievements
I advise you to enjoy and celebrate every achievement, whether big or small. When things don’t go as planned and all feels overwhelming, think back on these achievements and use them as fuel to get through difficult times. Life doesn’t consist of only sunshine, expect the rain, thunder, floods and some hurricanes as well. There are certain things we can control and certain things we can’t. Focus on the things you can control. What took us years to build can be destroyed in seconds and all our possessions can be taken away in an instant. We’re not taking anything with us when we die, so while we’re here, give your best, and take the time to enjoy all that you are and all you have.
Consider the following
When life does not go as you’ve planned, remember:
- Both success and failure are a part of life
- Take chances, make mistakes, take responsibility and try again
- Being the best version of yourself starts with your mindset
- Put your (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) health first
- Sometimes we’ll have to do things that we don’t like, just for the better
- Give more than you take
- Trouble will come, but better days lie ahead
- Life won’t be fair, get over it
- Believe in yourself, even if no one else does
If you want to be the best, you will have to give your best. Give all you have, do it with love and you will overcome and accomplish whatever you’ve set out to do. Through even the smallest achievements/experiences you can inspire others. Such chances will present itself to you on a daily basis, and I only hope that you are willing to make use of these to make a difference. We are social beings and I believe that we are wired to help each other. Peace in the world starts with peace within our hearts and how we treat those around us and those who cannot or are unable to help themselves. Lead by example. For those who made it: Congratulations. This is just the beginning.
Feel free to send me a message if you needs some words.
“Wherever you’ll go and whatever you choose to do, I hope that you are happy and that you are making the best of life.” ~ Vishant
- Giovanni Madari for capturing all the awesome moments
- Sasha for providing me with the needed assistance and rewriting the text when needed
- Simon noerdjan for helping me with a title
- Everyone who has supported directly or indirectly with this article