How to be a Great Student: Part Five

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

How to be a Great Student: Part Five

It is all about you.


This is part of a series, click the tag: Be a Good Student for more.


Somewhere along the line, Education took a strange turn. Your Dad asks if you got good grades. Your teachers test you to prove … something, I don’t know. Colleges want a minimum GPA to even start the conversation.

That is not why you go to school.

Education is your ticket out of here! Learning stuff helps you protect yourself from the wiles of the world. You want this stuff.

Let’s take a look:


History: it is boring.

When I was a kid, my older brother would point at a button on my shirt and I would look down. Then, he’d lift his hand and flip my nose. Then, he’d laugh at me for being so gullible. He did this a lot until I learned.

We don’t learn history to study old dusty facts. We study to learn how diplomats carried the day, how spies turned the war, how a treaty can make money for both sides. We need to learn this stuff so that we can use diplomacy to get a raise or to get along with our mother-in-law (true politics). We learn to watch or use flanking maneuvers. We learn so that we can see it coming. C’mon, we have to learn what a “gambit” is and how to use it. We want to do it like Ben Franklin did it.

History repeats itself, I don’t want to get my nose flipped.


Theater: plays are boring.

There is a play about this king and queen and their advisor. The advisor is a skunk and eventually ruins a happy marriage. This play is Othello and the skunk is Iago.

Someday, after five years of marriage, your best friend will ask you, “Do you trust your wife?” And you will punch him in the nose! You recognize that weasel because you read the play. Others might begin to question their wives but we know better than to fall into that trap.

Plays have universal characters that we can recognize in our everyday lives.


Math: boring!

Someday, you will watch a big truck commercial. It is for real men who break the rules. Maybe you’ll go talk to the salesman. He will start throwing numbers around like 18% and say “trust me”. Today, drive by any used car parking lot and see how many of last year’s model trucks are in their lot; packed. Suckered into buying what you can’t afford — that is why you need math.

Your Mom will tell you, “be a dentist, get married early, have lots of babies”. And you look at a thirty year mortgage (30 years!) on a house before you get into dentist school. Use your math and know if that is really really what you want to do. Thirty years is a long time to live with a mistake.

Life is loaded with math that you have to use on the fly, especially when negotiating. The calculator on your cellphone won’t cut it.


English: kill me now!

Maybe you love to build bird houses or love collecting baseball cards or love kittens. You love it and spend a ton of time doing it. And then, one day, you realize that you know more than anyone or you know tricks or have insight. And you say, “Man, I have to share this with the world.”

Reading books does so much for us. One thing is that it teaches how to tell a story or write an essay. How did the pros do it? There must be five thousand ways to get a message out to the world. When it is time, and there will be a time, when you want to tell the world what you know; you want that English class in the fifth grade.

You want to be able to complete a thought.


The point is that it isn’t about testing. It is all about you. You use an education to protect yourself, to be aware of the world around you and to see it coming before it gets you hard. It is right there in front of you with an expert at the front of the classroom to help you along. It is your ticket out of this dreary town.

I won’t get my nose flipped again.

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