The other day I was having a conversation with AI about the personalities of people who decide to get a PhD and the reasons behind the choice. Being part of this group I confessed that part me of me wanted to get the highest degree possible in order to feel accomplished. I admitted that, yes, part of the reason for going after the highest degree available is to satisfy my ego's drive, and I would imagine that others have decided to go after a PhD for similar reasons.
For as long as I can remember I have been on a quest for knowledge. Gathering an arsenal of information about history, movements, figures, ideologies, etc., I have always believed would set me up for future success. To be able to contextualize the present based on the what you know about the past is probably a skill that I value above all others. The more I know, the more I will succeed in this life. As I have gone through my life on this quest to learn more, to know more—I realize that others have a very different quest. This is a quest of course for material things—a desire to own more, to collect wealth, to have automobiles, and flat screen televisions.
Ultimately, both of these views are flawed because we are all tied to the same fate. That is we are temporary occupants of this planet and none of us are protected from the most certain fate of death. Armed with material goods or knowledge or both, you will not be spared.
So how can we know our success if not by the number of degrees or the number of automobiles we have? I believe that it is the legacy that we leave— those we have taught and what we have contributed to society. We should strive to leave a world that we can be proud of for future generations to inherit. So instead of counting my success on the knowledge that I collect, I will from now on measure my success by my ability to be a responsible world citizen and to actively work to create a sane and safe world that I want my children to inhabit.