Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Greatest Achievement

You might be familiar with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. But, if you're not, here are some of his accomplishments:

  • He's an astrophysicist and cosmologist
  • He has a degree in physics from Harvard, a master's degree in astronomy from the University of Texas, a master's degree in philosophy and a doctorate degree in astrophysics from Columbia University
  • He's on staff at Princeton University
  • He's the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City
  • He's the author of numerous articles and books
  • He's the host and presenter in the 2014 documentary Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
  • He's the host of the television series Star Talk
  • He's the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2015 Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences
  • He was voted by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world (2007) and voted by Discover Magazine as on the the 10 most influential people in science (2008)
  • He's been awarded 18 honorary doctorate degrees
So, I think it is safe to say that he's a pretty accomplished person, wouldn't you agree?

On my drive home from work, I like to listen to ESPN Radio, and my favorite podcast is from The Dan LeBatard Show. It's irreverent and funny, and many of the guest aren't your normal talking heads. Last week, Neil DeGrasse Tyson was a guest on the show. Dan LeBatard and his co-host Stugotz asked him a variety of questions, one of which was, "What is your greatest achievement?" Now, before I give you his answer, let me direct you back to Tyson's achievements listed above. He's no slouch. But, here was his answer, and I'm paraphrasing:

"I know this sounds cliché, but I'm still growing intellectually and personally. I think my greatest achievement in still ahead of me. If my greatest achievement is not in front of me, then what am I doing? All of us should constantly be trying to improve what we know, do, and how we help others. I think my greatest achievement is still in front of me."

OK, so that is a bit cliché, but I found it to be profound. Here you have a man that has accomplished and achieved so much (and he's only 57 years old) still striving to become better, to improve, and to accomplish more. His answer revealed his mentality and the way he approaches life: he doesn't look back at his achievements and bask in his own glory; he's not satisfied. He focuses on continual personal improvement, and at 57 years old, having accomplished more than most people ever will, he chooses to live his life thinking that his greatest achievement is still ahead of him.

He even asks, "If my greatest achievement isn't still ahead of me, then what am I doing?," almost to say that if he somehow knew that his greatest achievement is in his past, that he wouldn't want to continue working; he wouldn't be as driven or motivated; he would lose a little of his purpose. Who knows? Perhaps his greatest achievement is in his past, but that's not the point. The point is he believes that his greatest moment still awaits him.

Consider the possibilities if we all thought a little more like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, convinced that our greatest achievements are still ahead of us, regardless of age, stage of life, past accomplishments or lack thereof. Imagine that if instead of resting on our laurels or, even worse, dwelling on our lack of accomplishments, we believed our greatest achievements are ahead of us and acted accordingly. I bet we'd all be a little more excited and motivated; we'd all live with a little more purpose if we had such a mentality and belief.

But, here's the best thing about being a principal, a teacher, and parent (and most of you reading this blog are at least one of these 3 things): We get work with and raise kids. And, what's awesome is their greatest accomplishments are truly ahead of them. While we should live as if our greatest accomplishment is ahead of us, it entirely possible that it isn't, and that includes Neil DeGrasse Tyson. But, each and every one of our students and children have their greatest achievements ahead of them - that is a fact. What an awesome opportunity we all have; what a great responsibility. Everyday, we get to work with students and kids that are approaching greatness; everyday, we need to remind ourselves of that fact.



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