Let’s start with why.

Although this is not really a book review, I did recently read this book. I found it entertaining, at times repetitive – Apple is the primary, exemplary case – and both inspiring and instructional. The final chapter touched my emotions in a way a management book rarely does. So why, then, would I blog about this here, for students aiming to improve their academic performance. The answer to that question is very simple.

Why are you in university? Let’s start with why. I am very confident in stating that if you examine the question: what am I doing day-to-day in my university life, you will quickly discover your why. Are you here it to learn new things? Are you here it to make new friends, meet new people? Are you here to plan your next vacation? Are you here to party?

Looking and your what you do gives great hints to why you have chosen to be in university. Now ask yourself another question: is your why aligned with the idea you have of yourself, four years from now?

If you take Simon’s concept (it goes too far for me to call it a theory, sorry Simon) and use the simple model he provides to organize your motivation, you may find that you see your actions, your behaviors and your decisions reflected in the mirror of WHY?

And there is nothing wrong with that – if the why is something that you can get behind. The interesting thing about balancing your life in university today with the purpose of university, which is preparing your to think and act in the future, is that a variety of why’s can apply. Your mission – if you choose to accept it – is to create that magnificent why that makes what you eventually do incredibly easy for you to stand by. Whether others agree or not.

(Hint: when you feel unsettled by your own explanation, its probably because you know you’re lying to yourself…)

Intuitively, you understand the purpose of university, yet in the clutter of temptations (sorry, opportunities to express yourself, meet new people, develop your skills) you may loose sight of why you do what you do. In my direct experience, students who excel have a very clear explanation of why they do what they do – also when it comes partying hard. It is when someone cannot explain why there are more parties than lectures in a week, that I get worried.

Watch the video and this weekend, start with why. It’ll make coming monday very interesting indeed!

Book review (4): They call me Coach – John Wooden

The Student Achievement Program Education Learning StudyingWho can ask more of a man than giving all within his span? Giving all, it seems to me, is not so far from victory. – George Moriarty

This is the quote accompanying the first chapter is this wonderfully inspiring book about the life and time of late John Wooden, a man whose coaching career in university basketball is an awesome story – pure and simple.

What is more, the quote simply summarizes a basic philosophy of success which is a solid basis for any endeavor you may undertake in life.

In an honest, conversational tone this book discusses events and people from John Wooden’s career. His candidness lets his words travel to your heart and give you a glimpse of the great passion he had for the sport of basketball.

If you keep to busy learning the tricks of the trade, you may never learn the trade.

A simple phrase, yet very true. Also in learning and educating yourself – there comes a time when learning the tricks to learning is over and you need to get down to it. No matter how much training in using your brain efficiently you receive, you will only graduate from university when you apply that training to your curriculum.

The great thing about this book is the metaphor of coaching basketball which can be applied to many aspects of life. In sharing his experience, with that his wisdom, with you, John Wooden shows you a possible direction you can steer your mind in which enables you to grow and be successful in a way which is fulfilling for you.

To me, the most inspiring aspect of this story, and I am cherry picking from many possibilities, is the chapter in which John Wooden discusses his definition of success.

To me it rings very true and requires a strong command of yourself to live up to. In the end, he says, only you can judge whether or not you were successful. Perhaps you may fool others, but deep inside you will always wonder wether you could have done more, done something different and perhaps changed the turn of events in your life. Only you will know.

The phrase at the start of this chapter summarizes it best, and it is a thought I want to leave you with.

Succes is peace of mind, which is a direct result of Self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the Best you are capable of becoming. 

Who holds you accountable?

The Student Achievement Program Education Learning StudyingTake charge of your accomplishments in university.

How? Make yourself accountable to yourself.

What will you use as a benchmark when you reflect on the results you produce? In the end, the only thing that matters is your own standard. And you can set any standard you want for yourself. The question you want to ask yourself is this one:

“What standard can I set for myself that helps me unfold my own potential.” 

One of the things I believe is that living means growing. And growing means going from where you are to where you can be. This is easy to forget when you are good at something; being accomplished gives you positive feedback, from your activity and from your environment.

