Back in High School, there was a sign that sat on my desk.
My science teacher, Mr Hannaford, toward the end of the lesson would ask me if I was going to entertain the extra questions in the textbooks. He told me they were optional but reinforced what we’d learned. The conversation always went a similar way…
“Are you gonna do the additional questions?”
“Do I have to?”
and then I would browse the next few pages in the textbook.
It got to the point where he stopped asking me, instead, one class he casually strode over to my desk and propped up a piece of paper with “Do you fancy doing the extra questions today?” written on it. I wrote back “Do I have to?” To which he wrote underneath “No…” and I drew a smiley face.
The next class that same piece of paper turned up on my desk laminated!
See… I was a good student in the sense that whatever I needed to learn went in and hung around in my brain, I was in the top set, and I always got good grades, but in terms of doing the stuff I didn’t want to do? The stuff that bored me? Nah… I was a terrible student in that sense!
Straight A’s, top percentile… but work for things I didn’t want? Nah… I’m good.
But oh, if there was something that caught my attention? Something that sparked that fire within, lit me up and I felt like I couldn’t get enough of, then oh, that was a whole other story! I would be elbows deep, lost in a book, hitting up the library, creating something, sometimes dragging myself away long enough to notice it had gone dark outside… I went in, and I went deep. And no amount of bells ringing or being called for my dinner would drag me away
See, it wasn’t just at school that I was like that. Even to this day, my Mum laments over my lack of ability to focus and get shit done when it needs it, all because I’m just not interested, or not bothered.
I’m the person who will sit reading a book rather than wash the dishes.
When it comes to it, I only really do what I want, and yes, as an adult and as a mother that can be problematic. I’ve often pondered over my role model credentials and come to the conclusion that maybe they’re not the best… but who cares?! Whatever needs doing gets done, and I get to do my thing as I go!
But here’s where I really suck as a student… doing it because it’s expected.
Doing something in order to be the best student.
To get the shiniest gold stars, or the accolades, and the “look how great she is at following the steps and doing exactly as I told her!”
I don’t want that shit!
I don’t care for that shit!
I’ve already written about this before, and how I don’t care for your gold stars.
I, for all my years of being a good student, was never “the best student in the room”. Not in the sense that people expect us to be.
And I find as an adult that I’m even less inclined to try to be the best student.
I did my time.
I ticked the boxes.
I got the attendance points, and the hit the right criteria.
But ultimately, I was bored…
Always bored, rarely excited, and on the off chance that I got excited, it never lasted long because it always got distracted by something else.
I remember years of my life being told that “good grades will get you anywhere in life” only to hit “the real world” and find out that those grades, as much as they may open some doors, don’t mean shit once you’re through them.
To get ahead in life, to create any kind of change, or impact, you’ve got to get inside, take a look around, figure out the lay of the land, then call it to attention when you see something that could be changed, or improved.
I did it often, and I did it wherever I went.
I changed how my department ran, how my office ran, I built procedures, created new ways of working, and even gave the Head of the university department a piece of my mind as a student rep when he tried to give me a “here’s something you need to understand young lady” speech… I mean, one, I ain’t a lady, and two, I wasn’t a kid straight from school, I’d been “in the real world” and saw the office politics for the bullshit it really was. And nothing and no one was going to stand in my way of calling that out and the problems it was causing for my cohorts.
I just can’t do it!
I can’t sit idly by while the world carries on “the way it always has because that’s how it’s always been” when there are glaringly obvious ways that are really simple to implement that create positive change or impact.
Yes, a lot of the things that I’ve done have been small.
Like a standard operating procedure that saved hours of work every day, or a spreadsheet that saved over £15,000 in one quarter (my annual wage at the time).
Simple things like making it easier for people to do their jobs, or get the results they wanted.. that was always my thing.
It was about efficiency, not fucking around, and not having things be more complicated than they needed to be.
I liked to find new ways for old ideas, or even new ideas that would inject a bit of life and energy into the drudgery of every day.
I was also hell-bent on not doing things that didn’t need doing, or that I just didn’t want to, that drained my time and energy, and left me feeling deflated, uninterested, bored.
And it’s taken me a long time to learn to be OK with that. It’s been something I’ve hated, I’ve fought against and wanted to try and change when really it should be something to celebrate.
If it weren’t for people looking at the world through this kind of lens… if it weren’t for people who’s soul need is to create, or implement some change, no matter how small, nothing would move forward.
And it’s not our responsibility to do all the things that need doing. We all have our own roles in this world.
Some of us work better with the manual, some with the technical… we, as humans, are part of a greater ecosystem, and it’s time we not only remembered that but embraced that.
Screw what the system says, you’re not part of a machine, no part of you is mechanical, even if that’s something you understand in-depth easily.
You are part of something much greater!
Machines and systems are limited by the people who create them.
People are only limited by their own imagination and willingness to learn, develop and trust in themselves.
So, y’know what… be a “terrible” student by the standards of the system… be something much greater – be an incredible student by your own standards.
Deep dive into the things that light you up, that give you energy, and that grip your attention effortlessly.
Go all-in on those things and see how far it takes you… because it will take you a lot further than trying to “fix” whatever perceived faults you have around not doing all the other shit.