Saturday, April 08, 2017

Gradual effort, sudden result

A long time ago when I was just a newbie tutor, a parent sat in with my student for a lesson. After teaching the theory, I set the student to some work. For the greater part of the duration of the lesson, the parent saw me doing nothing but just watching the student do his work. Occasionally I would point out some things here and there but that's about it. The parents remarked that since I'm just baby sitting her kid and doing nothing much, how come I charge so much for the fees?

In the past, to prepare for the 2 hr lesson, I likely have to spend more than 2 hours preparing for it. I've already gone though all the different possibilities in the questions type, all the possible errors and thought through the best way to structure my lessons so that there is a framework for the student to grasp on. It seems like I'm not doing anything DURING the lesson, but that's only because the work had already been done BEFORE the lesson. I also do post lesson reflection to see if there's anything I need to improve on. That's what I do every lesson for the first 2-3 yrs of my career. That accelerated my learning tremendously.

Effectively, I spent 2-3 yrs of constant gradual effort so that I appear to do nothing when I am seen at work.

This is just one example where there's a hokey stick progression - one long almost flat bar of nothing, then boomz it shoots up. The thing that broke the camel's back is also not the last straw that is piled on top of it - it's broken by the accumulation of all the straws on top of the camel before the last straw is piled above it! It's also how the Chinese bamboo grows. You water it everyday for the 1st year and you see nothing. You do the same for the 2nd year and you see nothing. By the third year, you're starting to feel anxious...and suddenly in the 5th year, just when you're about to give up hope, it breaks ground and grow to a height of 27 m in one year! It would seem that that bamboo grew 27 m in one year, but it really took 5 years for it grow 27 m.

Gradual effort, sudden result.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


People are funny.

Many behaved in a similar way like the parents of your students - equate "activity" with value.

Yet in the corporate world, they know full well the less they do - and the more they talk - the more they earn! LOL!

Our 5000 years of Chinese wisdom says it well:

On stage 3 minutues; backstage 10 years blood and tears.

la papillion said...


Haha, that problem disappeared the higher I charge my fees..and I always find it fascinating that a lot of my initial newbie-tutor problems are removed as long as they pay more money because I'm seen as more 'professional'. Some kind of psychology at work here, which a sales person like you should know :)

Zach @ Four Pillar Freedom said...

I have a similar experience with my tutoring sessions...although usually I tutor adults who are going back to college, so I don't have to worry about dealing with parents. But it does appear that I do very little during the lesson - it's just that they aren't aware of the four years it took to master my subject.