The wisdom of seventh graders: Success

Seventh grade students (ages 12 to 13, roughly) were asked to write an essay on what success is and how you know when you've achieved it. The assignment was given under standardized test conditions: 90 minutes with nothing but pencil and paper, with an additional hour available upon request. (In practice, few students ask for the extra hour.)

Remember, these are only the funny sentences/excerpts. Do not assume that all students write like this.

On the nature of success

  • Success is not a very difficult thing to think about, but if you explain it, it can be hard to explain.
  • Stride to Success
  • Success is not the end, but the beginning.
  • As the say goes, the only time you will find sucess before work is in the dictionary.

Recognizing success

  • You have to do something that is genuin and worth while.
  • Success means you have a jolly time.
  • It's a feel good feeling.
  • To me success is a goal a feeling of prowness. that tells me that this is a goal of your limits not an age limit.
  • Sucess is when you had the opportunity to do something greatful.
  • Success is shaking your butt in their face that you are better than them.
  • Another meaning for success is just winning. Winning is what most people think success is, but winning is only half the meaning of success. Winning is just winning. Yeah, but at least you can shake your butt in their face, and that's worth something.
  • Success is trying your best... I have a question. do teachers ever have success?
  • You know you have reached the point of succession when you do really well.
  • So many kinds of meanings can mean success but I think success mostly means to me a achieving.

Steps which do not lead to success

  • If you slack you get failure. You end up poor, sad, terrible.
  • You can't just sit around watching television and eat Doritos.

The fleeting nature of success

  • But even though money may make you happy it doesn't last forever.
  • After all, feeling like the king of the mountain doesn't come as soften as the frustration does.

The recipe for success

  • After you graguat from callage you can say, Success has finaly hit me.
  • If you get good grades, you can go to a splendid colledge and then get a splendid sallary. Sounds splendid.
  • One way is to make a T chart. Put what your good at on the left and what you love on the left. Burn the right hand side.
  • My opinion of success is a cab driver.
  • If you do all of the things mentioned in this article, you'll have a very successful life.

Personal stories of success

  • Whether your moment is singing on a stage to a huge audience, or handing out your first order of French fries at McDonald's.
  • Success can be as simple as winning a video game. You win easily and celebrate with a cookie. Do you shake your butt in their face?
  • I was the most happiest person ever!
  • Success is when you tell a casino that someone cheated at Black Jack.
  • Success is like when I was in 4th grade and I learned to play Smoke on the Water a little.
  • One thing that really makes a family is a pet.
  • outsmarting and generally twisting my opponents words against him feels like hitting the jackpot.
  • I was in such a dilemma!

Future success

  • The fist and most important key to making a family is loving, beautiful, and wonderful wife.
  • I want to get a wife that is nice, hard working, and has simple pleasures.
  • My fantasies of success are having a great boyfriend, a job studying the migration paths of turtles in Australia, and eventually growing old and waltzing through an arch of Agust trees. But under no circumstances marry your boyfriend. That ruins it.
  • Over the past 12 years I've been alive, I've had many emotions experiences, and a few lovers. Boys write about their wives. Girls write about their boyfriends and lovers. Wait, lovers? How old are you again?
  • Success is feeling comfortable having Thanksgiving with your in-laws. I'm happy to declare that I have achieved success.

Examples of other successful people

  • When Billy Armstrong made it to the moon, he had a great feeling of accomplishment.
  • The teacher went around asking what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most kids said normal things but one girl said she wanted to be a unicorn. The class laughed. Because she believed in her insane dream she is the creator of My Little Pony.
  • Mr. Bill Gates did not just read a get rich quick book and deside to crate Microsoft.

Out of about 300 students, the number who cited Bill Gates as a successful person: 17.

Comments (30)
  1. nathan_works says:

    This is a Seattle metro area school, yes ?

    I’m curious about the demographics — how many have a parent working at MSFT or other high-techs in the area ? (AMZN, etc) — I’d think that might influence the number of Bill Gates references.. (and slack == failure ? The subgenui might disagree, but they are pretty strange folks..)

    [It’s a suburb near Redmond, so an above-average concentration of Microsofties. -Raymond]
  2. David says:

    Wow.  I never thought of Bill Gates doing a lot of In-Your-Face butt shaking.  Steve Ballmer, on the other hand…  ;-)

  3. Sunil Joshi says:

    Agust trees.

    Perhaps the student intends to convey that when she is old she would like to waltz through an arch of trees that look like trees typically do in August – that is August trees.

    Overall, this girl’s dreams are incredibly specific :

    1. Waltzing through (the aforementioned) August trees.
    2. Studying the migration path of turtles in Australia.

    Perhaps, she has met people who commended this sort of lifestyle to her.

  4. keith says:

    prowness = prowess, maybe?  A feeling of prowess is a result of meeting or exceeding your known limits.  

    I love mixing up astronaut Neil Armstrong with Green Day frontman Billy Armstrong, though I believe Billy Armstrong has on more than one occasion been as high as the moon, and I imagine these events make Billy Armstrong quite pleased with himself, so the statement is not categorically wrong.  

  5. James Schend says:

    I would just like to say that being the creator of My Little Pony is not the same thing as being a unicorn. FAIL!

    BTW, just because I’m crazy, I tried to verify the story. My Little Pony was created by Bonnie Zacherle:

    There’s nothing in Wikipedia or in the Googles about her wishing to be a unicorn, but it’s completely possible she’s said that in a interview or something that hasn’t been transcribed.

