When I was a teenager my goal was to go to university. I worked hard, I studied hard and passed A Levels in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Further Maths, and won a place at Manchester University, where I chose to study Chemical Engineering.
The fact that I had a clear goal to get to university motivated me to do the required work.
Unfortunately, once I got university I didn’t have a goal for what I would do once I was there, I didn’t know what career I wanted to do. I didn’t even really know what I wanted to study, I just fell into Chemical Engineering as it involved Maths, Chemistry and Physics, so it seemed like a good fit.
Although I never actually wanted to be a chemical engineer, I didn’t even know what chemical engineers did.
All this led to a lack of motivation to work hard, and basically I just drank and played rugby, I actually attended very few lectures, and those I did I didn’t really pay very much attention.
The result of all this, I actually failed, finishing 75th out of a class 79 students.
The university just felt I had not studied hard enough and I was given the opportunity to retake the first year again.
But that would have been crazy.
I needed to figure out what I wanted to do, I needed to have a clear goal, one that would motivate me to work and study hard. Studying something that would be relevant to my future career.
I needed to understand what I would do, and why the course I was going to do was important.
So I went away and I thought about it, this was 1980 and computing was just in its infancy, I thought about studying that, but I decided to take Mathematics. This way I would be positioned for a career in computing, but I would also have a few options if I didn’t like computing.
Now I had a clearer vision, I understood why I was studying Maths and why that was important to me.
This motivated me to work much harder, I did find it a struggle at times as Maths is pretty hard, but because I knew why I was doing it I did enough work to ensure that I finally graduated and moved into a career in computing.
It was having the vision, knowing what success looked like, that got me through the tough times.
When we don’t have that it’s so easy to quit.
So if you want to increase your probability of success, then you need to understand what your goals are and have a clear picture of success.