Do Statistics Tell You What You're Gonna Do?

I’d received a frantic phone call from my student’s parent.  My student and his parents were having deep issues on his choice for a university.  And they’ve been arguing in circles, unable to come to an understanding of each other.

The next day I went over to their home and mediated.  The parents had significant concerns regarding their son’s decision process.  Keep in mind that he has a bouquet of Ivy Leagues in front of him to choose from.  He’d narrowed it down to three schools.  His parents, in their minds, narrowed it down to one.  That one university had better statistics regarding retention of freshmen and transference to graduate schools.

However, I saw that my student had already made his choice.  I kept that to myself.

The conflict was simple.  The parents based their knowledge of their favored university through guides and statistics.  My student based his choice on how he connected to the people and the university when he visited there on his college tour.

His parents didn’t understand how he could make a monumental decision based on feeling.  He didn’t understand why they wouldn’t accept his intuition.  Neither party listened to each other, or talked each other’s language.

I fully supported my student’s intuitive decision, but also supported his parents’ point of view.  So I translated what they were saying to each other.

So what’s the point?

There are two.

No matter where you go to get your education, it’s not the school that makes the person, it’s the person that makes the person.

When I was at the crappy martial arts school (see my bio), my fellow instructors always made fun of other martial arts, their weaknesses, their form, their kiai—yell (rolling my eyeballs).  What I learned, especially from watching people fight, is that there are two components to winning.  Skill and mental toughness.  But if you had all the skill in the world and no mental toughness, then you might as well lie down and die.  Because, when skill levels are equal, it’s the person that has grit that usually pulls the win.

Isn’t that life?  What do people always say?  Life’s a marathon not a sprint.  Not that life has to be hard.  But you have to delve into your work, be it raising children, building a bridge, writing a book, to succeed.  Then you have to continue your work once you do.

Side note:  Do what you love, and love what you do.

So once my student, who’s already smarter than I, gets his Ivy League education, it’s his grit, love for his work that will make him a great man.

The second point is never believe in statistics.  In this case, the parents’ top choice statically had greater retention of freshmen and graduate school transfers. However, the stats don’t say what my student will do, nor do they represent how well he’ll do.

In the end, peace fell upon the house, and my student will go to the school he wants to go to.  To him, whom I’ve worked with for many years, I only wish you the best.