We talk a lot about both diversification and diversity, yet describe them as if they’re fundamentally different concepts. However, I don’t think the diversification we might talk about over investing is all too different from the diversity we talk about in the corporate field. Both come with the same major advantage; an advantage that follows around the fact that you can’t do it all alone.
School is an unfortunate thing we all have to go through. For some reason, a bunch of bureaucrats at some point decided that the best way to get people to learn was to put them all in a room for a few hours every week, regurgitate facts to them, and then test them on these facts based on an arbitrary points system. While we all know now that this isn’t the way learning works, the system has stuck. Fortunately for us, thanks to the system in place, there are some easy ways to game things to make sure you are well optimized to receiving the highest number of “points” for whatever class you take.
Generally, there are three categories of classes: vocabulary, practical, and essay/project. Vocabulary is definitely the easiest and most straight-forward, practical is more time consuming but isn’t too difficult, and e/p can tend to be a more complex/vague variant. Typically, people will always find vocabulary to be the easiest, but when it comes to practical vs e/p it tends to depend on the person. Of course, the first challenge of this is determining which category your class fits into. Some classes are pretty straightforward — math classes will almost always be practical, and writing classes will almost always be e/p – but a lot of it will depend on the subject of your class and what school system you are based under. Since this is a topic all on its own, I’ll mostly skip over this step and go into the best practices for each category.
Like I had mentioned previously, vocabulary classes are the most straightforward; simply memorize the vocabulary. Some classes are simple and give you a list of terms at the beginning, whereas others attempt to increase artificial difficulty by making the terms a bit harder to find. Still, you should be able to find decent hints to what the vocabulary words are via the textbook, lectures, and any assignments in the class. Worst comes to worst, you’ll have to use the first test as a practice play in order to figure out where to best look for these words. Once you have them, put them through a system like Quizlet or Anki to study them optimally; regular studying time with these apps will allow you to retain knowledge of the terms for an exceptional amount of time.
For practicals, the process is much longer but tends to be more rewarding, as constant practice is actually a pretty valid way of learning something. This category consists of concepts that need to be practiced via exercises to be optimally remembered. There are two challenges that come up with this process. The first is that, depending on the class, you may run out of exercises before you actually feel you have a solid grasp on the material. For some classes, you can simply go outside your textbook or homework and find more on the internet; for other more obscure classes, this can be a decent challenge. The second is that depending on the intensity of the course, your professor may end up just utilizing the concepts and chaining multiple ones together to create a much more complex problem than you’ve seen in previous exercises. This obstacle can be mitigated by having a strong understanding of what each question is asking; if you know the concepts well, you can understand what the exercise is no matter what is being asked.
The final category, and in my opinion the hardest to master, is essay/project. These classes tend to be a lot more fluid and non-direct compared the others; however, since the “points” need to be established somehow, there are still some ways to get past this. The first is through the rubric, which should (hopefully) be given to you at the beginning of your assignment. Other, more helpful professors may even add a list of requirements for the essay or project in the description of the assignment itself. The problem is that, unlike these previous categories, simply doing what is in the rubric or description won’t be enough. Many of these pieces are left purposely vague, which will further complicate things. The number one thing you need to do in classes like these is read between the lines. Most essays/projects will have a set structure whether or not they’re explicitly mentioned in the guidelines themselves; what you’ll have to do is look at examples, descriptions, and lectures to understand what the structure is.
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I’m usually really bad at quitting things. Once I’ve gotten into something deep, it’s hard to stop it; even if I really don’t like it or it otherwise isn’t giving me value. I just hate the idea of giving up on something.
Part of this probably has to do with the fact that, when I was younger, I had the exact opposite problem. I was giving up on things left and right. I would think of a new great idea for a website, or a project, or a book, get really excited, work on it for about 2 weeks, and then hit a wall. And then never came back from that wall. Repeat ad nauseum.
For veteran readers of the blog, this might sound familiar. It’s something I brought up in my final post on the #100DaysofCode challenge. In the post, I make a promise to myself to continue climbing even when I’ve hit that wall. And while I’ve done pretty good at continuing to hit on things now, I’m starting to wonder; is there anything that you should give up on? And if so, how do you figure out what it is?
About two months ago I read Seth Godin’s The Dip, which I would say touches on this subject better than anything I’ve previously read (it’s also only around 80 pages). Godin essentially fully describes this sort of wall idea that I mentioned in the 100DaysofCode, and gives some outlines on how to tell the difference between quitting for a good reason and quitting for a bad reason. I’ve decided to take a bit of a spin on these ideas and write out what I think are the key principles to think about:
Does this project give me joy?
As a good rule of thumb, Marie-Kondoing your project list will work pretty well. Now, there are a few exceptions to this rule (we’ll discuss them in the next point) but overall if over the full scope of the project you can’t think of a single redeeming feature about it that gives you confidence or excitement, then its pretty easy to see that its probably not worth it. This is the heuristic I probably use most often, although it does need to be used with restraint; just because something does not give you immediate satisfaction does not mean it is worthless in the long term.
What am I currently getting out of this project? What will I get when this project is completed?
Opportunity cost is also a pretty good heuristic for deciding whether something is worth it or not. To gauge opportunity cost, you’d have to look at both short term prospects and long term prospects to decide whether something is good. If something has only a few short-term rewards but many long-term rewards, then it’s a good investment. If there’s no short-term rewards and only a few long-term rewards, then you may want to at least consider other options. This is where the exception from earlier comes into play; something might not necessarily bring joy, but still give you better prospects if you complete it. Sometimes, if the rewards are high enough, I can understand slumping through a project at least temporarily to get into a better position later.
Will this project help me achieve my long-term goals?
Always focus with the end in mind. Not every single one of your current projects will involve one of your long-term goals (at least not obviously) but you should always make sure that the path you’re going down currently will at least lead you into hitting those markers. Don’t have long-term goals? Then make some, and follow them. Long-term goals have been the de-facto best way I have made sure to stay consistently on track, and I’ll probably continue to consistently refine it into the future.
Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on. You can subscribe to it here.