I just finished reading a great book about the best distance runners on the planet–the Tarahumara Indians in the Sierra Madre mountain range in Mexico. The Tarahumara routinely run 100-200 miles in rugged terrain wearing homemade sandals. And the best part is how much they love doing it. They smile and enjoy themselves while they're running. Even when they were brought to the US and began competing in (and winning) 100-mile ultra marathons, they're just laughing and having fun while they do it. The author says that while we run to win races or to punish ourselves for eating a big slice of cheesecake last night, the Tarahumara run for one reason–because they love to do it. And nobody can do it better.
Now, you know there's a college admissions lesson coming here…
The most successful college applicants I've ever met didn't take hard classes because they wanted to get into famous colleges; they took hard classes because they wanted to be challenged and learn something. They didn't do community service because they wanted to put it on a college application; they did it because they really wanted to help someone. Their excitement about college has nothing to do with getting into an Ivy League school. They might be happy to go to one but that's not why they do what they do. They're happier, more interesting, more confident and just plain cooler than kids who make all their decisions based on what they think Stanford will appreciate.
Like the Tarahumara, they do it because they love it. It's not about winning a competition for them. And yet they beat out the other applicants who spend four years of high school trying to make themselves competitive without enjoying most of the experience.
It's your choice. Which kid do you want to be?