Although I’ve been a teacher for almost two decades, I’m not a huge believer in many of the standard operating procedures that we associate with school. We live in a world with rules and norms that are very different from the ones that we learn in school. This is not an indictment of the education system. There is still a reason for the system to exist and although it could be improved, we don’t seem to be able to agree on how to pivot. My point is actually on a much more personal level. For each and every one of us, the test is never tomorrow. It’s right now.
In school we are usually moving toward some form of informational crescendo where we will have a quiz, test or exam. Eventually we amass enough of these to warrant a graduation or certification. The documents that we accept are a proof of past knowledge. Passing a test on the War of 1812 would be pretty tough at the moment. However we’ve accepted this system to give ourselves titles of high school graduate, bachelor, or PHD. No matter whether we passed with flying colors or barely scraped by, we still hold the title. It is part of our identity and helps to form beliefs about who we are.
Each and every one of us has a variety of identities that we would use to classify ourselves. I’m a father, husband, teacher, coach, blogger, author, speaker, uncle, etc. Depending on the moment, I could be filling any one of those roles. Let’s dissect this, starting from the base and working our way up.
- When I am being a coach, it’s possible that I’m 100% ignoring my role as an uncle. Does that mean that I’m a horrible uncle? No, just like in school, it’s possible to take multiple classes in order to be “well rounded” while majoring in other things. If I only had one role for myself, that role would get boring quickly.
- Following along from the point above. Even though diversification of roles is important to stave off boredom, your attitude toward each role is going to usually determine your success more than your aptitude. A soccer player who pours his/her heart and soul into training and matches will often get farther than a similar level one who sees it as drudgery. (Another reason to revamp school)
- The next step up is that very few of the tests in life are going to be based on extremely predictable information that we are just regurgitating from past situations. We need to interpret new circumstances and apply past knowledge while adapting with changes. It’s almost never multiple choice. Usually it’s multiple intertwined problems that we’ve never seen before and people are watching while we work.
- Life’s tests are almost always “pop quizzes.” You’re rarely going to know when they are coming up. They are almost never representations of our cumulative knowledge in an area. Little combinations of information and skill are needed to navigate situations. There is almost no way to predict what tests are coming your way and what will be on them. There is no curve and often, you’ll never truly know if you passed or failed.
Life is less like school and more like juggling. You don’t pass or win at juggling. Invariably everything is going to fall down at some point. Some objects that you are trying to keep up will be more fragile or heavy. The only way to get better at juggling is to juggle, to chance the missteps and off balance situations. The performance and the practice are the same exact thing except one has an audience. Ultimately many of the variables can be changed but you are the constant. If you drop everything, it’s on you to pick up the pieces and start again. A teacher can tell you how to be a better juggler but it’s on you to make the throws.
This long post really only has one point. Now and you are all that you have. If you’re not ready for the tests/pins/bowling balls that life is throwing at you, then you need to use this moment to practice for the next time. Don’t expect it to be easy or that you’ll get extra time or extra help. If they come, great but they’re not a given, this isn’t school!
Practice and perform! You can do it!