New Castle News

February 20, 2012

Mitchel Olszak: A 14-year-old’s prescription for success

Mitchel Olszak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Moshe Kai Cavalin doesn’t view himself as a genius.

But you decide. He’s 14 years old, has two college degrees and is finishing up his third.

I came across Moshe’s story courtesy of an Associated Press report last week out of Los Angeles. The article told how he originally entered East Los Angeles Community College at age 8 and received two associate in arts degrees a year later.

This year, he will receive a bachelor’s degree in math from UCLA. And, as an aside, his first book “We Can Do,” was just published in English. This was after he wrote it originally in Chinese.

Moshe now has his sights set on earning a doctorate.

The theme of his book involves the need to apply oneself in order to succeed. Moshe argues his accomplishments are not the result of genius, but rather his drive to achieve.

And it’s not that he has focused solely on his studies. Moshe’s book covers his interests in soccer and martial arts, as well as scuba diving. So it sounds as if he’s a physically active youngster, not sealed in a room somewhere with a stack of books and a computer.

So can a 14-year-old acquire three college degrees without being a genius? The AP story did not mention Moshe’s IQ, but I suspect it’s much higher than average. There’s a difference between being more successful than most and blowing the competition away.

Still, Moshe makes a valid point about the benefits of perseverance and determination. Even though this message comes from a child, it offers a lesson for all.

Simple math and the basic laws of physics tell us that the more time we spend working to achieve our goals, the more likely we are to enjoy success. There are only 24 hours in a day, and those who spend most of their awake hours watching television, playing video games or pursuing other forms of entertainment will have difficulty keeping up with people who apply themselves to the task at hand.

Obviously, this is a concept that can be directed toward children and their classroom studies. But it’s good guidance for adults as well. We all have to decide how much of our time we want to spend playing and how much we want to spend working.

We also have to determine how much of an effort we want to make in terms of bettering ourselves. And we all come to different conclusions. Some of us seek to hone our skills. Some go back to school for additional training. And some go fishing.

But the decisions we make have consequences — for better or worse.

If we are comfortable with our efforts in life, and satisfied with the results, that’s great. But if we fail to apply ourselves properly and then discover that we are falling behind and missing opportunities, who’s fault is that?

We don’t have to match Moshe’s achievements at a young age in order to be a success. That’s a subjective term and can be determined in a variety of ways.

Becoming a success, however, inevitably takes effort. And ultimately, that effort must come from us.