Can “Wanting it Now” mean “Getting it Never”?

Maturity can be defined as the ability to defer gratification. What does that mean? We all know what it means. It’s the ant and the grasshopper.

quote_id60In Aesop’s fable, the ant worked hard and happily, to lay up food for the coming winter. The grasshopper, finding food plentiful in the warm summer days, played his time away, and made fun of the hard work of the ant. But winter brought disaster to the grasshopper— he had no food, and saw the ant with plenty to last through the hard cold days ahead.

The ant survived in comfort because he deferred gratification. Then he reaped the fruits of his patience and his wisdom.

Maybe higher education seems out of reach. Sure, you want to earn now, buy things now, enjoy things now. You look ahead to more years of sacrifice and learning, and doing without the new toys some of your friends have. You want your own car, your own apartment, money in your pocket. You want it NOW.

True story. Young woman graduates from high school. Her dream is to become a nurse. Too bad— her parents won’t pay for a degree in nursing. So, young woman enters the college her parents want. She also, at the same time, without her parents’ knowing it, enters nursing school. Young woman gets work as a nurse’s aide to pay her own way through nursing school. She works so hard that she gets her B.A. in 2 1/2 years, and her R.N. at the same time.

img_id60_nursingSo, our young woman is now 21 years old, with an R.N. degree. And her future is secure. She is offered positions at a dozen hospitals, in as many cities. Nurses have been sought after by hospitals and other medical institutions at an increasing salary level, for decades.

This young woman won her dream. It took years of crushing work. Stress. Worry. Lost sleep. But most of all, it was driven by a single-minded determination— she never quit, because she had ENTHUSIASM. Because she was fighting for her DREAM! Like I said, true story. It can be done.

Not trying is easy. You can find any number of excuses. But every excuse has an answer, if you want to achieve. Not trying is easy, but the penalty is high. In fact, the penalty lasts the rest of your life. The penalty for lack of education is a life sentence of drastically lower expectations, security, and happiness.

Is your problem time? You can’t work and study at the same time? It’s amazing, how those who succeed always somehow find the time. Or is it tuition? Student loans carry post-grad debt, but the investment is absolutely the best you’ll ever make in your life to come. And more help is on the way. To ease the financial pains of college, President Obama wants to raise Pell Grants to reduce student debt.

And to increase the skills of high school grads, the president’s announcement of $4 billion in rewards to high-achieving high schools is another signal of his determination to improve the ability of high school graduates, helping them achieve more in the very competitive arenas of higher education, and the high-paying careers that can follow.

“We’re not going to have the engineers and the scientists to continue space exploration if we don’t have kids who are able to read, write and compute,” Obama said when discussing the future of NASA.

“Open the doors to all,” declared New York City College founder Townsend Harris in 1847. “Let the children of the rich and poor take their seats together and know of no distinction save that of industry, good conduct and intellect.” Even during the Great Depression, New York City could afford to provide free higher education at a very high level of quality.

So, maturity in government, not just individuals, can be also defined as the ability to defer gratification. By investing in the future of its citizens, a nation nurtures the youth who will become the thinkers and leaders of our world to come. Can you do less for yourself?

Don’t ever stop looking ahead. Look far ahead, the way you look ahead driving at night on the freeway. Search your future for answers, make it yours, safeguard it. Where will you be five years from now, then years? On the top? Or on the bottom?

Will “wanting it now”, for you, mean “getting it never”? Or will you do the work now, and reap the rewards for the rest of your life?

Get excited about learning. Bring joy to your dream of a better life. Work with that enthusiasm, as if your life depended on it.

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