There is a reason that we are attracted to new things; it means you have learnt something new and wants to share that with us. That is why what you are good at today will only give you pleasure for as long as it is interesting to you. When the novelty wears off.

That is why learning and growing is so important. At what rate you learn and to which heights you grow are very much up to you. To set the best kind of standard for yourself, you think about your values. When you have a clear set of values in your life, they serve as tremendously powerful guides in your decision making.

In fact, when it comes to time management, your values help you stick to your priorities. In the end, when you hold yourself accountable, you know what served you and what did not when you reflect on your actions in relation to your values.

And your values are in fact a reflection of your standards for yourself. So there you have it. To take charge of your accomplishments in university, take some time to figure out your values. Then act accordingly, and your accomplishments will always ring true to your real self.

Book Review (2): Anthony Robbins – Unlimited Power

The Student Achievement Program Education Learning Studying

Tony Robbins

The beginning. I think this is a classic in the personal growth canon. And for me, it is the book that started me on this wonderful journey of exploring my deepest motivation and drive. Tony Robbins’ words in his book Unlimited Power, in his audioprograms Personal Power II and the Time of Your Life helped ne find resilience to adversity and hard times and inspired me to pursue my dreams and visions by building, shaping and honing my character. Therefore it seems good to start off this series of book reviews with this wonderful, original and insightful piece of writing from 1989.

This book was suggested to me by my housemate during my first year in university. He and I were both interested in personal development and he suggested I pick up Tony Robbins because he had found it insightful and entertaining. It was the first book I ordered online via the now famous Dutch Bol.com webshop, and I have reviewed and re-read it several times since 2003.

Before this happened, I had seen Tony Robbins on the infomercials with his Personal Power program; and I had dismissed his program because of that first introduction. All though I was engaged by his charisma and charm, his did not seem like a program I would be interested in because it was sold, with a discount and a bonus CD, through television. But my housemate’s opinion gave me enough confidence to, with my reservations, pick up this book and give it a shot.

A good story. Not only is the content of this book worthwhile and useful, it is also wrapped in a good story. A very important lesson in life for me has been that stories are what bind people together; the story of where we came from, of how we met, of where we are going, or of what we accomplished together. I have, through my work, met few people who do not enjoy a good story.

Not only are stories entertaining, they hold valuable lessons. And from the first page Tony takes you along in his story and he shares the lessons he learned throughout his life, in what I believe is a very open and honest way.

(Re)defining Power. What Tony does quickly is help you redefine power, your personal power to take charge of your life and make it work for you. And from that point in the book I was hooked. Could it be that I was able to turn my life into a fantastic voyage? How? What need I do to make it so?

All though the lessons are there, in the pages, there is no substitue for the school of life. Taking the lesson’s in this book to heart helped be push forward through life and pursue an unconventional career – but an extremely fulfilling life of engagement and inspiration. The seeds were planted when I read this book, but they only came to bloom two years later, when I needed to get in motion. Badly. In a hurry.

The starting point. Tony’s programs always start with your beliefs. Pick any program and you will first get a good review of what goes on in your inner world; in your mind and how that effects what materializes in the outside world; in your reality.

And it is simply true. When you learn and become the master of your mind, your thoughts, your urges, your needs, your emotions, you see the tremendous effect the way your mind works has on your life.

He speaks of how you can choose to respond to events in your life. This book confronts you with your ability to reflect upon yourself, and your life, and if you read it in the spirit in which it was written, there is tremendous power in the lessons on choosing your responses. You grow simply by planting the seeds of these thoughts in your brain.

Physiology. Tony talks about your physiology and how it affects your day to day state. But what he also does is constantly give you a way to apply what he speaks of; immediately and with results.

The force of his writing does not come from the words he puts on paper, but the action these words inspire. And by taking action as you read, you quickly find yourself making the words and lessons your own.

A great read. When you read this book by Tony Robbins, look back at my blog and you will see that many of the lessons in his book are reflected in some way in the writing here, nearly ten years after I first read his book.

