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What leads some to be successful and others to be less so? This is a question that most people attempt to answer. In a competitive, capitalistic, idea-driven society, the idea of success permeates every facet of life from education, to athletics, to career paths. While many things may determine success, including luck, the traits one possess is a contributing factor.
A trait I have chosen to include as an integral part of my path to success is being observant. Observation is a powerful tool that can be used in the acquisition of new traits and habits that facilitate the attainment of success.
I will never forget the lessons I have learned from simple observation of the actions of those around me. From these observations I have been able to select and emulate actions and traits that seem to lead to success. Observation however, is only a tool and does not encompass the fully personality profile of a person. This point if eloquently expressed by Haruki Murakami in his quote: “I think that my job is to observe people and the world, and not to judge them.
I always hope to position myself away from so-called conclusions. I would like to leave everything wide open to all the possibilities in the world, ”(Murikama). Traits that observers have, from my perspective are: inquisitiveness, respectfulness, self awareness, discretion, and pride.
There is no better story to encapsulate my acquisition of observation and the traits that accompany it than the transitionary periods in my life.
The most recent periods of great transition can be seen in the move from eighth to ninth grade. From examining this memory I have found that observation has had levels of impact on different areas of my life from friendships, to athletics, to academics, which all connect in some way back to each other.
It was the summer before ninth grade before highschool had started. But to me, it had very much felt like school had already started. The summer English reading assignment had been a slog to complete. Thankfully, shortly after it’s completion, I was able to go on vacation to the Pacific Northwest. This vacation did give me a much needed break, and worked to hone my skills in observation. This vacation I decided to truly observe the beautiful scenery around me and internalize what I saw. On most vacations before that I had not done this. However this was not where my active habit of observation began. It was simply the precursor.
Sweat is dripping down my forehead. I am hot, sweaty, and feeling uncomfortable. I have just run for close to six miles for cross country. This now trivial distance was difficult when I was an unathletic freshman. Cross country before band camp, especially before the season started was the pinnacle of discomfort in every respect. Band camp after that is a slight improvement as I have a few friends to discuss trivialities with that take my mind off of the pressing matters in my life. Frequent topics include video games and politics. I remain ever observant in band emulating to a certain extent the behaviors of those around me as to conform and not appear inept.
This is especially useful when we are doing practice runs of our show because I am gone for cross country practice so often. This mean I am given significantly less time than other people to know where I am going and what I am doing. Instead of memorizing the drill sheet like the others, I simply fit the form on the field. This works well, increasing my efficiency drastically, and procures me a decent relationship with many of the upper classman and leaders of the band. This method, I come to find, is used by most of the upper classman and they start to notice a Freshman acting remarkably similarly to them. I am now known as the “mature freshman” and have a group of associates in the upper echelons of the band. The cross country front during this time period is primarily stagnant, because while my times are greatly improving they still lag far behind some of the better people on the team. This is because in cross country your times largely determine how well known you are. While everyone is cordial I don’t yet have the connections I made in band.
It is the end of cross country and band season, and I look back on my time in both fondly. Despite the constant discomfort felt during the Summer, I steadily grow fond of the activities. In cross country I cut six minutes off my five kilometer time to twenty-one minutes, and in band we have had a successful season. However, I decide that it is not worth changing a second semester class to a band, so I end band on a high note. My massive improvements in cross country spur me on to continue improving my running through the Winter with Winter track. I am able to get a friend to join which helps break the ice with people who I had never previously spoken to from cross country.
The process of breaking the ice with people in Winter track is more alike to a slow thaw because I don’t want to appear desperate to make more friends. I use the tool of observation to slowly integrate myself into my preferred group of friends as opposed to acting like I was their friend all along. This slow integration fits with my prideful, self conscious nature, and affinity for discretion. This process is aided by my observations made of these people, giving me good conversation starters and providing me valuable information to keep up in the conversation. These people are now some of my best friends and I speak with them everyday at practice, despite being in lower grades than they are. From these new companions I am able to hear how they have found success in highschool and how they navigated things such as: the SAT’s, AP classes, and college admissions. From this I am able to be more successful myself, and in the process have gained a set of dependable and trustworthy allies.
This period of transition in my life is something I consider to be one of my greatest accomplishments. I used the tool of observation and the traits that it accompany it to find traction in the tumultuous climb that defines highschool. While there are many ways to attain levels of success. I have found that observation has been my guiding star in the stormy sea; tactfully gaining me a reliable friend base that has in turn helped me achieve success in school and on the track. Or as Arthur Conan Doyle says ‘“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”’ (Doyle). This I believe.
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