Thursday, 20 January 2011

Learn and Share

This is a long, and a very personal post. It might be really boring, but I certainly hope that you can learn something from it. 
I’ve been reading quite a number of articles on this blog for the past few days. There are indeed some very interesting ideas I would like to apply in my life. 
My first and second year at university had been an abominable disaster at best, in terms of academic performance (I barely passed, with overall percentage: 46% in year 1, 42% in year 2). From that point onwards, I have been trying hard to find what is wrong with my approach so far. Did I not do enough work? Or did I play, watch movies, read useless blogs or so on too much? Or perhaps it was just my brain not working as sharp as it used to do.

At the start of my second year, I reckoned it was all down to my lack of effort. I thought I did not do much work at all. So, I started my best to attend all lectures, seminars, and classes. I copied lecture notes and did exercises, sometimes over and over again, to make sure that I can remember and understand  the very many statistical equations and concepts that I need to get myself immersed into.

Then, things got even worse. In my first year, around 70 to 80 percent of my modules were statistics or mathematics, with the rest came from economics and operational research (OR) subjects. In year two, I tried to get as far away as possible from the unthinkably hard mathematical modules, with still a large portion; 50% coming from the very difficult statistical modules. Further 20% was contributed by Japanese, and the rest was combination of economics and OR modules.

My second year in its entirety, was perhaps single handedly saved by Japanese. I failed 4 subjects in that year (5 in my first year) with another 4 as equally awful, barely sitting within 40% to 50% band. Thanks largely to Japanese I got 62%, which is not that good either and the regulation for second year which had permitted me to proceed to final year without having to repeat anything, as long as my overall mark is above 40%.

Then, I vowed to work even harder in my final year. Perhaps still, I did not work hard enough in my second year. If not, how come it turned out to be really awful? In the first term, which was from September to December 2010, plenty of my time was spent in the library, sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning, then afterwards I walked back home in the cold winter thinking to myself that, "this is going to pay off someday, I just really need to pull myself together and get it through".

I am indeed at the stage whereby there is so much struggle in getting my academic health in order, for which I am very bad at organizing myself and prioritizing things, but I have made a pledge to myself to now try the holistic approach to learning, rather than working so hard without really achieving anything. If I were to fail again this time, then perhaps there is something very fundamentally wrong in my approach, of which I have not yet found that have been screwing everything until now. That is indeed very fine, I can still work upon that, no worries at all.

If anything that I did in the last three months that start changing everything is one day at the library. I had a chat with a friend of mine, and she was talking about the long life learning (LLL) courses which are offered in Warwick. Then I was thinking to myself, “That is quite an interesting possibility to learn something new, perhaps I should just try it out, and who knows maybe I am going to like it a lot!

I went straight back home, started browsing the brochure on the website and something got hold onto my eyes. “Sociology!”, and then “Psychology!”. I tried to register to one of them, without any success as the classes were already full. Taken aback, I looked at the list of the courses one more time, hoping if there is anything similar or related to any of the two.

Eureka! It’s philosophical studies! I was introduced to a number of great philosophers of the west, focusing on the Greek period in the first term. The course itself was a bit packed and compact, with lots of reading on barely understandable and complex, ancient philosophical texts required every week. There, I was taught about numerous philosophies of life, learnt existentialism, and exposed to more open discussions, debates and the sheer possibilities of anything.

What makes me so interested in philosophy is that, there is nothing really right or wrong about anything. There is in fact nothing so bad about any bizarrely, awkward ideas since all is open to discussion and debate. There, I learnt that humanity has survived and evolved over thousands of years, with every new generation working and improving upon what had been achieved by the previous ones.

What I really wanted to point out is that, openness to new ideas and thinking is imperative to humanity development. I failed over and over again before, largely because I refused to change how things work and to see them beyond my perceptions, and was to slow in adapting to new realities. I think a civil society is one that is based upon values, equality of individuals and liberty in expressing ideas and thoughts.

My view to this approach is; it tends to correct and make things better over the time. Acknowledging faults, shortcomings and defects is certainly not a sign of weakness. I truly believe it is indeed a sign of a stronger and more mature mind. To move forward, there is a need to admit wrongs and rights at their respective places, there should not be any discrimination at all.

To conceal what is ugly, and to reveal only what is beautiful, I think that is outright hypocrisy. Everyone is imperfect, that is a fact that no one can argue about. What is so wrong about that? Is there a need for us to be so ashamed about our imperfections? I certainly do not think so.

Every individual is so similar, yet so different and unique in our own ways. A plumber is certainly much better in working with pipes than a banker, and a professional chef is perhaps more exceptional at baking cakes than say, an engineer. What is all I am trying to convey is, principle of comparative and competitive advantage does not merely apply in economics, but also in our daily lives.

We focus on things that we do best, and we interact with others to gain from the trade of knowledge. Critiques and praises are all parts of the learning phase, since to only share the bright, rosy pieces of our adventure in life will create an illusory “perfect, but impossible or hard to achieve" image. How are we going to make the stories of successful people, more realistic to be replicated by anyone who wishes to do so?

There is no easy path to get to the top, there is simply no short cut whatsoever. All shortcomings are meant to be looked upon in a positive way, and slowly we shall work on finding the most suitable mechanisms to make things better. Indeed, life can sometimes be ugly but let us not shun it, and try embracing it to make things even grander and more beautiful in our own definitions.

Be content with things that we have, and work our ways to achieve greater motives in life, whatever they might be. Things might work, things might fail but I do not really care, as I am learning a lot from all of this. Now, I am more open to any possibilities in life as indeed I am ready to acknowledge, rationalize any of my actions in a greater scope and therefore admit my mistakes whenever someone point them out to me (but rarely anyone does). There is a need to be open and content about differences, because in the end we are all here to find the greater truth, to be a much better man, and to improve upon things that we might possibly can do something about.

Let us work in a greater consensus, correct and criticize each other in a civil way. I believe this is the way forward, do you not think so? Then leave some comments, and hit me back. Be civil, be peace.

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