Stocker: Why you should want — not need — to succeed


Alexi Stocker, Columnist

With the start of a new quarter, academic success is undoubtedly on the mind of nearly every Northwestern student. Many of us are making resolutions to improve our grades, to get straight As, to not cram for every exam the night before. However, just as so many of us start the quarter with the sincerest intention of setting things right academically, procrastination inevitably sets in. Cramming commences and, come week seven or eight, a 4.0 for the quarter becomes a near impossibility.

Through my own personal experiences and talks with numerous fellow seniors and NU alumni, I have found that success — whether in academics, careers, personal health and fitness, or interpersonal relationships — all comes down to one simple rule: To succeed, “you gotta really want it.” The desire to achieve, rather than a perceived need to succeed, is absolutely crucial for success, especially in an environment as competitive as NU. Feeling a need for success is stressful and exhausting; the desire to succeed, on the other hand, provides the needed motivation and vigor to expend the necessary effort.

There are, admittedly, other components to success. Doing well in a course requires some degree of interest in the subject matter. Achieving personal fitness goals can be hindered or helped by environmental factors. Landing an ideal internship or job is always easier when you know the right people in the right places. Making friends or finding a significant other is a little easier for those of us who are more physically attractive, naturally confident or just more charming in some way or another.

When I say, “you gotta really want it,” I mean that each of us, as individual actors, must truly desire success. It is important to draw distinction between feeling a genuine desire for success versus feeling a need for success. The feeling of needing success implies external factors beyond our own personal ambitions and goals are the primary motivating factor. Feeling a need to succeed may be a result of parental, peer or societal pressure, an effort to overcompensate for a real or perceived flaw or some other source of anxiety, fear, anger, humiliation and frustration. Although feeling a need for success can deliver short-term positive results, I have observed that fueling the effort necessary for success in ultra-competitive environments with such negative emotions runs a high risk of burning out. Feeling a need to succeed as a means of combatting our personal insecurities will never bring us satisfaction, as each triumph, each victory, only treats the symptoms of our perceived deficiencies, rather than addressing their root causes.

The genuine desire to succeed must stem from our own aspirations, a product of what we want out of our lives, rather than what we think others expect of us. I have found the hard work required for success is made possible by the understanding that I am working for myself and nobody else, that my priorities are self-improvement, personal development and, above all else, my own happiness.

This philosophy yields not only success, but also, more importantly, satisfaction and enjoyment, two crucial prerequisites for continued effort and hard work. What are the ultimate implications of “you gotta really want it?” Simply put, it is important that each and every one of us take a moment at the beginning of this quarter to really think about why we want to succeed. Do we have a genuine desire for success or, rather, a perceived need for it? Answering that question is crucial not only in succeeding academically or professionally, but also in determining what we really want with and from our lives. We can only “really want” to succeed in courses, jobs, internships, sports or even relationships that bring us true fulfillment. “You gotta really want it” speaks both to the necessity of hard work and the value of being true to ourselves.

Alexi Stocker is a Weinberg senior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.