Someone had problems with his SAT verbal. He’d given them twice and was planning to give it the third time in less than 10 days. He needed some quick motivation and an instant action-plan. Where do i fit in? Well, I’m from IIT and now Stanford. Kids listen to me better than their parents. Plus, i have lots of tricks up my sleeve. And I’ve had my share of failures. So even if I sometimes don’t know what to do, i sure as hell know what not to do.
Here was my advice to him.
1. When faced with a boring task of memorizing about 300-400 words, you need to break it down into smaller chunks. How do you eat a horse? You cant stuff entire horse in your mouth. You break it into small bites which you can digest easily. So we literally tore apart the book. Now, you have smaller chapters you can carry around. Break the chore down into baby-steps.
2. Understand very clearly what the objective is. The objective is not prepare for the day of the exam. The objective is to prepare for the day before the exam. When you prepare, you filter out words. You find out the ones you don’t know. Filter the bad guys out. Put a post-it on top of each chapter and write the words you don’t know on it. So, in short, you’re preparing not for the exam day, but for the day before that. Because thats the day when all you’ll have to do is glance through your post-its. You’ll spend most of your time revising words you find difficult instead of sorting through all the words. You can kill bad guys by inefficiently spraying bullets from a machine gun or you can do some sharp-shooting. Thats my way. Shoot to kill. One at a time.
3. Do it now. If your plan is to start tomorrow, forget about it. Not gonna happen. You have to start right now. Do one word. Just read the first word. But start now. Don’t wait for the mood. Your mind must know it has to get down to work. And now. Thats what Linus Torvalds also says – “Talk is cheap. Show me the code.”
P.S. Hours later, the man got the job done. He accomplished todays target and has gone to sleep a happy man. Thats happiness when you see couple of chapters reduced to a couple of post-its. Thats filtering. Thats sharp-shooting.
I posted this on FB on Nov 8. Pasting it here for the record.