Where to begin? Growing up, I was probably the brightest (or close to the top) in my school system based on raw intellect. As a child, I scored a 150 on an IQ test. I skipped a grade, and was still put ahead a couple grades for certain classes like math. In state-wide math competitions, I would score in the top fraction of a percent, and in programming competitions would score among the top in individual rankings. I was doing algebra in third grade and was taking high school classes by the time I hit middle school. However, things were always too easy. I never had to work for a thing. As a result I never really developed a work ethic.
This lack of self discipline really began to show through by high school. I could ace most tests, but usually didn't turn in homework, or most other papers. I began skating by with worse and worse grades. There was one other student in my school with the same raw talent as me. Unlike me, he was focused. He always had top notch grades and was very active in leadership positions in extra curricular activities. I was very active with my Nintendo. He and I were always mentioned in the same sentence when the brightest students were talked about. Yet, I knew also that folks commented on the vast difference in work habits and general attitude.
It got really bad in college. Away from home, there was absolutely no one to keep me accountable. I wouldn't show up for classes. A couple times, I showed up for the syllabus, midterms and finals. Nothing else. It didn't take long before I was put on academic probation.
I moved back home and took a job in telemarketing. Top 0.1% of the general population; making ten bucks an hour. In contrast, the other kid who graduated a year behind me had earned a scholarship to MIT and was half way through his Chemical Engineering degree. I felt like (and was) a complete loser. I think it was the realization that I wasn't "all that" was the first step to turning my life around.
I can't tell you exactly when I made the decision, but I decided to go back to school. This time, I was a bit humbler.
I made some changes. I decided I would wear a tie to school each day. Yeah, I stood out a bit and I am sure a few people thought I was a bit off (and they were right). But the act of looking the part helped put me into a different mindset. It might seem a bit strange, but it helped me to take the classes seriously.
Instead of worrying about what classes would get me a degree, I took classes I wanted to -- a smattering of business classes -- a few classes in Japanese -- violin -- boy did I suck at violin. In each experience, I got to meet different types of people and try new things. I learned a lot about myself and had a lot more fun than I ever had. I think this self-discovery and broadening of horizons was the second part of turning my life around.
I still struggled with procrastination and completing the day to day tasks. Sometimes it was a sheer act of will to do homework. But more often than not, I'd get the work done. As time went on, I found it got easier. And I saw the grades climb. Over the next few semesters, I found that I actually became driven to get things done. I put more effort into it; I invested more of myself into my tasks.
A couple years later, I came to know the Lord. It caused quite a change in my values and goals in life. I became involved in an inner city ministry. I was involved in Bible teaching, tutoring, weekend activities, and generally mentoring these kids. I could tell you dozens of stories about some of the kids and the challenges they were facing. But to make a long story short, they had a big impact on me. So many of these kids don't have a chance in the world -- parents who weren't there, failing school systems, temptations that I never had to face. I came to realize how good I had it, and how fortunate I was to have the opportunities I have. I also felt like I had a purpose in life. The lighting of true passion and purpose was the final step to getting on the road of success.
I would graduate at twenty-five with two Bachelors of Science and got started in my career in banking. I volunteered for extra assignments, doing programming to help make things more efficient. I got noticed and moved up quickly in the bank, becoming an officer within five years of my starting. I watched the work habits of those who I respected in higher positions. These folks weren't always the brightest, but knew how to get things done. I learned and applied a lot.
I have moved from the bank for a management position. I will be going back for my master's soon and hope to get into higher levels of management.
Basically, I have learned to truly succeed, you need three things. You need to really know the subject matter you are involved in. Second. You must be passionate about the work that you do. Third, you must care about the people you work with and for. And while, I do sometimes slip into old habits, it doesn't last too long.
I am not sure if this helps anyone else. But if you have any questions, please feel free to ask :)