Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Doing No-thing - II

Continued from part I

Goals, or Journeys?

Yet it's true that when I started teaching myself, I had no outcome in mind. I only had a passion to learn, and day to day, I lived my passion under a certain self-discipline. I sometimes see my work in life as "bringing the unknown into known" or "making method of madness." I enjoy that kind of thing. It is like delving into a nebula, and fetching a stone or a star. You don't know, but you can be certain that if you develop your own method and you commit yourself to it, you will form a star from a nebulous dust.

To me, the outcome did not matter, I just revel in the journey and took every step of it. I had no complaints about a new life. I did not blame my books, nor my teachers nor myself. It was simple enough to my mind: if you have a challenge, overcome it. By the way, this whole analysis of a "colonial lens" did not bother me at that time. Indeed, I was only 11, but I was able to rigorously discourage and conversation that I thought empowered any other force than myself.

What does it mean? It means that if you find cooking difficult, do not say, "They have difficult recipes, the recipes were developed for ovens, I only have a stove." Just learn to cook. Everything that comes between a challenge and your mastery of it is nonsense. It is an illusion, designed to keep half-hearted people away from the final mastery. Often the journey itself is the achievement.

I understand I am not the only kind of human in the world, and some are motivated by other ways. Some students focused on grades and positions, and that got them to study. I studied for the love of knowledge, and I ended up amongst the top three, always. To each their own.

Not Outcomes, But Preparation

Years later, in 1998, I also taught myself A-level Accounting in 3 months, and ended up in the top 3% of all exam takers. 97% percentile. Highest amongst my fellow students - who had all taken private tuition and dreaded what would happen to the carefree me.

This time I had set myself rather specific goals, on paper, only in terms of scheduling my self-study routine. I don't like discussing my plans with nervous people, so I studied solo and focused. If this may help anyone, here was my only strategy in terms of grades: Know what is the cut-off point of failure, beat it early on during the exam, and then enjoy the paper. In that way, you have paid your dues. If failure is below 40%, secure 40% marks by carefully and quickly attempting as much part of the paper, throw in another 10% as a cushion, and then just enjoy answering the question.

I never planned any high grades, but I always decided not to fail. That was the technical part of studying; the truth is, I have loved studies, and I actually enjoyed exams.

A further ten years down the lane, as I reflect upon life, it seems that I clearly did not define achievement in terms of outcomes, that being the grade in the school context. Achievement to me was something that I controlled, which was my schedule and preparation. That was my mastery. It so happened that in a far easier exam, Business Management, I fell sick during the paper and needed to leave the room which I was not allowed to. I lost concentration, and got a B, which surprised everyone since I was star in that class and a back-bencher in Accounting. During O-levels, I had received a B in English Literature, and an E? - or was it a D? - in English Language. I had somehow chosen to do the English-as-first-language version of the later exam, and lost all my focus because I did not know the meaning of the word "rubble" which was the key word in a compulsory question. That experiment failed in terms of grades, and succeeded in terms of my fascination with a level of English that was not being taught at our school, but one which I attempted to hack at in the future.

Continued in part III

No comments:

Post a Comment