What is your advice for those studying who feel they are going to disappoint themselves? That I excel in other areas but academics has always been the 'story' I don't want to own. I'll put in work one day but struggle to the next -tuning in to all that I haven't done well/yet. This includes a lot of thinking about the studying I need to do. I have drive but feel low especially when I sit down to study for a good future. It's annoying cause I want to win for the part of me that knows I can do it.
I gave this a lot of thought. It sounds like you’re a very ambitious person (you excel in other areas, you have drive, you study for a good future, you want to win) and that’s amazing. Ambition is one of the things that’s hard to come by if you don’t have it in you and you just happen to have loads.
That’s a great beginning for a great student!
In fact, I’ve worked out a little recipe:
RECIPE for DISCIPULI BONI*
1 cup ambition
1 bowl curiosity (grated)
3 spoonful hard work
5 slices of humor
7 pieces of awe
9 chunks of bravery
11 roots of strategy
1 steamed essence of love
* good students (=who get results and enjoy studying)
From the looks of it, you have ambition and hard work, so I don’t need to tell you about these two. But why do you need all the others?
To change your perspective.
You told me that you feel like you’re going to disappoint yourself and that is not a good place to be at, at all. Especially as someone who dreams big.
So, you need to re-assess your priorities. If you feel “I won’t make it” from the very beginning, you’re playing a game you can only lose.
So ask yourself: what is “it” exactly? What won’t you make?
“It” is studying succesfully, but “studying” is such a huge word. It’s a bit like “doing sports”. “Doing sports” could mean anything: running, resting, jumping, swimming, diving, hitting, warming up, stretching, maneuvering, anything.
So, when people say they want to “study”, they actually say they want to listen, read, view, review, process, write, understand, retain, organize, formulate, integrate, question, argue, illustrate, engage, explore, …you get the idea.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses and you will be better at some of these and worse at others, so beating yourself up, just because you’re not a perfect robot is straight up mean. Allow yourself room to grow. Don’t set your bar so high that you can’t possibly reach it - it will only frustrate and demoralize you.
Instead, learn to set up goals that you can reach and reach them. Trust me, the boost you get from a plan you conceived, assessed and followed through is incomparable. If you feel “I’ll let myself down with this plan”, change the plan.
There is no shame in devoting more time to a subject and if others will be faster, congratulate them, but know that many won’t ever understand the subject on your level. They scraped through, good for them, but you will understand.
And here’s where the other ingredients come in: You called academics a ‘story’ and I think that’s a beautiful way to describe the fact that it, like the word “studying”, does not really exist on its own. It’s a multitude of actions, values, dreams and strategies, pressed into a single word.
To many, academia is a stage they need to get through, so that they may be eligible for a good job that pays good money or a good job with lots of prestige or even a good job to help lots of people and that’s okay.
But these people were always alien to me. They study, but it’s a mechanical process, without questioning, wondering or loving what you do. To many, if not most, this is what studying means and I think you might work under the misconception that this is, in fact, “studying”.
If it was, I wouldn’t want to own this ‘story’ either, trust me. Grinding away at your desk, mindlessly burning facts into your brain, filling page after page with words that mean nothing to you?
The way I see it, studying, real studying, is about something that means something to you. Something you connect with. Something that changes the way you look at the world. Something that gives your life reason, context, a history, a new dimension.
So how can you “real” study, and not “mechanical robot” study?
Well, you assemble your ingredients and start brewing your potion.
It’s like you’re cooking a stew. It’s already boiling, but the more ingredients you have, the better it will come out.
So? How many ingredients do you have?
1 cup ambition … check
1 bowl curiosity (grated)… not clear
Why is curiosity so important? Because it’s one of the things that makes us who we are and got us to where we are. You could live in a culture where schools or universities don’t even exist, but you’d still have questions. Why are we here? Who am I? How do I live a good life? What should I eat? How can I have fun? What is this water that’s falling from the sky?
We live in a riddle and the more you like to poke at the edges of our reality with a stick, the more you’ll enjoy your time here.
Here’s a post to help you cultivate this “philosophy of curiosity”: x
3 spoonful hard work… check
5 slices of humor… not clear
Humor? Why humor? Because life is freaking ridiculous and you need to be able to laugh at it, while engaging with it so deeply. Don’t become one of those who stop seeing the bright side, just because you’re exploring the dark side. Or one of those who abandon reality in favour of pure abstraction. Humor helps you to rejoin the living once you emerge from a study session and it helps to take life with a grain of salt. Laugh. Many of the things you’ll encounter will be funny and many won’t. You need to get through both, so laugh.
Have fun with learning. Here’s a post to help you with that: x
Most of all: learn to laugh at yourself. You make mistakes. Everyone does. So don’t be ashamed of them, but own up to it and make the failure yours.
Boy, was I stupid at so many points of my life. And that’s okay. Because that’s how we grow.
7 pieces of awe… not clear
I don’t matter. You don’t matter. In roughly 100 years, both of our atoms will be flying all over the universe. We don’t have much time in these bodies, but we do have time. Take a moment to just appreciate that. You’re here. You’re alive. You get to make an impact on this world, no matter how small. You get to see the nightsky, burning with bodies a thousand times larger than you. You get to breathe in this air, get to read stories others made up, get to surf the internet, one of the biggest inventions of mankind. We’re small, but in our small, insignificant way, we’re amazing and so significant. Keep things in perspective, feel the earth moving under your feet, racing through the universe we know next to nothing about.
It’s humbling and it makes you want to know more.
9 chunks of bravery… not clear
It’s easy to fall into living a comfortable life, filled with day-to-day problems and earthly concerns, like, which IKEA lamp should I put in that corner? And it’s hard work to move beyond that sphere, to question your assumptions and the reality around you. It’s jarring, even painful at times, to acknowledge your lack of insight and to face a truth bigger than you can handle. Everybody knows that feeling of facing a math problem that you know has an answer, but it leaves you flatlined, frustrated and self-loathing.
It takes courage to stand up to the unknown, to probe into it and to not know what you will find behind the veil. And then, when you have found it, it takes courage to accept the truth, no matter how discongruous it may be with the rest of your worldview.
So, brace yourself for whatever you may find and attack whatever assumption crosses your way, so that you mustn’t accept half-truths others have chewed for you.
11 roots of strategy… not clear
You might have the passion, but without a way to channel that passion, you’re running nowhere. This part is highly specific, as every subject and every student is different. You need to find the strategy that works best for you. What kind of workday leaves you satisfied at the end of the day? Experiment, try out recommendations, try different ways to approach knowledge and see which one works best for you. I’m 100% certain that the perfect way for you is out there, but you need to be at the helm of this and steer you brain troops into battle against the unknown.
1 steamed essence of love … not clear
This is the most vital ingredient and the one that it will take you a long time to acquire. Just as it happens in relationships or with cities or films or books, if you are compatible, the point will invariably come, where you will fall in love with each other. You will simply enjoy being around this person or object or subject matter, you will feel at home when navigating its complicated paths, you will want to understand it better, spend more time with it, give new meaning to it.
And this is what you should aim for. Once you’ve fallen in love with a subject, you don’t need any other motivators. Just the subject itself is reward enough, because it’s fun, interesting and important and you wouldn’t part with it for the world.
So, my fellow question asker, I hope I could help you to see “studying” in a new light. A light that, perhaps, inspired you to be the star of this story and to go out and fall in love with the world all over.
All the best!