Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.” It may not be so readily apparent how the quote by this great man applies to certain fields of endeavour, but, for education, it is perfectly fitting. If you think about it, taking a major examination in particular subjects lasts for just an hour or two – a maximum of four to six hours if you count all the units/modules that need to be taken – often on different dates for that particular subject. However, studying and preparing for the examination usually last hundreds of hours – spread over months or, perhaps, years.
As I mentioned at the end of my last blog, seeking to achieve high grades is a way of seeking power. Power gives you more choice in life, as having good qualifications opens more doors to numerous life opportunities. The object of a parent doing all they can to help their child succeed in life – including achieving high examination grades – is to help them have more choice or independence later in life. Having more choice is an excellent example of having power. Real power can only be developed through organised efforts. When we speak about organisation, words like planning, preparation, routine and taking action come to mind.
For a teenager seeking to succeed in school and then going on to achieve greater things in life, I will break down the three points – planning, preparation and action – into three areas. Planning is about identifying the subjects and courses in which to aim for the top grades and deciding how to achieve those grades. Preparation involves keeping up with the work – ensuring subject knowledge is gained, revising for examinations and mastering examination technique. Finally, action is the most important aspect of all the three, as, while it is helpful to have good ideas about what to do and how to do it, without taking the correct action and doing that repeatedly nothing will ever be achieved. Action includes following routines, adopting success-oriented behaviours and carrying out certain activities that need to be done in order to achieve the desired goals.
It is important to understand that studying and preparing for examinations cannot be done in isolation from other everyday activities – such as sleeping, eating, playing, travelling from one place to another or other necessary things. This is where being well-organised plays a crucial role.
Being well-organised is more powerful than working hard
I’ve met and also studied the lives of many successful people – both in the academic world and also in business. I have not come across any who do not work hard. The vast majority of them work hard physically, putting in the number of hours that most sensible people find very difficult to comprehend. Working hard is one thing; working on the correct things is another. It is important to be very clear about what hard work is to be directed towards, and this varies depending on the priorities one has at a given time.
Historical figures who are good organisers and their achievements
When you look at the long list of people who have had power in history, you will discover that they have been people who were good at organising. I would like to give just a few examples of people who have achieved greatly by being very organised. I’m speaking about people like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Anita Roddick (the founder of The Body Shop).
Henry Ford’s success was as a result of being highly organised, which led him to being able to invent the mass automobile production assembly line. He did it on a scale that never existed before. This made cars considerably cheaper so that more people could afford to buy them. There are claims by other scientists, such as Robert Hooke and Gottfried Leibniz, that some of Isaac Newton’s inventions were not his original idea, but theirs and also that he took credit for some of the work by his students. Whilst I was not around at the time and I do not know who is telling the truth, one thing I do know is that Isaac Newton was better organised than those other two scientists!
Anita Roddick was a very good organiser, as the success of The Body Shop she created was partly due to finding a way to use natural raw materials, such as vegetables and fruits, to make cosmetics. Again, some people have claimed that she was not the originator of this idea. But while others may well have had the idea before her, they did not have Roddick’s courage or the organisational skills to put it into practice and make a big business out of it. The good thing about her was that she also did it in an environmentally friendly and ethical way – without exploiting people.
From my own personal experience as a teacher of teenagers, I’ve seen that the more organised a student is, the more likely they are to achieve examination grades that match their natural ability. To conclude, there are abundant historical facts that support the notion that power can only be achieved through organised efforts.
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