Thursday, April 26, 2012

Be Brave.

A student of mine recently got 'scolded' by me. She was trying to solve a physics problem but she had no idea how to do it. I had a glimpse of her thinking when I asked her to think out loud. She said after doing this and that, she had no idea what to do. Then I realised that she is trying to figure out entirely the solution of the problem in her head before she even attempt it on paper. I told her severely that perhaps in simpler problems, the entire steps of the solution can be visualised before attempting it. That would be the ideal case, wouldn't it? You would have the confidence to go through the entire process of writing down the solution since you already had in mind what you are going to do next.

However, I told her, that as problems get increasingly complex, it's nearly impossible to figure out all the steps that you're going to do without at least writing down some stuff. As long as you some clues on how to do it, you should just proceed to write something and find out whatever you can from the clues, then let the things you had worked out provide further leads. This trial and error kind of behaviour in doing things would separate the good from the bad students. The good students simply tries something that they know in order to arrive at something that they don't know, whereas the bad students need to know everything before even attempting it. When they can't figure out a step, they won't even want to do the first step. The good students have the confidence to know that they would be able to innovate and improvise along the way to hit their objectives.

I was wondering how many of us are also doing that in our lives. Most of the time, we fear the unknown so much. But understand that fear drives us to either want to find out more about it or paralyses us straight there and then. No matter how much we research, there'll be a moment where you just have to press the trigger and decide to proceed on with the best knowledge that you have at that moment and just jump with leap of faith. How many of us are stumped and paralysed when the first unknown comes along that throw us off our path? How many of us reads all about swimming in books but keeps on postponing the actual act in the pool?

I can also think of many many examples of myself procrastinating objectives that I know would enrich me but because of my fear of the unknowns, I keep dragging doing the first steps towards it. I must believe that even without knowing how I would get to the end, I would eventually reach there. That definitely needs a leap of faith. From what I see, there's two ways  to get it - one is from religion, the other is by a similarly zealous belief in yourself. Both are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Have courage, my friends. Be brave.


Anonymous said...

i always tell my son and wife never take "No" for an answer in anything, from anybody and especially from your inner-self. Like you say, if you don't attempt to take the first step, that's the end of the story for you. That's why i am blogging here even an old man liao. Ha! Ha!

PanzerGrenadier said...


Insightful. In life, theory and practice go hand in hand. The challenge is that too much book knowledge tends to hinder action for fear of making mistakes.

But life is lived by giving things a go and learning bit by bit as we go along.

Be well and prosper.

la papillion said...

Hi temperament,

I think that's a very good thing to say. Never take 'no' for an answer :)

Hi PG,

Ya, it's easier said than done, learning as we go along. Sometimes the fear is so strong that you don't even want to face it, so you'll do anything rather than face it directly, haha

Weowster said...

Weow... perhaps the student was trying to imitate some genius, eg Stephen Hawkings, who seems to be able to work out complex physics problem mentally;

However, not everyone is gifted similarly;

la papillion said...

Hi grey,

Haha, I'm quite sure that student can't do it like Stephen. At least not now :)

Anonymous said...

Hi LP,

Sama sama with one of my students :) but for her, she did not want to make "visible" mistake - ie. mistake written on paper. :)and unfortunately, this happened when she was "better"!

With the "scolding" your student learns not just for physics! thanks LP for the post! maybe you could add a "label" for your teaching/tuition posts? students/parents would benefit much from reading them. :)


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


By doing or acting, there's only 2 outcomes - correct (positive) or wrong (negative).

Even if I don't get it right, I still would know what NOT to do ;)

Still one better than those frozen with fear.


agarwood investment said...

I am deeply familiar with the problem of procrastination. It is, unfortunately, one of my biggest weaknesses. The biggest challenge I faced was a couple of years ago was when I was thinking of starting a new company as an entrepreneur. I'd thought of doing this many times before, but always backed out or delayed thinking and thinking about it. This time though, I finally had the courage to make the leap. Whether it ultimately works or not, I am secure in the knowledge that giving one's ideas a try is the best way to go through life.