Head Coach, SOE
Think about the puzzle toy, the Rubik’s Cube. It looks impossible to solve and yet there is a legion of competitors who can all complete the feat in under 10 seconds, do it one-handed and even blindfolded. All it takes is to understand the concepts of the methods, the algorithms to apply and lots of training. To put it more simply, you just have to understand the main ideas and approaches, and you practise them.
From my experiences with my students over the years – I have coached hundreds of students from all walks of life – they all have varying study skills. Many were average students – they saw no motivation in studying, did not know how to study properly, or could not be bothered to put in any effort on their part to work. Some students are pretty motivated since they were young. Their parents were probably very concerned and involved in their early childhood education.
Some are simply like cockroaches – a disgusting reference but it is really a compliment of one’s survival skills. Simply put, cockroaches are the world’s oldest pests who have survived for at least 350 million years and they will continue to survive no matter what.
A small percentage genuinely love studying. These are the ones who frequently rank at the top of their classes after every major examination because their love and interest automatically sustain their study efforts and propels them to perform at their peak capacity. But as far I am concerned, the vast majority of all students that I have taught or encountered possess average intellectual. Almost everyone possesses the same brain processing powers.
It is true that there are students who seem to be exceptionally bright in studying. You possibly already know some of them. They grasp concepts quickly, memorise information easily and can retain information well. Not surprising, they often excel in many subjects and they consistently rank at the top of their classes. If you have someone like that as your classmate, chances are that you are already jealous of how fortunate he or she is to be born smart.
But they are not “born smart” or they have higher IQs because they are lucky. Nobody is born smart. If babies are that smart, they should be able to change their soiled diapers on their own! 😜
Studies have shown that having a higher IQ does not correlate to achieving high marks at school. Yes, perhaps their parents’ genetic gifts could have given them a slight headstart, but each time you learn or experience something, your brain too builds more neural connections to make yourself smarter. Each time you make mistakes and reflect on them, your brain too builds more neural connections. In short, you have the same potential to achieve cognitively. The so-called “top students” had developed and trained their brain powers from a young age – their parents (or their teachers) probably helped to encourage them to think and learn on their own and hence their neural network could be more developed and autonomous than their peers’.
Imagine a bodybuilder who had already developed bulging muscles in his body. Was he born with them? Have you ever seen a muscular baby? Probably not. If you ever find such a freak, chances are that his or her mother slept next to a radioactive gamma-radiation emitting rock that mutated foetuses into “baby Hulks”. 😜
The point is that the bodybuilder, had at some stage of his life, had trained hard to develop and grow his targeted muscle groups, wolfed down protein shakes and strictly controlled his diet to have the spectacularly-sculpted body that he has today.
In a similar fashion, for one to be smart intellectually, you would have to at some stage of your life, train hard to develop and grow your brain’s muscles to transform yourself into a “Brainzilla”. You have to be determined not to quit even if you thought the problem was impossible to solve. Each “impossible” problem you solve will increase your experience and improve accordingly your confidence, along with your approach. With that, you would have attained a cognitive capacity to solve problems that allows yourself to look outstandingly smart in front of others who had not done it.
Conversely, had you elected to run away from those problems the first time you saw them and decided that you were no match for them, you would have added to your inexperience with regard to solving the problem. This in turn, would have dramatically decreased your confidence. Your belief henceforth would be that you would never be able to solve any problem that comes along.
You are really in more control of what you can achieve academically than you think you are. The ball is in your court. Decide what you must do. 😊