Achievement: Relationship Between Yesterday’s Decisions and Today’s Status (Class 19)

Straight-A Guide Job Training Program

Lesson #19: Achievement

Relationship Between Yesterday’s Decisions and Today’s Status

Materials Required:

  • Classroom space
  • Sufficient number of chairs with writing surface
  • Blank sheets of paper for each participant 

Introduce Lesson #19 (5 minutes):

  • Begin with an example of someone who achieved a high level of success despite difficult past. President Barack Obama may be appropriate example. He grew up in a single-parent household as a biracial child. Choices he made every day opened new opportunities. Regardless of anyone’s political beliefs, no one can dispute he achieved highest level of personal success. What past decisions led to his status today?

First steps (10 minutes):

  • Take roll of participants.
  • Facilitator outlines his own story. He discusses his childhood, his early friendships, and he discusses the early activities he pursued. Then he provides highlights of where those decisions led him. He goes through similar exercise of telling story about why he started making different decisions. He explains how that switch in thinking led to new opportunities that wouldn’t have opened if he hadn’t made the change.

Goals and Objectives (5 minutes):

  • Facilitator informs the class that he wants them to finish the class with a clear understanding of the influences past decisions had on their current position. Facilitator doesn’t minimize the challenges and struggles of those in class, but tries to break down behaviors to show opportunity costs that accompany every decision.

Expected Learning Outcomes (5 minutes):

  • Facilitator expects participants to have more appreciation for every individual has to change circumstances. Today’s decisions influence tomorrow’s outcomes. 

Preliminary introduction (5 minutes):

  • Discus Gandhi’s quote: Be the change you want to see in the world. Invite students to engage in discussion about what he meant by making such a statement. Discuss how Gandhi and other global leaders like Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King changed the course of history by the decisions they made.

Direct Instruction (10 minutes):

  • Facilitator invites participants to identify the first steps that each leader took to change. Emphasizes the importance of commitment to the cause and the attention given to small details. Show how this principle of placing one foot in front of the other advances the cause and opens new opportunities. Leaders must develop an ability to postpone gratification, understanding and appreciating the achievement that comes with every step, regardless of how seemingly insignificant that step may be at the time.

Guided Practice (20 minutes):

  • Facilitator passes handout to group that describes success of J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter series.
  • Facilitator breaks class into small groups and asks the small groups to discuss questions on the essay.
  • Facilitator calls upon one group spokesperson to respond to final questions on handout.


Lesson #19: Relationship Between Yesterday’s Decisions and Today’s Status 


J.K. Rowling was a poor woman who was raising a child. She saw herself as a huge failure because she didn’t have a job and because didn’t have any resources other than public assistance. But she saw her failure as liberating. Once she acknowledged that she was at the bottom, she could start taking steps to improve.

Acknowledging that she was in a difficult space brought the first step to change for her. She could stop pretending that she was something more and start taking steps to become something more. Hitting “rock bottom” gave her a solid foundation to start rebuilding her life.

During that time, doctors diagnosed J.K. Rowling with clinical depression and she said that she frequently contemplated suicide. When she signed up for welfare, she described herself as being as poor as it was possible to be without being homeless.

To escape that difficulty, she concentrated all of her energy on writing. J.K. Rowling said that by writing words, she felt that she could communicate a human message, a message that other people would appreciate. Every word she wrote became an incremental achievement. She could celebrate as she saw the pages of words piling up.

Those pages of words led to new opportunities. She wrote a proposal to a book publisher. Numerous book publishers rejected the offer. Being familiar with rejection, she continued to submit proposals to different publishers. Persistence paid off for her. A publisher finally issued a publishing agreement that led to the Harry Potter series. Those books turned J.K. Rowling’s life around. Eventually, the poor woman who began in despair made incremental achievements that led to her achieving the highest levels of success on a personal and professional level.


  1. How did J.K. Rowling change her life?
  2. How does her being poor and on welfare compare to the challenges that you’re facing now?
  3. What steps can you begin taking to change the course of your life in years to come?
  4. How would celebrating tiny, incremental action steps influence your ability to sustain the commitment necessary to succeed?