Why do we fall?

In a recent conversation, my brother asked, “How did you go from being average at math to being great? What changed?” I thought I would bring it up.

As a new student in my third year (J.S.S. 3), my first-term performance or “position,” as we called it, was 17th out of the 19 students in class. This is much worse than most things, but it didn’t bother me. Life went on as usual until the second term, when I got a 0 on a math test. Our math teacher didn’t think twice about drawing sad-looking eyes and ears on the big zero. When you got your graded test back then, you’d start asking everyone around you what their score was to compare it to yours. I couldn’t stand being asked what my score was, so I ran straight to my bed in the dorm and cried for as long as I could remember until I fell asleep. That night, I woke up hoping it had all been a bad dream, but alas, it hadn’t been a dream, and I was back to my misery. I had felt ashamed so profoundly that I didn’t have the confidence to join in group conversations with my colleagues.

Right there and then, I decided to compete with the top two students in the class, more as a form of retaliation. It happened to be a few days before the midterm break. I borrowed J.S.S. 1 and J.S.S. 2 math books from a classmate who, surprisingly, still had them in good shape. In the two-week break, I studied the whole thing, from topic to topic and concept to concept. I went back to the basics and solved all the questions. I read the 3 textbooks (J.S.S. 1–3) from cover to cover.

We usually had our second test right after we returned from midterm break. I scored 100% on that test. This was the first time I remember seeing that hard work really does pay off. The news went viral among my peers, becoming a grass-to-grace story. On getting promoted to S.S.1 (Senior Secondary School), it was mandatory to register for all 17 subjects (science, art, and commercial) in the first term before deciding on the class to focus on. It was usually a challenging term for anyone. The school’s standard for a failed (red) grade in any subject was 49 per cent, but I increased mine to 79 per cent. While most of my peers studied to avoid getting red, which seemed like the right thing to do, I, On the other hand, studied to ensure I scored nothing less than 80 per cent in any subject. I got a 100 per cent score on my first, second, and third math and further math tests. I also got 90s percentile in other calculation subjects like physics.

This taught me that if I work hard enough, I can achieve anything I set my mind to achieve. Excellence became a way of life.

A 0% on a math test was a significant fall, but why do we fall in the first place? So we can learn how to get back up. It doesn’t matter how far you fall; what matters is how far you bounce back.

The greatest successes comes from having the freedom to fail — Mark Zukerberg

Putting It All Together

We usually focus more on derivatives that are harder to learn. The best way to become good at something is to learn how it works. I learned the most critical math concepts by starting over from the beginning. When you know the basics, learning anything that builds on them is easier and faster. You can even create your own derivatives. For example, if you want to be good at any Javascript framework, like Angular, React, Node, etc., you need to understand how Javascript works.

Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Since I always did well on those math tests, anyone would think I was a math genius. However, it took a lot of hard work, from not knowing much about math to being very good at anything math-related.

“The heights reached by great men were not just by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

If we try hard enough, we can be anything we want to be.

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'Segun

'Segun

I make product that people love @Talabat. Previously @Interswitch. Trying my hand at painting