advice

Are You Ignoring Obvious Advice? TUB-Thump 007

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You’ve heard the advice time and time again. It’s easy to ignore it.

So that’s what starts to happen.

We know we *should* be tackling the problem with obvious advice, but that doesn’t mean we always do.

Episode 007 of TUB-Thump takes a quick look at why we need to pause before we ignore that obvious advice.


Here are the show notes for the 4-min episode:

  • All advice is different. And some of it seems obvious. (00:30)
  • Do you follow all obvious advice? Start that assignment straight away, or wait and do an all-nighter? (01:00)
  • Why it’s so hard to make positive moves with obvious advice. (01:40)
  • Before you ignore the obvious advice as obvious, ask yourself how you’re following it. If you’re not, make a plan so you can. (03:00)

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

5 Dreadful Pieces Of Student Advice (And Why You Need To Stop Following Them)

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Not all advice is equal. Even the best intentions don’t make for the best suggestions.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve been given at university?

You may have heard some of the following before. Don’t get sucked in!

1. “1st Year Doesn’t Count.”

When all you need to do is pass, you may think there’s no difference between getting 40% and 70% or higher. Just do what you need to get through and spend most of your time enjoying everything else.

Bad move.

Putting in the effort helps you to progress. Without it, you won’t be so prepared for the next year, when your marks do count. There is no easy way to catch up either, as a lot of the process is about technique and practice and abstract links. You can’t bring yourself up to speed with a bit of cramming and rote learning.

Dismissing the importance of your first year is one of the most misguided and dangerous pieces of advice around.

2. “Sign Up For Everything.”

No matter how tempting it is to do ALL THE THINGS, it won’t help your CV (or your schedule) by signing up to every society, every cause, and every extra-curricular activity you can.

Commit to just a few things and throw all your enthusiastic weight and interest into them. Make it count. Aim to come out the other side with great stories to tell and a sense of achievement.

By challenging yourself to be awesome in a small number of areas, you’ll likely have better experiences and you’re sure to look better on paper. Nobody cares that you were in seventeen different clubs; they care that you did amazing things in one or two of them.

Pro tip: Among the things you already have an interest in conquering, find at least one society or group that you think will push you in a new direction. The worst that can happen is that you’ll discover you have absolutely no interest. In which case, find another new path and see what happens. Rinse and repeat until something clicks. With an open attitude, it shouldn’t take long to find something that delivers.

3. “Only Concentrate On The Study.” / “Push Toward A First.”

Some students don’t sign up for everything. In fact, they sign up for nothing. Their degree journey is all about the magical First Class Honours.

Whoa there! Firsts are on the up (more on that later…) and a top grade is no guarantee of success and fame and wealth and [insert amazing thing you want here].

Yes, getting the top mark is fantastic. I wouldn’t want you to aim lower for no reason. But neither should you ignore everything else around you in your pursuit of that grade. In short, do your sensible best, not your perfectionist best.

I’ve spoken to students (and parents) who worry that they’re heading toward a 2:1 because they have been concentrating on other activities to the detriment of their study. But in many cases I hear, students are not so much ignoring their study, but rather improving skills and employability achievements.

One person, developing his own business, was worried that his academic work would drop in quality, risking a 2:1 over a First. Putting aside the risks associated with starting any new business, the potential gains on paper are bigger than the difference between a First and a 2:1.

I recently spoke to a mother who was worried that her son had gone from an almost certain First to a much more likely 2:1. Apparently he was spending a lot of time building up a writing portfolio, which had been getting in the way of his study.

But with his sights set on journalism and having managed to be published in various places, including one or two big names, the difference between a top mark and a good mark isn’t so important. The new achievements should more than make up for it.

4. Anything Too Specific – “Never do this…” / “Always do that…”

The diversity of university ensures that there are loads of things you can do and loads you’ll never manage to do, even in the three or so years you’re there.

All those lists on the stuff you should NEVER do as a student, or the things you MUST do before you graduate, are just a way to get you clicking on a link.

It’s like when a mate tells you the best club in the area. You may agree with their opinion and you may not. But that’s all it is. An opinion.

Be cautious of anyone advising you of a dead cert. Their advice may prove right for you in the end, but you shouldn’t assume it will. Blindly following risks stepping into disaster.

Next time someone says you HAVE to do it, by all means go ahead, but only after you’ve considered it for yourself and you’re happy to do it on your own terms and for your own reasons.

5. “Don’t Panic…Degrees Are Getting Easier.”

The preliminary results of the latest Times Higher Education Best University Workplace Survey contain many comments from academics that say increasing numbers of students end up graduating with a First or 2:1.

These comments, no matter how true, fuel advice to chill-out and not put too much effort into your work.

