Study Like a Champion

I mentioned a while back that I’m a private Japanese language tutor, and some of my students are in high school. Well, seeing as it’s now the middle of January, they’re getting ready for final exams. A couple of them are freshmen, so this will be their first time ever experiencing a final exam. Needless to say, they’re anxious.

Japanese is hard at the beginner level, I think everyone would agree. Final exams are also scary for a high school freshmen; a test on five chapters seems like an awful lot of material. Those of us who are in college or beyond are already familiar with it and it no longer seems like that big a deal, but to a high school student, it can be overwhelming.  One of my students actually looked at me before the speaking / listening portion of their final exam and said “I’m pretty sure I’m going to fail this.” Well, if you know me at all by now, I don’t like it when people show me low self-esteem (especially my students, be it in karate or Japanese), and I don’t like it when people give up before they start. It’s time for a pep talk.

“Well buddy, you’re right, with that attitude you’re definitely going to fail, you might as well not even try.”

“Ok, then what are we here for?”

“You think I meant that? Look kid, here’s a little wisdom I picked up in Karate over the years: whether you think you’re going to win, or you think you’re going to lose, you’re right.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s put it this way. If you say ‘I’m definitely going to fail this test, I shouldn’t waste my time studying’, then what happens? You don’t study, you won’t know anything as a result, and you’ll fail. No doubt.”


“But if you say ‘I’m definitely going to pass!’, then what happens? You put in way more time studying than you even need to because you take the steps necessary to make your statement a reality. If you don’t put the time or effort in, you don’t stand a fighting chance, but if you fight for what you want like it’s already yours, then you do!”

“Ok, I think I can pass”

“That’s not good enough. It’s too wishy-washy. You’re diluting your spirit! You have to attack this test like your defending your treasure from an onslaught of enemy warriors! You have to approach it with supreme and unshakable confidence that you’re going to pass, no matter what! If you don’t, you’ll only approach it half-hearted, and if half hearted is 50% of your spirit, then it’s also a 50% on your test. You’ll still get an F”

“I see…”

“So what’s the word?”

“I’m going to pass this test”

“That’s better! Look, I don’t care about all your grades leading up to this test or how little you know right now. If you put in the appropriate effort, time, and energy, I promise you, you’ll do great.”

“But how do I know if I’m ready?”

“That’s, believe it or not, the easiest part. Don’t close the text book tonight until you know everything. Simple as that. Just know every word, on every page. If you don’t know something, don’t stop studying until you know it.”

“That sounds hard.”

“It is hard in that it takes time, energy and determination. But when you think about it, the concept isn’t that hard, is it? So many people out there walk into a test without knowing everything, and they hope that they will magically know it when the test is in front of them, or that they’ll get lucky and the stuff they don’t know won’t be on test. Well, that’s a B-student’s way of studying. If you want an A, make sure you never walk into a test without knowing everything.”

“I guess that makes sense”

“Darn right it does. Pound it.”

We pounded fists, drilled Japanese for an hour, and he kept on studying till midnight after I left. He thought he got a B. He got an A.

We never really know how we’ll do on something until the moment to perform comes, but if you want to give yourself the opportunity to achieve what you set out for, you need to settle your stomach, heart and mind. Approach it like you’ve already won. That doesn’t mean don’t try hard because it’s a shoe-in. The greatest athletes on earth, even those who know they’re going to win, approach every game like it’s going to be a dying battle. That’s why they always win.

There’s not that big a difference between preparing for a fight, or a basketball game, or a tennis match and preparing for a Japanese test. Train hard, rest well, and fight for your life.

Success begins and ends with your attitude.

Do you have what it takes?


2 responses

  1. Didn’t know you were tutoring Japanese! It’s nice to be able to help (and pass on knowledge) others.

    January 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm

  2. Elliott

    haha, yeah, I’m a tutor! I learn so much from teaching, it’s really been great for me. I learn things about the myself and the way I study that I never knew, and it helps reinforce the basics too!

    Have you ever tried teaching Japanese?

    January 15, 2011 at 1:23 am

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