Did you just graduate from high school and now you realize you blew it? Is your GPA abysmal, and your prospects few?
This is not a theoretical view point for me, I was that guy and over the last 30 years I’ve learned a few things about learning and about myself that I want to share. From my own experience the best thing to do if you’re in this situation is to first, stop feeling sorry for yourself. What is done is done. Next make a plan to recover and move forward.
How to recover
If I could go back to talk to my younger self I would share this simple maxim. “Learn what that price of success is and then pay it.”
This is a simple phrase but let’s unpack this powerful idea.
When I attended school I didn’t really have a passion for anything. Most of my classes in high school were a disaster. I had some meager success in English and not knowing any better I gravitated toward that area. I only knew a few things upon graduation from high school. I wanted to leave my small town in Idaho in the hopes of opportunity and I wanted to go to college because, at the time, that seemed like the path to financial security.
College was not easy for me. I’ll spare you the blow by blow of my academics, but needless to say I changed my major several times and with only one semester left to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree I was still uncertain about what I wanted to do. Then something happened. I took a job that I was vastly underqualified for and got to work with some smart people who were designing a new way to teach people through technology.
The more I worked with these people the more I wanted to do what they did. I needed a Master’s Degree to work at this company. My grades in college were not much better that high school. The prospect of making it into the graduate program seems very slim. Meeting the bare minimum, I was accepted into the graduate program and was on my way.
I want to be clear in this part of my story. I didn’t have a passion for my newly chosen career. I just thought it was a good opportunity and I felt that I could do the job.
Passion verses opportunity
I didn’t know who Mike Rowe was back then but what he said about passion is my truth as well.
“When people follow their passion, they miss out on all kinds of opportunities they didn’t even know existed.”
Hosting the Discovery Channel show has led Rowe to meet hundreds of skilled tradesmen “who followed opportunity, not passion, and prospered as a result,” he said.
Rowe told the story of a multimillionaire septic tank cleaner who explained his success by saying, “I looked around to see where everyone else was headed, and then I went the opposite way.”
While growing up, Rowe wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and become a handyman. He invested himself in classes and workshops, but found that his talents lay elsewhere.
“Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it,”
From Scott Adams:
Successful people like to say their secret to success is passion. In my experience, success requires energy, a good strategy, hard work, and a lot of luck. If your plan starts to make you rich, you’ll probably be passionate about it. But passion generally follows success; it doesn’t cause it. I think successful people say passion is the key to success because almost any other answer sounds arrogant.
I know a guy who got rich selling doorknobs. Was he passionate about doorknobs? Probably not. He was just a smart guy with a good plan and enough energy to make it happen. And I assume there was some luck along the way. No passion required.
If passion is not the key then what is?
Recently I discovered a truth that is obvious, but still profound. Remember the maxim above: “Learn what that price of success is and then pay it.”
I recommend for new grads, old grads and anyone that wants to improve to focus on two things:
Learning Goals and Metacognition
Learning is not passive quest, it is really everything.
Psychologist and Professor Carol Dweck’s research concluded that “Learning goals trigger entirely different chains of thought and action from performance goals. A focus on performance instead of on learning and growing causes people to hold back from risk taking or exposing their self-image to ridicule by putting themselves into situations where they have to break a sweat to deliver the critical outcome.”
I propose that the number one reason people fail to achieve their goals is because people focus on ability and performance rather than acquiring new knowledge and skills first. Those who learn to succeed have a mindset for active, lifelong-learning as they work toward their aims.
How to create a learning goal
Keep the goal simple and make sure it articulates your destination in terms of what you want to learn that will enable you to be successful. It will be hard to fight the instinct to set achievement goals, but trust the science of setting learning goals first and foremost; then let what you learn guide you toward success.
Many professionals believe that the key to success is achievement goal setting, but Adams says, they lock you into a mental model that can potentially set you up for failure.
Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems [Leaning Goals] people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do.
The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system [they learn]. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction
What is Metacognition?
Metacognition is an important aspect of learning. It involves self-regulation, reflection upon an individual’s performance strengths, weaknesses, learning and study strategies.
Metacognition is the foundation upon which students in formal education setting become independent readers, writers and thinkers and where people in life can focus in on what matters most.
The 5 Second Rule is a form of metacognition, which means that it’s a way of tricking your brain in order to achieve your greater goals. This would include learning goals as well.
What is the 5 second rule?
Coined my Mel Robbins “The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must count 5–4–3–2–1 and physically move or your brain will stop you.”
Pushing yourself to take simple actions creates a chain reaction in your confidence and your productivity. By pushing yourself to take the simple steps of moving your life forward, you create momentum and experience a sense of freedom and power that’s hard to accurately describe.
Start by counting backwards to yourself: 5- 4- 3- 2- 1. The counting will help you focus on the goal or commitment and distract you from the worries, thoughts, and fears in your mind. As soon as you reach “1,” move. That’s it. Anytime there’s something you know you should do, but you feel uncertain, afraid, or overwhelmed…just take control by counting backwards 5- 4- 3- 2- 1. That’ll quiet your mind. Then, move when you get to 1.
Following these simple strategies will help you identify what you want to do, the price that must be paid to be successful on your path and when you believe in yourself, you will have the will power to pay the price.
For more information about learning goals and proven study skills back by neuroscience take this free online course from Learning Frames.
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Learning Frames is a system for sustainable learning goals, helping you obtain and maintain a growth mindset while utilizing proven study methods for active learning.