Tom is a very sharp boy. Good in spoken skills, good averages in academics, overall well groomed and a good-looking boy. He studied in a posh school, was of well-to-do parents and an only child. An open, friendly and free kind of upbringing, he has had. He was very social and popular among friends and he belonged to the so-called in-group.
Sarah is a timid girl who speaks passably well. Average in academics, simply dressed and with ordinary looks. She studied in a public school, was good in writing skills but not so confident in spoken skills. Her social skills were inhibited and she did not have many friends.
As college progressed, one could see the difference in the two. Tom was always the first to answer, participate in college activities and he was way above the others. Sarah was one who knew all the answers but would never open her mouth in class. She had to be encouraged a lot to take part in any activities and when she reluctantly did, she was awkward on stage.
With a semester down, the results showed Sarah scoring more than Tom. Some negativity ensued from the Tom group but then with Sarah’s quiet nature, Tom did not perceive it as competition. Meanwhile, Sarah befriended another girl in class, Anna who was very vibrant but not so good in academics. Their friendship developed so well that they were able to help each other in what the other lacked. Boosted by Anna’s constant support, Sarah soon started participated in activities, her shyness reduced and soon became quite a popular student. Anna also improved her grades.
Tom meanwhile was living in nonchalant bliss. The other smart boys and girls soon stayed away from his friendship. He had a crony of friends who kept living off him. Tom was the main sponsor for many of their off-college jaunts, taking college education and activities in his stride. Soon he took part in activities without preparation, proclaiming extempore presentations are actually very smart. He took exams very casually with hardly any studying. College is a breeze, he would exclaim to friends. For people like me, it’s very easy. He would brush off everything with an overconfidence that was soon irritating to others.
Next was the unfortunate revelation that Tom was not included in the scheme of things when his professors planned an event, academic or cultural. This also he passed off by criticizing the performance of others as very average and he would have done better. Soon, he was flunking in exams and he had a backlog to clear before he could be allowed to write the next semester. Next followed that the fashionable statement was to flunk and not bother about anything in college, as college was a bore. Parents were a bother. Smoking, drinking and then doing drugs was the natural thing to do. I am a chilled out guy. Not for me, these boring exams, college activities, he would frequently exclaim. They are for the nerds and kiddish ones, he stated to his cotorie. He barely passed his final exams and his arrogance in interviews denied him any jobs during placements. The girls with their sincere yet confident posture helped them get good jobs.
How did this transition happen? The girls improved so well in spite of being average to start off while someone who started on a high note dipped so badly. Overconfidence versus Inferiority. High self esteem versus Low self esteem. High performance versus Ordinary performance. The one with the positives versus the one with the negatives. Surprisingly, the one with high potential is the one who lost out to the one standing at the threshold.
The Attitude to Learn. Anybody, whether a student or a professor, has to always believe that there is so much more to learn, so much more to do. If we believe that, and put in effort all the time to learn new things, they will continue to improve. An attitude of ‘I know it all’ will take one nowhere. In fact one not only remains where he is but quickly deteriorates. It takes a lot of effort to go up the performance ladder but requires very little effort to go down. The leader who believes whatever he says is the best and there can be no better way than his will soon become the most outdated person on the planet.
Every class I go to, I find new insights to what I discuss with students. I never enter a class to teach. It’s always with the attitude to disseminate and discuss. End of the hour, both student and I will be enlightened. The aptitude to learn is enhanced by the attitude to learn.
Learning is a continuous process and is laden with change that is in itself a constant. Given the right attitude, excellence ensues.