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Don't Sweat The Small Stuff: a life philosophy (& my high school experience)

I am reviewing all the posts on this website to fix mistakes, small typos and general improvement.

And as I went through "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff", I had to think: this is such an important philosophy for people to be exposed to.

Too many people go through life without even considering that much of what happens around them truly is small stuff.

And it made me think of how differently I approached learning than most of my colleagues:

Don't Sweat The Small Grades: My High-School Approach

In high school, most of my colleagues stressed about grades.

And since grades was big stuff for them, they focused more on grades than understanding.
They'd study mostly for tests and, during tests, they would try their very best to copy.

Me, I'd study what truly meant something to me, the big stuff, and cared little for what lay outside my interest, the small stuff.
During tests, I would focus on my own paper with no interest in copying.
The professor wouldn't look at us and I wouldn't copy. The professor would go out of the room and I still wouldn't copy.

I gave back an empty math test once because I didn't know how to solve it.
And I got a zero.
I didn't see the point in copying something that I didn't know how to do.

And the craziest thing?
The professor was upset that I didn't copy.
He was disturbed that someone would give back an empty paper "without even putting in the effort to copy".
LOL, talking about a true example of leadership :).

But for me, once I was sure I wasn't gonna flunk and repeat the year (the big stuff), then the "number" of math grades didn't matter to me (the small stuff).

The grades were numbers. Small stuff.
And I wasn't sweating the small stuff.

The Ethics of Small Stuff

Finally, not sweating the small stuff allowed me to stay true to my standards and values.

That equation wasn't my thing.
There was no point in pretending it was.
And I saw strength and principles in not seeking the shortcut and in owning my real worth (on that paper: zero). The grade wasn't defining me. My principles defined me.

When you are bigger than the small stuff, when the small stuff doesn't define you... Then you are truly free to choose values and ethics and, shall we use this "big word", honor.

Seeking Growth Instead of Grades

This other high-school scene has remained emblazoned in my mind.

Our history and philosophy professor wouldn't even check if people were copying.

He once gave us a test and then, as usual, started reading the newspaper. Then, all of a sudden, he stood up.
And started glaring around at the class.

LOL you should have been there, that was some funny scene to watch.
Everyone was copying from the book, and the whole class exploded.
From the bottom row to the first row -yes, even those were copying-, everyone scrambled to hide their book as quickly as possible, either back below the table or back inside their school bags.

Everyone except one.
Because that guy didn't want to copy.
He wanted to do his own thing. He wanted to understand the events, and process the historical events with his own independent mind. Copying from the book was idiotic in his opinion.

The sheep copy.
The enlightened ones process and re-recreate. And seek their own way. No matter what grade someone else wants to attach to it.

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Well put!  I tell our three teenagers (two who are in university)… give it your all (100%) and be well organized.  The opposite of course is don't be  lazy or sloppy please.   That is enough pressure - where ever the grades fall,,, they fall. ( and yes, they will be good interviewers so they will get a good job 🙂

Quote from Guest on October 1, 2019, 8:40 pm

Well put!  I tell our three teenagers (two who are in university)… give it your all (100%) and be well organized.  The opposite of course is don't be  lazy or sloppy please.   That is enough pressure - where ever the grades fall,,, they fall. ( and yes, they will be good interviewers so they will get a good job ?

Well done, great parenting.

A focus on process rather than results empowers and maximizes potential at the same time.

And it's a great balance of demands, too.

Parents who don't provide any guidance and standards sometimes fail to communicate care and love.
While, on the other end of the spectrum, some of the most psychologically pained people I have met are the children of parents who provide love conditional only on some specific results that they, the parents, care about.

P.S.: That bit on "good interviewer" made me laugh. That's some proper Pareto law applied at life, there 😀

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Wonderful post, thank you!