The unexpected benefits of aspiration

Peter Frangos

Achieving a perfect ATAR of 99.95, Peter Frangos (OM 2021) is the 2021 Academic Head of School.

An outstanding scholar with particular talents in mathematics and language, Peter won numerous awards in each field during his time at the School. In addition to undertaking the VCE in 2021, Peter studied two first year university subjects – Calculus and Linear Algebra – as part of the University of Melbourne Extension Program for talented VCE students. He received First Class Honours results in both subjects. Peter was awarded First Colours in Debating and Table Tennis in his final year at the School. He also served as Chair of the Bluestone Committee.

Peter is currently studying a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne, and planning to major in mathematical biology and biotechnology. Peter is then intending to undertake a combined Doctor of Medicine/Master of Public Health degree at postgraduate level.

Peter presented a reflection on his time at the School at the School’s recent Academic Assembly. Here is an excerpt from that speech. He starts by explaining his feelings upon learning of his Academic Head achievement.

… I can tell you wholeheartedly that the euphoria at that moment was utterly immense, and to a large extent indescribable.

But then there was a sudden paradigm shift, a sudden moment of: ‘wow, okay, that’s it? Is this what being dux of Melbourne Grammar is like?’ I looked at myself in the mirror – no change. My beliefs and emotions, all much the same. My recollection of myself a few weeks before reaching such a significant milestone, very much intact.

But if all of this holds true then I clearly must be the same person that I was before. And if that’s the case, I began thinking to myself: why did I put myself through thousands of hours of stress over years of work to achieve something that hasn’t even changed who I am?

I really laboured over this for quite some time – it was almost tormenting. I thought to myself: if this is the anticlimax that follows high achievement, then why strive for achievement at all? I mean, we are all taught that success is inherently a good thing that must be coveted. Such a notion is thoroughly engrained within us, but why?

Well, I came to a few realisations. Firstly, I had in fact changed, and quite significantly. The fallacy in my previous conclusion was that I was only comparing myself from a few weeks before and after the achievement itself – it is true that within this period I did not change. However, going back to the beginning of my time at Senior School, a version of myself in a far more distant past, I have a far less strong recollection of the sort of person I was, in terms of my fundamental beliefs and attitudes.

Therefore, I realised that it in fact was the journey to academic success which resulted in far more profound changes to my modus operandi, than the achievement itself.

So, when we examine the question of whether or not we should strive for something from this perspective, the answer is that we definitely ought to keep striving, as although the ecstasy of achievement will inevitably fade, the immense personal growth which results from these endeavours will not.

Besides, is it not better to accomplish something great and potentially have an anticlimactic experience, than never try to achieve anything, but then torment ourselves over that which could have been, but never was? I do not believe that many thoughts weigh more heavily upon the individual psyche than the regretful realisation of one’s wasted potential.

… So I (now) think that the key is to realise that each time we aspire to achieve a goal, whether it be academic or not, we are gaining a more nuanced understanding of our own inner machinations, we are learning to know ourselves. Thus, I believe if we focus upon the intrinsic virtue of education through knowing ourselves better, rather than the achievement itself, then this anticlimax will be secondary to this newfound satisfaction of self-improvement.

Secondly, we should endeavour to focus our attention not only upon self-fulfilment through education, but also upon the relationships formed and the experiences which organically manifest during each of our journeys.

… It took 13 years at this wonderful school to realise it truly is so much more than an educational establishment. It has created the very person that stands before you, and for this I am eternally grateful.

I believe that Melbourne Grammar is one of the few schools which truly delivers an education in the way that I have defined it – it not only empowers us with the requisite knowledge to achieve stellar academic results, but far more importantly, it serves to create profound, original thinkers with the ability to change the world.

Education nourishes humanity.

Ora et Labora.