What Are You Doing?

Just under a week ago, I got my results back for my mid-term exams…

Naturally, being one of the “smart ones”, I expected to log into SAFE (System of Administration for the Faculty of Engineering, if you were wondering) to see that I’d passed all my exams with a nice margin, so I could sit back and enjoy the rest of this term.

This was not the case.

At this point, I began to spiral into a world of uncertainty, wondering what I had done wrong to deserve a mere 30% in my Python project. I was lost. Finished. My whole programming module had been one gigantic failure. This was my first official fail, but my fourth successive disappointment and alarm bells were ringing now, louder than ever. Following this, I asked myself a very important question.

What next?

Forward thinking has always been something I paid little-to-no attention to, as I often find myself looking back at my past experiences and trying to learn from them, hoping this will help me recognise and avoid possible problems in the future. Unsurprisingly, I struggled to answer this question. Should I do more work? Attend more lectures? Maybe I was wrong about homework after all, and should put more hours into getting it 100% right everytime? After several hours and no progress, I asked myself a new question…

What are you doing?

Worryingly, I had no answer. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, let alone what I’m doing wrong. Eventually, I decided to write down my recent “occurrences” and, to my surprise, I began to see some answers. Blogging, reaching out, making videos, reading, writing, learning, networking… Getting out of my comfort zone and taking it all in.

I AM doing things.

Many of us are trapped in a small world, where university is the key to a good life, and education is the first step on the road to success. Too many of us worry about being perfect, or at least good enough to pretend. Not anymore. Life is all about doing things – doing, doing and doing – until you start doing it right. Until you find your own way of doing things.

“An amateur practises until he can do a thing right, a professional until he can’t do it wrong.” – Percy C. Buck

“Quality over quantity” was a principle drilled into me at a young age, but my teacher failed to explain that in most cases, quality comes from quantity. For many years, I’d hold back on doing things until I got it right, but the fact of the matter is that nothing EVER works, not ‘just like that’ – there is no such thing as ‘overnight success’. In short, practice makes perfect, and to practice, you must do.

It’s worth noting that practice isn’t always the same as repetition. I find that working dynamically with a good strategy is easily one of best ways to practice, finding new ways to do the same thing. Using a different method or changing your approach is the secret to innovation, and innovation is where the money lies. This has always been a critical flaw in the ‘10,000 hour rule’ – 10,000 hours of football won’t make you a better swimmer. Make a plan and stick to it, but always be prepared to change it.

My academic life is as consistent as Jack Wilshire’s football career, but reading an article on Tesla? Selling old stuff on eBay? Posting on my blog or making a video for YouTube? My consistency lies with my passions, and my passions aren’t going to help me pass my exams.

Having said that, Jack Wilshire won’t pay my bills, nor will my ability to tell you about it. Making a living off of this blog or YouTube would be the dream one day, but for now, my future is determined by my ability to take notes and retain information… Or to pull it out of the bag in May. Thankfully, engineering as a subject – and many other things in life – can be learnt, and learning is just another form of practice – something I like to think I can do very well.

In summary, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I am doing something.

So, I ask you… What are YOU doing??

Leave your answer in the comments below.

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