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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Take the shot: Redefining success

As the semester enters the straightaway toward our long awaited winter break, many UNI students are beginning to put their efforts into high-gear and setting winter finals into focus. This seemingly endless stretch of exams, while strenuous, offers necessary feedback to students as an indicator for how they’ve progressed throughout the semester. For most students, they really look at these exams to find out one thing: “Am I successful?” It’s a good question to ask, but also a sensitive topic to some that may feel nervous about the future. In light of the pending conclusion to the semester, it might be helpful to refine the definition and answer the million dollar question: What is success, really? 

Many answers could attempt to sum this up simply; A good salary? A spotless final transcript? A 4-car garage? Being the best at what you do? Being happy? All of these are commendable achievements, but it may not fully cover the truth of success. Put success into the perspective of career accolades. More specifically, in the eyes of Stephen Curry, the best shooter of all time (objectively). 

Without much argument, many would easily describe Curry’s career as a professional basketball player a wild success. His shooting abilities put his face on the front of ESPN articles on a regular basis. He’s used his abilities to assist the Golden State Warriors to four championships within his career, but when you dive into statistics, it makes you really question the meaning of success. He has made incredible strides as a basketball player, but there are interesting things to unpack about his success. 

Within his entire career, Curry has shot 24,104 shots, excluding free throws. Out of those 24,104 shots? He made 11,065. That means that Stephen Curry, a renowned basketball player known for his shooting abilities, makes 45% of his shots according to ESPN’s stats. And yet, we don’t doubt for a second that he is successful. 

So, to touch base back with the initial question at hand, ask yourself: “Am I successful?”

To answer this question, circle back again and define: “What is success, really?” But this time, take your personal life into account, not a distant extrapersonal example of a basketball player. 

Success is not all about numbers. The more you internalize that, the more you learn to appreciate the value of wins and losses. When you get your scores back over break, while they are still important, they are not direct indicators of your success as a student. Furthermore, they do not define who you are as a person. 

Think about this. If you hadn’t been enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa, you would not have had the opportunity to take that exam. So, in that context, simply being a student is a step ahead from getting a good grade back on an exam. Additionally, if you hadn’t been motivated to make the ambitious decision to go to college after graduating high school, to then decide to apply to UNI, get accepted and from there enroll in classes, you would not be in this position now awaiting test scores for a final exam. You can go further and further back to find much more success hidden in your nervousness this winter break. 

All of these versions of success point to a much simpler answer to the question of success. Arguably, success is waking up knowing that you are going somewhere and why. Bring this back to Stephen Curry. While his career as a professional athlete is not in direct relation to being a college student at UNI, the path he took may look eerily similar. Again, he made 45% of his shots taken. The inverse: he missed 55%. Also, this is a statistic pulled from 24,104 shots. This shows that he did not stop simply because he missed one. He had a reason why he should keep shooting. He had a motivation to keep on going somewhere even if success wasn’t guaranteed after every shot. That, in itself, is success. 

So, following finals week, somewhat ironically keep Stephen Curry in your thoughts when you reflect on your semester. Maybe you took a lot of shots, maybe you missed a lot of them too. Take time to understand why you kept shooting. If you are going somewhere, and you know why, then your failures should hold as much value to you as your successes. Don

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