Saturday, January 31, 2015

Study is like a walking trail

I will be working with a lot of students this year. The students I have will range from 17 year old school leavers to 40+ year old senior managers. From undergraduate studies to Masters of Business administration. It's a great way to earn a buck - for four years now I've been a "freelance academic" and I hope there can be many more.

I walked the Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty trail yesterday. I've done a lot of walks but yesterday I got to thinking about the parallels between doing a course of study and regularly walking a trail.

The trail is not your friend or your enemy
You might think of your study course - even your lecturers and tutors - as a friend or otherwise but within the boundaries of the course of study we're acting out roles. I have many ex student friends but we have always conducted the business professionally.

The trail doesn't love you or hate you
Just because it's going toughor well - the trail is not trying to create your experience. The trail is just there. Similarly, the lecturers are just trying to get through a week, month, semester. They care, but they care about you in much the same way as the other 200 students.

The trail is (practically) much the same for everyone
The same hills, rocks, trees, hazards. If your experience is different to that of other people it'll mostly be about you, or minor random differences.

The trail has an immense range of people walking on it
Seen the right way, the huge range of people you meet on a trail can be a joy.

The trail can be executed with a minimum of effort if you're prepared to pay the price
You can race up an down the trail and be back in your car withing 90 minutes. But you won't have seen the plants, noticed the yellow tail black cockatoo or learnt much. During undergrad I blasted through a few courses and some I wished I had engaged with more closely.

The trail offers some amazing views and experiences
Because if you're there to get something from it you can take a lot away, rather than just stamping your ticket.

The trail spreads people out but isn't the perfect judge of a person
You'll be towards the front or near the back, and all it says is how good you are on that day, on that track, at that activity. You area valuable person, and the trail only sees a small part of what you are.

The trail has hard parts and easier parts
Where sometimes all you can do is just put your head down and keep going.

On the trail the only way to fail is to give up
Turning around halfway has crystallized a failure. Until then it's just a success in the making. But in both bush walking and study it can be good to step onto a new track now that's what I call "failing better" and do it often.

On the trail a tiny step forward is still a step in the right direction
When I walked Kokoda, some of my steps were only four inches long. But I was still going forward.

The trail will always be there for you if it beats you today.
If you turn around early or fail a subject, the course of study will be there for you tomorrow, just like the trail will be.

On the trail everyone has their own view of what success is
Some people run the trail, others amble. We're there for our own reasons and we each have our own idea of what we think is a good day.

On the trail other people may help, or they may hinder, but mostly they're just there
Mostly, it's about you. You might make a lifelong friend on the track but you might just nod and carry on.

Study, walking a trail. Many parallels.

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