GMAT : Analysis of An Issue

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An Issue

11. When someone achieves greatness in any field - such as the arts, science, politics, or business - that person's achievements are more important than any of his or her personal faults.


Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion stated above. Support your views with reasons and/or examples from your own experience, observations or reading.


Perhaps in some instances the personal failings of great achievers are unimportant relative to the achievements. In many cases, however, the relative significance of personal failings can be very great depending on two factors: (1) the extent to which the failing is part of the achievement process itself and (2) the societal impact of the achiever's failing apart from his or her own success.

Personal failings and achievement are often symbiotically related. The former one tests the would-be achiever's mettle. They pose challenges-necessary resistance that drives one to achieve despite the shortcoming. Personal failings may also compel one to focus on one's strengths, thereby spawning achievement. For example, poor academic or job performance may propel a gifted entrepreneur to start his or her own business. In the arts, a personal failing may be a necessary ingredient or integral part of the process of achieving. Artists and musicians often produce their most creative works during periods of depression, addiction or other distress. In business, insensitivity to the human costs of success has bred grand achievements as with the questionable labor practices of the great philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

A second type of personal failing is one that is unrelated to the achievement. Modern politics is replete with examples: the marital indiscretions of the great leader John F. Kennedy and the paranoia of the great statesman Richard Nixon to name just two. Were the personal failings of these two presidents less important than their achievements? In the former example, it is probably so. In the latter example, it is probably not since it resulted in the Watergate scandal - a watershed event in American politics. In cases such as these, therefore, the societal impact of shortcoming and achievement must be weighed on a case-by-case basis.

In sum, history informs us that personal failings are often part and parcel of great achievements. Even where they are not, personal shortcomings of great achievers often make an important societal impact of their own.

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