Shoot for the moon…

vincentIn kindergarten, my teacher had a bright neon poster of a shooting star within the galaxy that read, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” She always reaffirmed that as we progress in life, it was in our best interest to have our goals set high. If you are going to do something, why not do it with your utmost ability? If you are going to take a test, why not aim for an A? If you are going to take an actuary exam, why not aim higher than a 6? Why not 7, 8, or even 10! When I discovered the Adapt program through Coaching Actuaries, I repeatedly read that an earned level of 7 would open up a 90% probability of passing. Naturally, following the neon poster from kindergarten like it was a divine oracle, I thought, “Why not an 8?! If I get an earned level of 8 there’s no way I won’t pass!”

Those months were marked by hours of studying, grieving when my earned level dropped below 6, and then flying high when it finally reached the illustrious 8. I made it! Yet, even reaching my goal, I did not feel fully satisfied. In my crazy ambitious mind I thought, “Why not 9?” In the week before my exam, I worked hard to reach 9, but was unable to make it in time. Did I enter the test center wondering if I had studied enough? Absolutely not, I knew that I had given it my personal best and that everything else was left to the cold hard probability. Was I going to be in the 90% that passed or the 10% that did not? Even though I missed my moon reaching for an earned level of 9, I landed with the stars passing the exam.

Before I took Exam P, I received a little advice from an actuary that passed all the tests on the first try before becoming an ASA. He said, “Study what makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t ever go into an exam thinking that something won’t be on the test. There’s a reason that less than half the people who take the exam pass the exam…” His advice was very true, there were things on the test that I thought would not be there, but was glad I studied.

What happens if we decide to settle for less than what we truly want? I have personally found that by setting a low standard I was troubled by “what if” questions. What if I had tried a little bit harder? Could I have done better? Is this really where I should be, or what I should be doing? I think we all have been at that point sometime in our lives. I think the reason these “what if” questions appear in my – and likely your – mind too is that deep inside we want to achieve something great. If this was not true, would we really be spending so much time trying to pass all of these SOA/CAS exams?  I think all of us have a little bit of ambition within us.

Here’s my challenge, take that ambition and set a high goal. If you have Adapt, why not aim for higher than 7? If you are studying for exam P, why not try memorizing that really difficult distribution? Whatever that high standard is for you, go for it. “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”