Photo: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan
My IQ is well above average and I learn well in the traditional school setup: by reading and listening. I was doomed for success at school.
In the first few grades, I was ahead of my peers. When I was in the first class of primary school I read my sister’s history textbooks of the 4th class. I had straight A’s all the time.
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In high school it was similar. I struggled for the first semester before I learned the ropes in the new school, and then I had the best grades in the whole class for the next five years.
As you can see, my habits had very little to do with my results. Everything was relatively easy for me and it was enough to put minimal effort to earn decent grades.
The only good habit I had was that I read a lot. I mean A LOT! I read a few hundred books a year. The more you read, the wider your vocabulary. The wider your vocabulary, the more you understand what you read. And you can read faster.
Personal qualities can take you only so far
My history doesn’t prove that habits don’t count in education. After the high school I got to the university. Barely. I was third but last on the admission list and only because I sat next to my kindergarten friend on the entry exam.
I was no longer the sharpest arrow in the quiver. Every student there was intelligent. And I had severe holes in my education. I struggled to advance to the second year. I had to repeat several exams.
In the end, I succeeded; at the 4th year I earned the educational stipend for being among the top 25% of students. Again, my personal qualities contributed greatly to that outcome. It’s never bad to be bright at school, and as soon as I filled the holes in my education, my brightness worked to my advantage again. I needed less time and effort to achieve the marks my peers achieved through loads of hard work.
The power of habits
Taking the personal qualities aside, I think the greatest differentiator between students who consistently get A’s and those who regularly get C’s lies in the fact that they have ANY study habits at all.
If you do your homework regularly, it’s so much easier to get better grades than those who neglect this chore.
If you repeat the lessons every day you’ve just gone through that day to consolidate your knowledge, you gain the advantage over the ones who don’t do this.
If you personalize notes to get a better understanding of the material, and you do it day in and day out, your level of understanding simply has to be higher than of those who just write whatever a teacher dictates.
How I got into the top 25% of students at the university
It always puzzled me. How I advanced from last but three to the top 25%? Yep, I was bright, but so were my fellow students. What is more, I had much less time for studying because I got married at the beginning of the second year and had two sons before I started the fourth year.
Only when I heard about the power of habits I was able to solve the puzzle.
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” — Jim Rohn
You see, my foremost success discipline was attending all the lectures and classes. I attribute 80% of my results to it.
My peers didn’t attend all lectures and classes, and that made the whole difference. They starting level was zero. Zero multiplied by infinity of effort is still zero. They were as bright as me, but they would rather sleep late or go to the party than attend a lecture. There were over 100 people in my class, but I remember times when only a dozen of us attended a lecture.
The other 20% of my studying results came from the fact that I had a very high ratio of delivering smaller projects on time. I never worked till the last minute, but dabbled with them here and there, bit by bit, to deliver them on time.
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