Perhaps mixed with new ideas, different experiences and novel research, the principal lessons I have tried to convey to students can be found in the core of Tony Robbins’ philosophy of life, achievement, success and power. It is a timeless one that holds value for anyone who wants to learn from him.

How to (2): Making the connection(s)

The Student Achievement Program SQ3RActive reading works. In fact, actively participating in learning is linked to remembering information. Does that surprise you? It sure doesn’t surprise me.

What is surprising is the fact that students simply do not apply themselves to reading actively (even when they see their peers’ results improving as a result) – thus forcing themselves to spend more time re-reading texts, re-writing notes and re-viewing course material than is necessary. Why? So you can save time today; active reading takes time, effort and persistence. As with any good thing, learning does not come easy.

The Student Achievement Program SQ3RStep 1. When you engage your brain in what you are reading, you use the existing pathways between your memories by linking the information you are reading to what you already know. A simple way to do this is to start by surveying the chapter.

To increase your ability to remember, organizing information is key. You already know that your memory works associatively. However, if you store tomatoes in the category vegetable, you might want to rethink your fruits.

Thankfully over time books evolved into well organized tomes of information. Most modern textbooks actually make use of a full array of didactic measures to facilitate learning. Sadly enough, since you are not a professional educator, these measures are often lost on you. Reading the main text is hard enough as it is, right?

The Student Achievement Program SQ3R

Disney’s Dumbo

Even though you think associatively, clustering information will make it easier for you to remember. As you think of an elephant’s snout or massive body, it becomes easier to describe the other parts of this majestic animal, in turn making it easier to recollect any knowledge you possess about elephants in general. But it’s all categorized somewhere around elephant.

Before you read a chapter go back to the index, or table of contents. Here you will find a list of topics that will be covered in the chapter you are about to read. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What do I know about the topic I am about to read?
  2. What do I know about the first topic of the chapter?
  3. What do I know about the second topic of the chapter?
The Student Achievement Program SQ3R

An example of a survey-question-doodle…

And write down what you are thinking! Either in a mind map create a short overview per topic of the knowledge you can connect it to, or scribble some notes; but be involved!

Why? There are two reasons. First of all, when you, before you take  in new knowledge, access the existing memories on, or related to, the topic, you are building the connections in your brain. The more frequently you access these memories through these connections, the easier recall becomes. Every attempt counts.

Second, you immediately start organizing this new within the relevant memories. When roaming about a certain topic in your mind, you increase the likeliness of you stumbling upon the association you are looking for. This puts making the connection in a different light, doesn’t it.  

Comprehensive reading. Now the reading starts. With the topic outline in mind, begin reading the text, sticking to the important topics and their context. Where you can, copy the key terms and their descriptors, while placing them in the context of the main topic. Can you do this? If this is hard, it means that you are constructing, through your effort, the frame of reference upon which you can build more knowledge.

The Student Achievement Program SQ3RIf the learning is difficult, it does not mean that you are not intelligent; rather it means that you are stretching your intelligence, growing in your ability to comprehend and use this new information.

Our brain has the ability to easily recognize and organize known constructs; new concepts need to be formed and categorized. The latter takes time and energy – that is why you may feel very tired after reading just one page of neuroscience-related articles when your field of study is sports management.

By asking yourself questions while you read and paraphrasing the material, either in mind maps or notes, you engage your brain in the material.

You are almost there! When you have completed a paragraph, or a chapter read back your notes to yourself. You may do this out loud – it is called recite for a reason. Can you answer the questions you posed to yourself when you began reading? What do you remember? Which elements do you forget? Can you think of a way to connect these elements to what you do remember?

In the end, over time you can review your notes. When you start of by answering the questions you had at the onset, you immediately move from passively reviewing to actively searching your brain for what you remember about the material.

Reviewing get’s easier over time, and as the new becomes a part of your framework, you enable yourself to learn new, more complex concepts based on these fundamentals even faster. By putting in the effort in when you start with chapter one, you make comprehension of chapter eight easier.

So, Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review. SQ3R. Give it a try – it works. Science fact.