I recently shared the following as my status on Facebook:
|I humbly submit that true success in life is not measured by the ability to own an expensive home, a large bank account, a fancy automobile, or even a plush office. The world may view those things as a person having status or prestige, but success in its truest sense is measured in the amount of perspiration, perseverance, determination, drive, endurance, and discipline that it took to achieve the successes that a person obtains. Those are the things that are deserving of commendation – more so than tangible objects.|
What do I mean by the statement that I posted? I believe that there are too many people in the world who live under the misconception that a person cannot claim to be a success in life unless they have something to show as an outward expression of said success. The other drawback with worldly success is that there are too many people who once having achieved a level of success, tend to forget their beginnings, and those who helped them climb the ladder. In my humble estimation, true success is a combination and culmination of three fundamental things which I call the three D’s of success – Determination, Drive, and Discipline. I also humbly submit that the person who is a true success in life never forgets his beginnings, nor does he shun those who have helped him climb the ladder of success – one rung at a time.
An example of what I am speaking of is demonstrated in the life of an ambitious young man who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called the “Mormon” Church by the media and others). He is a member of the Ward (church congregation) where I attend – the Annapolis Maryland Ward, and he is a leader of the young men of the congregation. His name is Alexander James Beal, but he is better known by everyone as A.J. He is 17 years old, and a senior at South River High School in Annapolis, Maryland. He strives to live his life as an example for his peers and others to follow, and is a role model in exhibiting what it takes to be a true success. Through his determination, drive, and discipline, he has recently been accepted as a member of the United States Naval Academy class of 2018.
This highly active young man is definitely not one to “let the grass grow under his feet,” or sleep his life away. In fact he says, “I sleep on the weekends.”  A typical school day for A.J. begins at 4:45 a.m. Three days a week, even before attending his first class of the day, he attends seminary class (a four-year religious education program for youth of The Church of Jesus Christ) which begins at 5:30 a.m. and lasts for an hour. And, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, he commutes to Annapolis High School for a 45-minute Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) drill practice which begins promptly at 6:00 a.m. He is the Operations Officer (3rd in command ) of his NJROTC unit. In addition, two days a week, following his first two classes, he commutes to Annapolis High School to attend a naval science and an elective class. When does he eat lunch? Well, en route, of course. Very often he will remain after school on those days to attend NJROTC staff meetings or for more drill practice.
The teen usually begins his regular school day at South River High, where, as a member of the school’s National Honor Society chapter, he is ranked academically among the top 15 percent in his class and is an AP Scholar with Distinction. 
Now, one might think that is a demanding schedule for anyone to keep up with, especially a teenager, right? Apparently not for A.J. Despite the rigorous schedule, he manages to stay on track and has other activities, such as gymnastics which also vies for his time. Four afternoons each week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday he drives to the Top Flight Gymnastics Center in Columbia, Maryland, and from 5:30 until 9:30 p.m. he “pushes himself through a rigorous regime of flips, mid-air spins, vaults and other breathtaking moves.”  He spends at least 20 hours a week training either in the weight room or at Top Flight. Even when he isn’t feeling up to the challenge, his trainers, Oleg Bezrodny and Dmitriy Gavrilyuk, make sure that he always gives 100 percent.
As just a warm-up, A.J. and his teammates at Top Flight start with a set of 50 push ups, 25 “V” ups, 25 dips, two sets of 15 pull-ups, rope climbs and seven hand stands in a row. The workout is demanding, but he said the results that come from it make the sweat worthwhile. 
A.J. is a competitive Junior Olympic gymnast and for the past four years he has competed at the national championships in six events – rings, vault, parallel bars, high bar, pommel horse and floor exercises. To his credit, as captain during the 2012-2013 season, he led his team to win four first-place medals. His mother, Shawn Beal, has said,
He always had a lot of natural athleticism and a strong tumbling, aerial sense. I enrolled him in a gymnastics class [at 5 years of age] and he loved it. 
A.J. further commented,
It just became something I loved. It wasn’t about the competition. I just loved the training,” A.J. said. “I’d come home sore, but I got a little addicted to the adrenaline. The whole feeling—feeling yourself on the bar, connecting to it—it’s all very fluid. 
A.J. is a level 10 gymnast which is “the highest an athlete can achieve before becoming an “elite” gymnast in the Olympics or international trials.”  The requirements to be Level 10 include being at least 15 years of age and able to satisfactorily complete technical sequences and optional sequences on each apparatus as outlined by F.I.G. (Federation of International Gymnastics) code of points. In 2011, his first year competing as a level 10 gymnast, he placed 69th overall and 29th on the high bar. At the 2013 Junior Olympic National Championships, A.J. placed 49th overall and 8th on the Floor Exercise. He states that despite the high level of competition, many of the athletes who compete are great friends.
To be honest, the meets are kind of like a hangout. The real reward is just getting there,” A.J. said. “The atmosphere is more of a reward than anything you can win at nationals. 
Despite his demanding schedule, A.J. manages to keep up excellence in the classroom. In 2013, he was named as a First Team Academic All-American through USA Gymnastics, an award given to student athletes with a GPA of 3.85 or higher. This was the third time that A.J. had been honored with this award.
|A.J. is strong in mathematics and computer sciences and had hoped to be in South River’s STEM program. “But I wanted to design my own curriculum,” he said, explaining how he combines both schools’ academics with the nationally top-ranked NJROTC program.
South River AP chemistry instructor Melvin Smith said AJ was “always a leader” in class. “He would willingly offer his perspective on problems we worked on, many times helping his peers understand better.”
His AP calculus instructor, Paula Perry, concurs: “Out of 17 years of teaching, he is among the top five brightest, dedicated, patient and balanced kids that I have ever met. He is a role model and such a natural leader.”
She added, “His presence is magical and character is impeccable.” 
When asked why he is so anxious to serve in the military, he responds,
Everyone I’ve met in life has helped me — my parents pushed me when I was less than compliant to work my hardest. We have a lot of privileges. To pay this country back, I want to give five years or more to this country, and give those privileges to my own kids someday. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and my parents worked so I could study. 
This author, himself a 30-year honorably retired United States Navy veteran wishes A.J. Beal fair winds and following seas in all of his future endeavors. There is no doubt that he will excel at whatever he puts his mind to do, and because of his unwavering determination, drive, and discipline, he is destined to become a great leader among men – a leader who will never forget his beginnings, and one who will always remember those who helped him climb the ladder of success – one rung at a time.
In the video above, A.J. Beal explains and simplifies a complex calculus problem.