The ‘Don’t Panic’ bit is fine, but the reason not to panic doesn’t sit right. I’ve even seen online conversations that say you’d have to be an idiot not to get a 2:1 or better. That’s insulting to everyone; those who don’t manage the grade as well as those who do.

You may be tempted to try getting away with the smallest amount of work possible. The tactic doesn’t save time in the long run and does more harm than good. If you’ve not found enjoyment in your studies to the extent that you’re trying to minimise your workload like this, what do you really want from this?

So yes, try not to panic. But no, don’t expect your degree to be easy. If you do, the reality will likely emerge at precisely the wrong time.

Explore ways to make your effort effortless and your challenges enjoyable. You’ll be better placed to find an enjoyable flow in your work. Your degree will feel easier, but by no means will it be easy. The relaxed flow will, instead, be testament to your attitude.

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Obvious Advice Is (Not Always) Obvious

Some advice is ace. You know it’s going to change your life for the better. Even if the change saves you one second a day, or helps you do an easy task easier still, you know you’re onto a winner.

Some advice is awful. It goes against everything you want, everything you know, and everything you feel. You don’t care if it works for some people, it won’t work for you.

photo by dvs

photo by dvs (CC BY 2.0)

And some advice is obvious. You struggle to see how you can benefit from something the whole world should be doing.

At that point, you realise that a lot of obvious advice may be coming at you loud and clear, but that doesn’t mean you take it up and action it.

Be honest with yourself. You’re told to have five or more fruit and vegetables a day. It’s not a mystery, but do you follow the advice?

You’re constantly reminded to exercise every day. Just a brisk walk or a short workout to start your day. How often do you do this?

Tutors tell you to start working on your assignments straight away. Don’t wait until the last minute. Despite this, have you got another all-nighter on the way?

For all the quick fixes and life hacks that give us a warm and fuzzy feeling, there is a bunch of clear and actionable advice that falls by the wayside. You’ve heard it all before, but you’re resistant to such a change.

The first step is to ask yourself why you find it so hard to alter your ways. What stops you from making a positive move toward a potentially huge change in your behaviour?

For some, the goal isn’t being broken down to manageable chunks. For others, there isn’t enough commitment in whatever is trying to be sorted in the first place. To make any change, you need good reason, clear goals, and some sense of enthusiasm. That boost of energy can come from what happens AFTER you’ve dealt with the not so awesome stuff. No matter, you need to find a way through that you’ll actually adhere to. Any less than that and you’ll hit a brick wall.

The biggest changes in life are rarely the result of a magic bullet. However hard you look for an easy solution to a big problem, you’re unlikely to find it.

The essay won’t write itself (cheating isn’t a magic bullet, it’s cheating). The exercise can’t be delegated to someone else. You’re responsible for managing your life as a whole and any little hacks are a nice bonus, not a suitable alternative to effort.

When you next hear obvious advice, don’t dismiss it straight away. Before you discount it, make sure you’re using that advice or have an even better approach to hand. If you know it, but don’t do it, obvious advice isn’t quite as obvious as you first think.

Learning Leads to Changed Perspective

We change more dramatically over time than we expect.

Look back five or ten years. How different were you back then? Probably a lot.

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Perspective changes

It’s no wonder that we look back on our past work and flinch at some of the stuff we did and said. Especially in public forum, like online, changes in opinion look more like contradictions if you’re not careful. Old blog posts or tweets where you make one argument will look strange–weak, even–when you write something new and argue the opposite thing.

But this is natural. Perspective changes.

“A major challenge for me is that, in spending a lot of time learning, my opinions grow with time. Hopefully my minor reversals and shifts in emphasis don’t irk or confuse longtime readers too much.” – Scott Young

I would be more worried if I didn’t feel challenged and if I didn’t sense any kind of development as time passed.

Plus, I like to consider other people’s perspective. Don’t live in a bubble. Explore views that aren’t your own.

For instance, I have offered advice in the past that I wouldn’t use myself, but that I knew would be useful to others. The type of information that I’ve seen others thrive off, despite it leaving me cold.

Why? Because I don’t assume that only my choices bear fruit. Especially when giving subjective advice. One size does not fit all.

That’s why, if I give two opposing pieces of advice, it could look misleading at first glance. On further reflection, the contradiction may highlight two perfectly valid options that require a choice (or exploration) on your part.

As with my previous post on planning your day, I suggested options to play with. And I regularly ask questions like, “What works best for you?” so the discussion can continue. The more we join in with offering and exploring new solutions, the greater the chance that we uncover even more treasures.

Don’t sweat the change. We all do it, though we don’t always notice it.

What has been your biggest change so far?