Are You Successful?

I have this fundamental belief that everyone wants to achieve success. From the high achiever in your office to the slacker in the office next to you, we all want to succeed. However, I am not naïve enough to think that we all have the same idea of what that means or how to go about the pursuit of success.

Aristotle, in the opening sentences of Nicomachean Ethics*, says, “Every art or applied science [energeia] and every systematic investigation, and similarly every action and choice, seem to aim at some good…. But it is clear that there is a difference in the ends at which they aim: in some cases the activity is the end, in others the end is some product beyond the activity…. Since there are many activities, arts, and sciences, the number of ends is correspondingly large: of medicine the end is health, of shipbuilding a vessel, of strategy victory, of household management wealth, and of registrarial action _______.”

Ok, you caught me! He doesn’t actually include that last part of registrarial action. But if he did, what do you think he would list as the end of your work? Is it some activity? Is it a product beyond the activity? How would you define success?

This is a difficult question, isn’t it?

Let’s consider it from a student’s perspective, and my own personal experience as a student. When I was an undergraduate, I had a clear vision of success: a degree in hand! I wanted a degree so badly I could taste it. Consequently, I pursued it with all possible speed. I took as many courses as I was allowed to take in a semester and I did only what was required of me to pass those courses with a GPA high enough to graduate. I was impatient with my fellow students and professors who mistakenly assumed I wanted to learn something. Couldn’t they see I was on a mission? Stop asking silly questions. Sigh, I’ll write that assignment as fast as possible. Get out of my way, I want that parchment!

Unfortunately, I got exactly what I wanted but no more. I missed out on some really valuable learning, and I missed out on a lot of fun too. But I got my degree.

When I pursued a graduate degree, I had a very different vision of success. I had been bounced around enough to have the sharp corners of my ego knocked off. Now I wanted to learn. What a difference! I still took as many courses as I possibly could, but for a very different reason. When I heard about a particular professor of note I would go to my program supervisor to ask if I could squeeze that course in. I’d visit with a fellow student, find out what his favourite course was and sign up for it the next time around. I was the one asking questions, completing every assignment, and working very hard to squeeze every bit of learning I could out of my degree. In the end, I got my degree, along with a bunch of extra courses.

Did I achieve success the second time around? I think I achieved much more than I had ever hoped for. I now know that learning isn’t a product – it’s a constant pursuit.

What does success look like for you in the Registrar’s profession? Is it having error free data? Is it getting all the degrees conferred in time and for the right students? Is it having short line-ups and fast processing of student inquiries? Is it recruiting and admitting more students than last year? Is it being known as the person to go to for solutions and ideas?

How will you know if you’ve achieved success? When you’re bored and can do the job in your sleep? When you’re excited and engaged? When people go to you as the guru? When you get that plum job (Registrar of the WORLD!)?

How will you know?

I’d like to start a series of stories that illustrate success. Send me your stories of successful Registrarialness. I’ll post them here and perhaps we can develop an archive of success stories. You can ask me to keep them anonymous, but I’d rather have your name and school posted. Don’t be afraid of bragging, especially if you’re Canadian. We need to celebrate success a little more than we do. If you are afraid of bragging, tell me stories about your colleagues’ success.

Email me with your stories at grant.mcmillan@twu.ca

*I plucked this quote from the version translated by Martin Ostwald, published by Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle, NJ, 1999, page 3.

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