  6. Falcon says:

    If you have a neighbour that copies/imitates you, buy a clock radio that he cannot afford – Great Success!

  7. Someone You Know says:


    Isn’t Billy Armstrong the jazz trumpeter who rode in the Tour de France?

    A few years back my friends and I went through an inexplicable phase like this — whenever Louis Armstrong, Neil Armstrong, Lance Armstrong, or Billy Armstrong was brought up in conversation, one of the others had to be mentioned instead. One was forced to work out who was really being discussed from the context of the discussion.

  8. Neil (SM) says:

    Wouldn’t the trees in August in Australia be in their leafless, wintry state?

  9. BradC says:

    Found a YouTube video of Bonnie Zacherle describing her own childhood inspirations, and the story of how My Little Pony came to be:

    Good story, but no mention of Unicorns.

  10. kip says:

    you missed one red underline. third bullet under "recipe for success", has "your" when they meant "you’re".

  11. James Schend says:

    BradC is officially more crazy than I am. Woo.

  12. A. Skrobov says:

    BradC? Did you mean BradSi?

    Anyway, the migration paths of turtles in Australia made my evening.

  13. Alex says:

    Since this is a Win32 blog I’ll go for the obvious joke:

    "Success is when the most significant bit of the HRESULT is zero."

    But we don’t really expect these youngsters to know that, right?

  14. Whatever says:

    And another red underline for "finaly" under the first recipe for success.

    Regarding "fist", perhaps the author is a frequent blog-commenter?

  15. Whatever says:

    I call fake.  Most adults can’t spell “dilemma” correctly, much less seventh graders.  Usually it ends up as delimma, dilemna, or some other bastardization.

    [My guess is that “dilemma” was a recent vocabulary word. One clue is that the usage was somewhat awkward. -Raymond]
  16. John says:

    I find it humorous that the underline style is exactly the same as that used by Firefox; I was a little confused at first :)

  17. unekdoud says:

    Oh, just look at the success fails! (and a few success successes)

  18. Neil (SM) says:

    There’s an interesting discussion on dilemma vs dilemna at

    Apparently many folks swear they were taught to spell it with an mn instead of mm.  Although there doesn’t seem to be any official support for the mn spelling in a dictionary.  If these folks are remembering correctly, it seems it’s been taught differently in the past.

  19. turtles, all the way down under says:

    Maybe the young lady was writing "locust trees" and somebody read it as "Agust trees"? Locust trees have never set me dancing–the neighbors are grateful for this–but it makes as much sense

  20. Nick says:

    "Success means you have a jolly time."

    And out of the mouths of babes ;)

    "or handing out your first order of French fries at McDonald’s"


    @keith: I read that as "prowess" as well.

    @Whatever: It doesn’t seem that unlikely. ‘Dilemma’ is one of those words you really can just "sound out".

  21. Spock says:

    Missed a couple of "sucess" misspellings in there.

  22. And in a parallel universe, Bill Gates created Mycrosoft™ Little Pony Express Edition® ;-)

    "Dilemma" comes from the Greek (via Latin) for "two premises". I’m not aware of any valid form using "mn", although a search for the spelling "dilemna" will turn up a number of forums where confused people are wondering why they were taught to spell it that way, and indeed if they actually were taught to spell it that way or are just remembering their education incorrectly :-)

  23. Ron Murray says:

    @Neil (SM): Most (native, anyway) Australian trees are evergreens, so they don’t have a wintry state. Some of them do start to flower in August though (wattles, for one).

    Now you’re getting me homesick. Massachusetts doesn’t have wattles :-(

  24. abadidea says:

    re: dilemma/dilemna

    In the late 90s my elementary school science project was called "Diaper Dilemma" and my parents immediately got mad at me for spelling it wrong– they claimed it was "dilemna" but it was too late, I’d glued on the paper letters.

    Seeing as my father has four degrees, he’s hardly uneducated, so I’m guessing that yes, someone WAS teaching "dilemna" at some point in the past.

  25. Mark Jonson says:

    keith: I was at the Newseum in DC a few months ago and they have an exhibit where journalistic photography is shown. One of these photos is of Lance Armstrong cycling. As a joke, I insisted to my friend that I have "respect for the great achievements of the Armstrongs of the world, like Lance Armstrong, Neil Armstrong, Billy Joe Armstrong…" at which point he glanced at me oddly. I, then, had to explain that Billy Armstrong is the Green Day frontman. I often cite music when I speak with my friends, either jokingly or in reference to an event that relates to a song/artist/album. It makes me glad to know there are others out there with a good knowledge of modern music.

  26. GreenReaper says:

    The love of My Little Pony definitely doesn’t end at seventh grade:

  27. BC says:

    "You can’t just sit around watching television and eat Doritos."

    But… that’s exactly how you know if you actually achieved success!!  

  28. Rainier says:


    Prowness = Proudness, I think. Makes much more sense that way.

  29. The Imp says:

    @Neil (SM)

    Wouldn’t the trees in August in Australia be in their leafless, wintry state?

    Well, almost all trees (certainly all native trees) in Australia are not deciduous, so their "wintry" state wouldn’t be leafless, or even noticeably different to their state at other times of the year.

    I would expect that they are most likely not aware of this fact; not being aware that August is the end of Winter in Australia makes this explanation more likely.

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