Knowing oneself: a critical factor in success

I remember one of my classmates then in Secondary School, let’s call him Ben. He was an extremely playful person; Infact, it seemed like Ben only played. Some people who hung around him only played too. But when the term’s results came out, he always passed with flying colours while they never did. Even I was surprised at how he always managed to excel until a friend of mine pointed out that people that flocked around him played at the same tempo that he did…………..forgetting that there is the place of burning the midnight oil.

In the university too, I realised that a number of people never read during the day. Why? They realised that nothing ever stuck when they read at that time so they never bothered. But during the night, they dedicated their time into the wee hours of the morning reading and they gained much more than they ever would have reading during the day for two weeks. I for example usually read during the night save for the occasional daytime use of the library.

Some like me have also realised that some students only need to be present for lessons/lectures to ace their exams. I don’t know how they do it. They just seem to casually stroll in, listen to the lectures and when all is said and done, the exams are moin-moin to them. I believe these people have been gifted with the ability to easily grasp concepts and contents of each lecture, hence are able to easily pass their exams without so much extra work.

Meanwhile, some need to go through their notes and extra reference materials a couple of times to be able to understand what has gone on through the semester. Students in these aforementioned categories especially when they are friends need to be extremely careful. This is because the “stroller” when influenced by the “extreme reader” has nothing to lose. But when as an extreme reader, you play hard at the same rate your stroller friend does and you don’t take reading serious because your stroller friend doesn’t, you can be sure that your semester results will be a mess at the end of the day. Some in school then read for multiple hours each day, but when their results came out, said results were nothing to write home about.

I remember the story of a guy then in UNILAG who read straight for 16 hours or over a day or so. Let’s just summarise the story to be that he slumped. Thank God for the multiple attempts made to save his life. It’s not just about reading, it’s about reading at the right time and with the right strategy. I know of someone for example who can’t read for more than 30 minutes at anytime. This is because at the end of that period he loses interest and can’t grasp anything. So what he does is read for 30 minutes, take a brief break to do some homework or so and then he comes back fresh. It is extremely wasteful when he is made to read for 4 hours for example. This is because his mind goes blank after the first 30 minutes. You need to know yourself to make the most of your time.This is not only applicable to reading. It cuts across various segments of everyday life.

Let me quickly give another analogy.

Have you ever been in an exam hall where after the first 20-30 minutes of an exam, some students begin to ask for extra answer booklets while you haven’t left the 3rd page of yours? Or worse, some raise their hands, submit their booklets and walk out.

A complex sets in. You begin to feel that they are way ahead.

You need to understand that people are structured in different ways.

For example, I usually read through the questions, started from the ones that I knew the exact details of and worked downwards. While working on those, I pondered on how I’ld best answer the upcoming questions, jotted down valuable points that came to mind while answering something else entirely. In other words, I tried to work as efficiently and fast as possible. And once I was done to the best of my knowledge, I got up, submitted and I was out. It was common for me to finish exams in half or two-third the time. It would now be silly for someone who knows that he usually remembers valuable points towards the end of the time allocated for the exam to allow early submissions put undue pressure on him to submit his script prematurely.

In a French exam I did in JSS, after 10 minutes, someone got up and submitted. Some thought she was a genius, eventually we realised that she didn’t know anything. She just shaded at random and went to submit.

Do not be fazed by early submissions.

It was Socrates who said “know thyself.” Some people say “work smart, not hard” and I tend to agree with them. And as my boss would say,

I want to see productivity and results, not just activities.

Even in the office and on the home front, when you know your strengths, weaknesses and the best way for you to carry out certain assignments, you are bound to achieve more with less stress attached.