the real secret to success
“Those who succeed do what others won’t.”
An awkward haircut, an uncertainty about where life was headed, and a Jansport backpack accessorizing my ninth-grade self, I walked into the biology class rumored to be a nightmare. The teacher, Mr. Stevens, was known as being very stern, tough, and a no B.S. kind of guy. I was always the studious type, but I knew that Honors Bio was going to be a challenge.
I was right.
Looking back, that class was probably harder than most of the college classes and grad school classes I would take years later. Mr. Stevens pushed us to the limit of our academic abilities. On a Friday, he’d assign a chapter that we would be tested on less than a week later. Words like mitochondria and photosynthesis floated in my fifteen-year-old brain; I would look at those chapters and wonder how I would ever succeed. I cried. I worked hours and hours on weekends. It was no joke.
But through it all, Mr. Stevens always reminded us of the sentiment: Those who succeed do what others won’t. He always pointed out that the last word was won’t, not can’t. In other words, those who achieve their goals put in hard work, something most people won’t do.
And here’s the thing—that class changed everything for me. First, I realized I could do it. I could be successful with dedication. Now, over twenty years later, I still think of those words and those lessons I learned. I might not remember the full photosynthesis process or every bone in a frog. But I do remember that when things feel impossible, I’ve been there before—and I also know I’m capable.
Mr. Stevens gave me something I think we don’t value enough in today’s education system and in society in general—the chance to work hard and challenge myself. Through that hard work that sometimes made me cry, I learned grit, tenacity, and most importantly, confidence. If you’re never pushed past your limits, you’ll never know what you’re actually made of.
And finally, he taught me that to get where you want to go, you have to be willing to make sacrifices. You have to sometimes do what others won’t.
You have to get up at 5 a.m. so you have time to work on that book.
You have to turn off Netflix to study for that degree you’re chasing.
You have to plan ahead so your meals don’t get off course when you go out with friends.
You have to sweat a little, sacrifice a little, and be willing to get knocked down.
You have to do what others won’t in order to live the life you want.
I’m so thankful that twenty years later, Mr. Steven’s words still ring true for me, still inspire me to chase greatness. Most of all, I’m thankful that the tough-love teacher (who probably would be scolded today for his tactics) came into my life when he did so I could learn the true value of hard work and also my own capabilities.
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USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books