Last article we talked about the underlying truth that school/work isn’t the be all and end all. Truth is the things you learn in school can often be left in the trash because half of it you’ll never use again after the final exam. There are other much more vital skills one needs to acquire before they step out in to the real world. What commonly happens is that because the skills are not attained before we are plunged into the deep end, generally we then pick it up through tremendous amounts of mistakes (which by all means isn’t a bad thing at all).
Although this can greatly vary for many people, the 3 essential components of a fulfilling life can be amassed into the two categories of ‘work habits,’ and  ‘social skills and your social network.’ The other one is dealing with emotional luggage but that can be left for another topic, because that topic is also quite complicated and requires a lot of thought before writing.
Each is just as important as the next, but notice how these topics are not covered in any depth (if at all!) in schools.

Work Habits
You should always have a set amount of specific time that is not adjustable each week in order to complete the essential tasks (not school, not work related). For example mine is always from 5pm to 8pm each week on Saturday + some other times during the week which is currently unstable because of so many events taking place within the first couple of weeks of school. Whatever your time slot may be, make sure you have absolutely no distractions next to you. By this it is anything that will draw you away from your task – phone, MSN, facebook, music etc. Make sure the room is brightly lit etc. you know, and your equipment is with you.
10 minutes before your planned time you should stop your previous activity, go drink a cup of water and wash your face if it’s a hot day. That way you are refreshed and can now proceed to getting on with the important task. Another thing you can try is a deep breath before you start the activity. Using an example from chess tournaments, before I shake hands and begin the game I always get a cup of water, drink it and then refill it to take with me to the table. Then when the arbiter announces you can start and then I take a huge deep breath to calm myself down so I don’t rush my first moves (and possibly make a mistake).
Another important aspect of work habits is discipline. And this isn’t just about changing your mental attitude to “I have to get this done and get it done well.” It’s about “ok I have to do this English assignment but I also can’t miss my daily stretching routine.” After you finish your work, no matter how exhausting you may be or how late it, you have to train yourself to never let that be an excuse to stop you from doing your extracurricular commitments. It’s hard and often I have had to skip my stretching after I stay up late finishing homework, but after you throw the exercises in you feel much better because you are still committed to the work.
If you dislike school then use that as a great way to train strong discipline. So since you have to complete your school or there’ll be trouble, you can practise finding methods to minimise time and effort but still produce desirable results. That is another great detail of discipline. It’s about having the mental attitude to do it, but also the sly mind of maximising results with minimal effort..  For me personally the hardest thing to do is after 2 hours of homework is straight away going to study chess. This particular case is difficult to work out, because both activities require lots of mental energy.
  In school you may be given study questions to complete overnight and hand back in on the next day. Low and behold you are not as good as English as the others who get 10/10 and only get 8/10 but your teachers comments are “good attempt. You needed to answer in a bit more detail in order to achieve a better mark:” It’s like “Ok thanks Miss how does that help?” Now let’s not blame the teachers, they have to mark 29 other sheets and have more than 1 class worth of homework to mark. So what does this mean for students? It means they have to actively seek out the teacher in order request for a more clarified explanation of their mistakes.
This is one good habit to get into. If you don’t understand the concept or whatever, maybe sure you always consult the teacher or another expert unless you simply couldn’t care less about the subject. A funny incidence occurred when I went to see my English teacher about the last 3 essays I wrote, each with “a better structure is needed’ written on it. She carefully explained that it’s all about intertwining the elements together and making sure the themes are connected and she even said “it could be that you didn’t space your paragraphs out enough.” Maybe it was because I am naturally bad at understanding English, but even now I still didn’t understand where I went wrong in terms of structure; it just simply didn’t occur to me what was so structurally wrong about my essays!
Social Networking and Social Skills
Ok first of all I want to get some things straight. Networking is not about finding the guy that can help you do something you can’t do, and try and be his buddy buddy and then get him to help you etc. it is NOT and I will repeat, it is NOT what networking is about. Even though most people tend to define networking as the above, I strongly disagree and I believe true networking is about something much more important than that. Networking is about meeting people with like minded goals and values, it’s about meeting people with a completely different repertoire of skills to you, and it’s about interacting, sharing and socialising. For me personally, I network because I want to
1.       To make new friends, the ultimate person of all this
2.       To learn, and finally,
3.       See what other people think about something and
 It could be someone completely different to me or it could be someone who is similar. It doesn’t matter. What is important is you are sharing your thoughts with others and trying to make friends through social skills.
Here’s something important you need to take away. Do NOT ( and I hate people like this) do people favours in hope of them returning it. Because that’s just not the correct mindset. You help others, friends or strangers alike, because they need help and they trust you enough to ask for your help. After helping them you feel good about yourself, but never expect them to return the favour because you did it out of your own good. Never say something like “you remember the time I helped you…”
I cannot stress how much respect I’d lose for that person if they said something like that. It drives me crazy and I would never, ever use such a sentence. It’s just a disgrace and black stain to your character. It’s like “yea I remember but I thought we were friends.”
Social skills is a much more complicated and broad topic. As many years passed I’ve changed my socialising intensity completely. I’ve gone from pure talking to acquiring a broad range of necessities such as listening, patience and timing. And that is just half the story. The other half involves sharing your thoughts and giving constructive feedback and analysis.
When you listen to somebody, a great idea is to maintain eye contact ( I always try to do this), because it helps provide yourself with no excuse for not giving them your individed attention and plus the eyes are the window to their soul, you can tell more about a person by looking into their eyes for 3 minutes than talking with them for 10. Trust me, it’s so damn true! :P Truth is, if you’re absorbed in their words, patience does not become a factor and thus timing becomes crucial.
You need to learn (I’m still learning actually) when to interrupt somebody to add your own comments and thoughts.It’s actually very difficult to judge, because sometimes they might be just taking a break and you might interpret that as stopping and letting you respond. However, if you judge incorrectly and interrupt them before hand, just say “sorry please continue.” One thing you need to be careful of is not interrupting with often inappropriate comments like “Oh yea I had that happen to me before!” or something like “oh I don’t think so.” The first comment disrupts their chain of thought, you can always add that sentence in into your response. The later is quite rude, you can allow them to finish and say sorry I don’t completely agree with that and state your reasons why. Or if you really dislike their viewpoint you can say thanks for sharing, I’ll keep it in mind and walk away.
As you can see the skils required in each of the two fields are more often than not self developed, only a few will ever be born with one of these powerful abilities. It is interesting to note that these can’t really be rote learned and memorised, it just requires experience, confidence, discipline and a brave soul. As a student I try engage with people in a respectful and friendly manner, because that’s one of my strengths, my social skills. I do admit that I am quite shy and scared sometimes, but that is only natural. As for my work habits... oh dear they still need some work. But I’m getting there. I hope you are already there.
Thank you,
Jerry

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