Today I drank coffee for the first time in three years (1023 days, to be precise). Not sure why. I woke up at 5 AM and drove down to Los Altos to speak in their writer’s week. I got 6 hours of sleep (I normally sleep like 8-9 hours), but I felt really tired, really out of it. I decided to drink just a splash of coffee, which really did pep me up. Then I drank many more splashes, and now here I am sitting at a Philz with my heart hammering.
I stopped drinking coffee, all those years ago, because I realized: a) it was interfering with my sleep; and b) I can always power through and do what I need to do, no matter how tired I am.
But this time I really didn’t feel like I could.
EEhh, I dion’t know. Writer’s week went great! I don’t do that many school visits, but I always enjoy them. I keep it very unstructured. I just give a little spiel and then take questions for the rest of the period (anyone who knows me knows I can speak extemporaneously for as long as I need to).
I do feel like sometimes I disappoint the English teachers when I speak, because they expect me to say, given the subject of my book, that getting into college is no big deal, and that you shouldn’t stress out about it. They expect me to say you should be intrinsically motivated (by sheer love of the material) rather than extrinsically motivated (by the prospect of getting acclaim and going to a good college). But I mean, come on, let’s be real. If you’re motivated only by love of learning, then getting As is not a good value proposition. What you ought to do is study enough that you know the material, and then you should move on and look into things that interest you. But that’s not the world we live in. You go to school, and your grades matter. The college you go to matters. You close off future opportunities if you don’t get good grades. Now, do I think you’re a bad or stupid person if you don’t get good grades? No. Do I think you’re a failure if you don’t get into a good college? No.
I think the three* main determinants, in life, of success are: a) luck; b) connections and class privilege; and c) the ability to shrug off failure and keep trying. The first two are things that aren’t innate to you. And the third thing is something you only acquire by actually failing. By definition, people who get into elite colleges have not been tested by the crucible of failure. So no, I think what college you go to has absolutely no bearing on who you are as a person.
But I also think it helps with most things. Given that you have to go to school anyway, if you have any kind of aspirations in life, it doesn’t hurt to shoot for the top.
*There’s also an invisible X factor of course: the spark of genius. But it’s impossible to know whether you have, or will ever have, that spark of genius, so I just class it under “luck.”