Excellence is a habit, but Aristotle never said it

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle

This quote is all over the Internet, and I love it for several reasons. First, it is true and arguably the key (or at least a key) to success in life, and second, Aristotle never said this. The actual quote comes from Will Durant, who was commenting on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. We can learn at least two valuable  life lessons from this: 

Life Lesson #1: Google isn’t Gospel. Always check your facts!

They say that you can find anything on the Internet these days. Maybe…if you ask the right questions. When I was an educator, I was always troubled when students would just type in one question into Google, look at the first result, and call it a day. First of all, how do they know if they asked the right question to begin with? Secondly, how do they know that the “most relevant” result according to a computer algorithm is the most reliable or useful?

If “everything is online” these days, then it is critical for our students to learn how to search online effectively. Honestly though, unless you’re a born researcher, this is not the most exciting skill to develop. But what if it was part of a scavenger hunt game like Know, Inc.? (For an interesting account of the making of this game, check out their Gamasutra postmortem. Also somewhat related, check out this web-surfing competition).

There seems to be some untapped potential here. Personally, I love wandering through Wikipedia precisely because I think of it as a game and I want to see how everything is connected. A research skills game would also help to foster wonder and creativity, which is the ability to connect seemingly disparate things in interesting ways. 

Life Lesson #2: If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

A famous philosopher saying a perfect quote? Perfect, right?

People get into all sorts of trouble for not knowing this life lesson from the moment they step onto their college campuses and are welcomed by credit card companies with open arms. “Spend money I don’t have and then only pay a minimum fee the next month? What a steal!” Right.

If we really want our students to prosper, then let’s help them learn this lesson earlier so their  bright and promising futures aren’t crushed by mountains of debt. We have a couple of options: one, we can lecture them on the thrilling mechanics and perils of credit card interest, or two, we can let them learn by experience, minus the life-altering consequences, of course. Which do you think will be more effective?

For those interested, here are some financial literacy game ideas from Edutopia’s handy guide.

A Game of Quotes

Just for kicks, I leave you with this game. “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Who said this quote and when? The first person to get the right answer gets a shout out on this page and a virtual cookie.


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