Tuesday, October 19, 2010

3 steps to success

As my work load lessens, I suddenly have the time to think about the crazy busy period that had just passed. 'Suddenly' because all the non-milestone exams (those not in A'lvls, not in O'lvls) finish on the same week, so I ended up having a lot of free time which I need to get used to. It was very liberating to end my workday with still so much daylight left.

I started to think about the differences between the better students and the not so good students. It's been a perennial problem for me to analyse each batch of students, hopefully to derive and distill some qualities about them that I can inculcate to myself and to others. I think the same qualities apply to success in general, rather than just academic success. Gf and I analysed it broke it down to just 3 steps:

1. Reading

Reading gives you brain nutrients, just like eating food gives you body nutrients. (Hmm, how about soul nutrients?) It's been my constant complaint that young people don't read these day. As a consequence of not reading, you find that the only source of information they get will be from things from internet (talking about the facebook and youtube variety) and perhaps TV. Without this habit of reading, it's hard to improve yourself beyond the beta version of the worldview that you had when you left formal schooling. If I have a kid, I'll definitely try to put in this habit because I think it's a very good determinant of success, especially so in formal schooling years. You'll be surprised that most students do not even read their textbooks, preferring to have someone to tell them the information (like me) or just ask someone. Silly isn't it?

I think reading will give you different sorts of mental models to apply to problems. Each 'subject' like maths, psychology, economics, philosophy, science, accountings...all gives different ways of thinking about things. Recently, I found that fiction is very very satisfying too and I had been neglecting that for years (I never read fiction again after secondary school).

I came back and re-write this part because to make it more general, the first step is more of a learning attitude than just reading more. You can learn more by talking to people, reading about it from books or from internet as well.

2. Reflection

By reflection, I mean to think about events or information that bombards us everyday. In terms of education, it's to think about the worksheet you had just done and see why you got it wrong and if there are are places to improve on the answers. I remembered that I used to do a problem twice in different ways just to see which method is more efficient (it's a geeky sort of amusement for me as well). For example, there is a geometry rule that angle in a semi-circle will form a right angle triangle. When I read about it, I refused to believe it. So, I really drew many circles and started proving to myself, empirically though, that each of these rules are true. It was years later on when I realised that the knowledge that you had isn't yours until you had to fight for it.

I don't believe that it's really true, until I proved it to myself

I find that the reading good books makes reflection easier. If the information in the book leads to easy understanding, it leads to easy absorption and assimilation. Thereafter, it's easier to link up previous ideas that you have inside you to build up the connections between your mental models.

3. Action

Thinking and not doing will not lead to anything. There's a very interesting discussion in the cbox about the book title - Think and Grow rich. Of course thinking alone will not lead one to becoming richer, and most people would stop at the thinking phase. Getting down to do it is actually the last step.

Three simple steps to success, but it's not easy to do it at all. The steps can be re-iterated to get the desired results, like 1 and 2 can be looped until a desired solution is formed, or 2 and 3 can be looped until the desired results is produced, but you can't skip any of it.


Crystal said...

aw! I really like this post! (if only i could click 'Like' like FB!)

i feel that readers and non-readers actually differs only a little on a daily basis. Some could have only spent their 30 mins ride to work reading on the train otherwise playing iphones games/FB-time/reading news/or simply doing nothing. thus, it only differs by 30mins daily. very minimum.. but.....

Overtime with compounding effect (of cos!), the difference can be pretty amazing! Not just better utilisation of time, but readers are gradually increasing their knowledge cap and improving thinking process. This helps in nuturing self and building up awareness in the long run.

I've gained a lot from readings, hopefully more singaporeans can start this habit soon too! :)

la papillion said...

Hi Crystal,

Nice blog you have :)

Thanks for your encouragement :) I agree, just a little time spent reading can reap multiple rewards in the longer term. Thanks for dropping by!

Crystal said...

Thanks LP! That's very encouraging of you too; especially i am quite a new blogger. teehee

PanzerGrenadier said...


I was quite fortunate that during my JC days, my General Paper tutor was British who kept exhorting us to be always reading because if not, how were we going to learn anything about the world?

His words have struck a chord as I grow older and I find that I'm reading much more in the last year or so then I've had in my 20s to 30s. :-)

In fact, I try to borrow a couple of books whether fiction or non-fiction every two to three weeks :-)

Be well and prosper.

la papillion said...

Hi PG,

Rare to find someone who reads these days :) Good that you had such a tutor...hmm, where did I get my reading habit from? Definitely not from my parents, cos they are not readers. Probably started because I liked the environment in the library, quiet and air conditioned...haha