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Monday, February 23, 2009

Great Expectations: Earn and Education

The reading on this great novel continues and I already have an opinion from the text: EVERYONE needs an Estella and Ms. Havisham in their lives.

If you have never read this book then that probably means nothing to you. And without giving too much away, Pip (the protagonist) befriends an elderly woman (Ms. Havisham) and her relative (the lovely Estella). Ms. Havisham is someone of means, and Estella clearly is a benefactor of those means. This causes Pip to loathe his own station in life and aspire to something better.

Pip goes about trying to improve his station in life by taking all of the money he earns and using it to try and educate himself. Pip realizes that the clearest path to becoming a "gentleman" is to work hard (earn) and use the earnings to gain knowledge (education). Earn and education. That is the key to every great success story. Ever.

It reminds me of something that occurred in my own life. As a young man that had gone through a technical school, started working, but wasn't really serious about my life yet, a girl (that I was very fond of!) told me: "Steve, one day you are going to have a lot of money."

It took years for me to realize what she meant. Did she mean I was somehow going to come into a windfall? Did she mean I was going to inherit a large sum? Both of those seemed unlikely since I didn't gamble (and yes that includes the lottery!), nor did I have any wealthy relatives. But as I have grown older I realized she meant that I was going to continue to try and better myself.

Now, lest you think this turns into a brag session, which it most certainly should not be, let me explain. I could have settled for the education I had received at the tech school (no degree) and continued to earn a decent living, but at the same time never really getting ahead. After all, it isn't too difficult to work hard to get a job and keep it without a degree, but advancing up the ladder without a degree is extremely difficult. I actually have known some that have done that but it required working 7 days a week, 12-15 hours a day.

Ironically, this girl telling me what she told me is one of the things that motivated me. Suddenly I felt there was an expectation to live up to. Just like in Great Expectations, Pip is at first motivated to improvement by how he sees Estella and Ms. Havisham. But in the end it is great expectations placed upon him that drive Pip forward. (Pardon me, I am still reading the novel and am about halfway through, so there is still a lot to happen yet!)

This expectation by my very own version of Estella caused me to go back to school, get a bachelor's degree, and begin improving myself in the corporate world. Pip proves that where there is a will there is way. Even without a secret benefactor, Pip was already working (earn and education) towards his goal: a better life.

So it wouldn't hurt for all of us to have a Ms. Havisham and an Estella in our lives.

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