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​"It Is What You Make It!"

I believe that the term, "it is what it is," is overused.

Far too often I hear individuals, and sometimes students, use this expression. The term, "it is what it is," should be reserved for unique situations where external stimuli or behaviour have little or no chance of making a difference. If you are half way up a steep hill of which you need to summit, then "it is what it is," and you have no choice but to march on and complete your climb. Other "it is what it is," examples might include a scorching hot day, a terrestrial downpour or an unfortunate health diagnosis. Even in those situations, we have options regarding how we choose to work through them.

However, most aspects of life follow the action-reaction phenomena. Working harder usually results in better results, and proper planning usually increases the likelihood of successful execution. This is also referred to as having 'affect' on the outcome.

Recently I was talking to a group of students about their summer plans. After determining that the job market was competitive, a few of them said that they weren't going to bother applying at all. They took the "it is what it is," attitude. I explained that when you are looking for work, "it is what you make it." I tried to encourage them to explore beyond the want ads, to conduct some research and work to try to create opportunities. In this situation, my goal was to teach them it is what you make it.

For the most part, life is still a merit-based society that rewards results with additional opportunity. We need to remind the next generation of the link connecting effort, merit and opportunity. I remember attending a speech by Bill Clinton where he mentioned that when this causal link had been fractured in certain parts of Africa, the resulting negative consequences were staggering. In fact, he said that if the causal link is broken, it can take generations for it to return.

Unfortunately, on a macro level, this is what we are presently observing in parts of Greece. The younger generations are having difficulty connecting hard work with increased opportunity, and this can result in chaos and the potential creation of a lost generation.  

As educators, we have an obligation to connect the merits of effort, preparation, and perseverance. This will help us create the "grit" that appears to be missing in some of today's millennials.

Having students understand that their efforts and results are closely linked is a powerful message. Interestingly enough, the main piece of advice that our senior students learned at a recent Future's Day was the benefits of hard work.

Remember, it is what you make it.

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