I had this friend years ago who was brilliant in thinking strategically about things and he would be able to spend the minimum time studying but maximise his results. He would spot questions and take risks on exams in that way. The time he saved, he’d do many other things, participating in activities that beef up his profile, spending time with friends. Even then, he was good at focusing on more high profile activities such as those involving politicians, community grassroots – the shiny credentials that provides greater influence in time to come.
When I was in school, I didn’t find that particularly appealing; because I genuinely wanted to learn and wasn’t just trying to ace exams. In fact, I didn’t care if something was going to be on the test, I’d devour all the different knowledge and materials I found interesting. Yet as we leave school and enter our working lives and all, I cannot help but recognise how brilliant that friend of mine was. He was practising something that our system implicitly encouraged even if it was reserved for the somewhat elite-class. It was the same idea of asking what would be the highest value activity to spend our time and resources on.
More critically, it was also about asking, what are the others doing, whether I can adopt a strategy to achieve the results that I want without necessarily mimicking what others are doing? It wasn’t so much about how do I fit the bill or to fit in; but how do I convince others that I’m already the good fit. Most of us aren’t comfortable with that; and we often want life to be ‘simpler’. But if simpler life just means following clear instructions and being a cog, you might want to think twice.