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The Zagre Award: Instilling the Norm of Excellence ( Part II and Final)

In the first part, we focused more on the motivation or desire the Zagre Award can potentially instill in the hearts and minds of students and their families. In this part, more emphasis will be placed on what such a valuable achievement should mean to the achievers so that for the norm of excellence to be further nurtured.  It has to be noted that what the winners have done so far is insignificant when compared to what they can do using their untapped potential, and with what we all expect them to do and with what they can do using the cumulative experiences they have acquired in the course of accomplishing what they have achieved and the inspiration they have been equipped with as a result of their achievements.

What is more important for the winners is not the award or what they have already achieved but what they can do in the future. I can’t tell what matriculation and the achievements associated with it meant for me upon the completion of my high school studies. A semester later (I can say even before that) at the university, however, I came to realize that this meant nothing compared to the challenges that were ahead of me in my undergraduate studies. For this reason, I had to be more concerned with my semester results and what I was subsequently supposed to do. And what mattered most is not what I achieved during matriculation but how I would perform in my undergraduate studies. This is because the latter has more influence in my life. It affects, among other things, my employment, my socio-economic status, and the possibility of continuing my studies further.   

Potential is unlimited and success can be one of the greatest enemies of potential. Success is a stepping stone and very heartening for further achievements but also has the potential to be a cause for stagnation and regression – people move not only forward with what they have achieved but they can also move backward when they get corrupted with what they have achieved. There are many instances whereby we can understand how success has killed the potential of many people. We should realize that a journey towards reaching our potential is a journey to the sky. We should not make an end to it.

Let me give an example that shows how success may be a cause for regression rather than progression in one’s life. He is a young person with remarkably comprehensive knowledge – he is a holistic individual. Hence, I used to enjoy the enlightening points he used to contribute in our informal discussions as workmates. He was one of the good achievers in school. Furthermore, he was also a talented basket ball player. Consequently, he started to play basket ball and was able to become a successful player. This enabled him to be very famous. Very unfortunately, as he confided to me, his fame and the compliments connected with his achievements behaviorally corrupted him, and he became an irresponsible individual; eventually, he became a drunkard and a drug-addicted person. This considerably aborted his progress in school and sport. More importantly, his health was negatively affected and reached a point of deterioration where it can not be restored as a consequence of the destructive habits. His future was totally disrupted as a result of his corrupted behavior.  Even though he is a considerably talented young person, in the end he was multiplied by zero because his short-lived achievements and the fame associated with his success in sport corrupted his mind and accordingly his future life as a whole. The problem is that he was unable to properly manage his talents and his potential. 

I felt pity for him thinking how successful he could have been in life had his potential and talents not been misused. There are many similar cases – people who are very talented and with enormous prospects for extraordinary achievements but get multiplied by zero simply because of lack of discipline and effective mechanisms of self management. This indicates that although achievements can uplift our confidence and inspire us to do more in our future endeavors; they can also have an equally regressive impact in our life if we are unable to effectively resist the temptations to get behaviorally corrupted with the achievements we happen to realize at a particular stage of our life. Success sometimes seems to me just like a virus that corrupts the mind of achievers. It makes our mind malnourished and stunts our personal development by restricting our endeavors to reach our potential.

Success, and by implication the happiness and pride associated with it, is by its very nature short-lived unless the efforts, experiences, the discipline and behavior that are behind successful achievements are sustained and nurtured further.  Success can either limit our progress or push us forward to far superior achievements depending on how much wise we are in looking at our achievements in a comprehensive way and in perceiving our achievements properly. What we achieve should not prevent us from what we can further achieve. Dr. Myles Munroe, in his book entitled Understanding Your Potential: Discovering the Hidden You, asserts that success is not a comparison of what we have done with what others have done; it is simply coming up to the level of our best, making the most of our abilities and possibilities.

If we are obsessed with the habit of comparing ourselves with other people, we can possibly feel that we are more successful when compared even to less than average people, even if in practical terms we happen to be average individuals. So the standard for comparison in assessing ourselves and what we have done should be what we can potentially do. You are more than what you have done according to this argument. Let me again quote from Dr. Munroe’s book in relation to how we understand and how we should understand the potential stored within us:

To simplify the concept let us look at one of the most powerful elements in nature – the seed. If I held a seed in my hand and asked you, “What do I have in my hand?” what would you say? Perhaps you would answer what seems to be the obvious – a seed.  However, if you understand the nature, your answer would be fact but not truth. The truth is I hold a forest in my hand. Why? Because in every seed there is a tree, and in every tree there is a fruit or flowers with seed in them. And these seeds also have trees that have fruit that have seeds—- that have trees that have fruit that have seeds etc. In essence, what you see is not all there is. That is potential. Not what is but what could be (2002, pp 24-25).   According to what the author believes, potential refers to reserved power, unused success, and hidden talents. Accordingly, potential is all you can be but have not yet become, all you can do but have not yet done, how far you can reach but have not yet reached, what you can accomplish but have not yet accomplished. Potential is, therefore, according to the definition given to it by Dr. Munroe, not what you have done, but what you are yet able to do. In other words, what you have done is no longer your potential. What you have successfully accomplished is no longer your potential. It is said that unless you do something beyond what you have already done, you will never grow or experience your full potential (Munroe, 2002).

In effect, if we happen to assume that our past achievements largely reflect our potential, we will be misguided by our perspectives. We should think not in terms of the seed but in terms of the forest. If we think in terms of the seed, we will be static. What matters most is not what we happen to achieve at one stage of our life or whether we sustain our achievements or not but how dynamic we are in life. Dr Munroe advises us not to be satisfied with our last accomplishments in order to be able to realize our full potential. He believes that the minute we begin to settle down and be satisfied with what we have, we lose the possibility of revealing what is really inside us – our potential. He insists that too often we die without exploring the gifts and abilities and success that lay hidden within us.

As it has been discussed in the previous part, achievements like the Zagre award if sustained to the extent required, can enable a learner to maximize his or her choices in life. Thinking in these lines, high score upon the completion of undergraduate studies may put you (because of your competitive advantage) in advantageous places in the workplace. In this case, we may think that your score in matriculation becomes a means to join a field of study of choice and what you have to achieve in the department or college of choice becomes the goal.  Furthermore, what you have to achieve in the college of choice soon becomes a means to another end; it becomes a means to a career of choice. And later in life what matters most is your actual performance in the workplace.

This is to mean that the time will come when your credentials (certificates) become a means and what you have to actually perform becomes an end. We can also alternatively think that the results that you may get in your field of specialization will help you in your future endeavors (e.g. to pursue master’s degree). And what you achieve in that level will potentially determine what you will do next (in the workplace or in pursuing further studies such as doctorate degree). And who knows this, as an end, may not be the end, but a means to further or superior performance. There could be further means and ends. This is because the sky has to be the limit. To this extent, one can not put a period to what s/he has to perform or achieve. The point is that we should think and act comprehensively and not exclusively. Our past life, our present life and our future life are very interlinked and cannot be treated on a separable basis. We should just realize that the journey towards reaching our potential is a journey to the sky. We should not limit our potential. Think not in terms of a seed but in terms of a forest.


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