Success: Give Your Child Tools to Achieve

Every parent would love to tell their kids a surefire formula for success, that tidbit of wisdom for a lifetime.


Benjamin Franklin said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Hmm. Not bad for a guy who lived in the 18th century and didn’t even Google. But there’s always room for improvement. So, here’s my 21st century stab at this: Passion and perseverance conquer all things.


Passion: One of my sons thought college was tedious and uninspiring. He plodded along, apparently enjoying weekends more than his classes. But it was after college that he said, “I’ve always wanted to be a helicopter pilot.”

We were amazed. Where in the world did that come from?

Our family looked at each other quizzically, but encouraged by his wife, he decided to pursue his passion. Suddenly, he started talking enthusiastically about being a helicopter pilot—discussing technical details that are often beyond my understanding. He reads voraciously about helicopters, wanting to learn everything he can. He is now flying solo, scored very high on the FAA exam, will soon earn his license, and has already committed to become a Certified Flight Instructor. He has found his passion.

Confucius had this figured out 2,500 years ago: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Perseverance: We want students to take Advanced Placement classes at our high school. Students taking AP classes find the classes to be difficult. Many who are used to getting A grades will sometimes get a low grade on the first assessment and want to drop the class.

One senior tells about her first AP experience last year. After getting a D on the first assessment, she wanted to drop the class. Her teacher and counselor urged her not to quit, so she finally decided to stick it out. She ended up with a B in the class, did well on the AP exam, and today is confidently enrolled in several AP classes. Now she encourages peers to take AP classes. This student learned that sheer perseverance results in success: the key is don’t be a quitter. There’s a lot of wisdom in the Buddhist saying, “If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.”

Passion and perseverance. That’s it. A simple (but not simplistic) formula we can all apply to our lives.

Dr. Witherspoon is the superintendent of Evanston Township High School.