Lesson 3: Attitude and Academic Success
Did you lecture to the wall for one
class's daily assignment? If not, don't read
this lesson until you do. You must complete each
day's assignment before going on to the next
lesson. You signed up for this course. You
vowed to yourself that you would do what I ask
and not quit. Please stick with me. I'm here to
help you help yourself.
YOUR ATTITUDE WILL MAKE THE
I have said that this is a real-world course. It is
aimed at real students with real goals and real limits on
what they are willing to do in order to raise their grades.
In this lesson, I will tell you what you can expect from me
and what I expect from you.
How much do you care about your grades? How much do
you care about your ability to learn new material? Before
you can make a rational decision about how much emotional
energy and time to commit to my program, you must decide
for yourself how much your learning ability means to you.
In setting any goal for yourself, you must ask
yourself three questions:
1. What do I want to achieve?
2. How soon do I want to achieve it?
3. What am I willing to pay (give up)?
Here are two goals: measurably higher grades and an
increased ability to learn new material.
What are you willing give up in order to gain these
You want to raise your grades. This is a good goal,
but not all by itself. You had better have good reasons
for wanting higher grades. If your goals are base, then
your tactics could become base. Maybe you could cheat your
way to higher grades. This is always wrong. There are no
gray areas here. If you cheat, you have done the wrong
Let's discuss a few goals that are legitimate.
You have set goals for yourself. One of them is
personal achievement. You want to improve your self-
confidence. If you follow my instructions, lesson by
lesson, your self-confidence will increase. That's because
your performance will increase. You will learn more,
remember more, and understand more. Your grades will rise.
Another goal may be a reduction of fear regarding
school. If you're afraid of something, this can be a
benefit, if your fear leads you to take steps to overcome
it. But constant fear is a terrible liability. It eats
away at your self-confidence. It keeps you from making
risky decisions that are important in life. If you are
afraid to lose because you don't think you can ever win,
this will paralyze you.
If you learn how to learn, which my course will teach
you if you want to learn, you will never have to be afraid
of school again. I'll even teach you how to avoid the
courses that you just will not be able to pass.
You may be trying to prove something. That's all
right, if what you're trying to prove is legitimate. You
may be trying to prove to yourself that you're no dummy,
that you have the brains to do better. You just don't know
what needs to be done.
You may be trying to prove to your parents that you
aren't a flake. You are more serious than your report card
indicates. If you stick with this course, they will know
this, even if your grades don't improve. The very fact
that you started this course and stick with it will prove
You may want to prove to your teachers that you are an
achiever, not a loser. This course will give you the tools
you need to make your point. You will visibly begin to
achieve academic success.
You may also understand that the techniques that help
you to learn in a classroom can help you learn things --
some kinds of things -- outside the classroom. You want to
have a successful lifetime career. If you know how to
learn, you can succeed in whatever career you choose.
You may be looking for respect. This is good, just so
long as the thing for which you're respected is legitimate.
I don't think you don't want respect because you are a
Your long-term lifetime goals should be more important
to you than these short-term goals. Focus on the goals
that define you as a person. Focus on lifetime goals.
Your classroom work has meaning in terms of the doors your
grades open up to you.
Think of my course as military boot camp. Nobody
likes boot camp. But when you ask a U.S. Marine if he is
glad that he went through boot camp, he will say "yes."
If you survive Marine boot camp, you prove that you're
tough. If boot camp weren't tough, surviving it wouldn't
prove anything about a Marine's toughness.
Boot camp involves doing things you hate to do. So
does high school. You are asked to take courses you will
never use. These courses take time away from courses that
you might actually use after graduation.
I will show you how to get through high school boot
What about costs? You don't pay anything for this
course, other than paper and toner to print it. The real
cost is the cost of what you will be required to give up.
You will be asked to give up the following, beginning in
the next seven days:
1. A lot of extra time: 15 to 20
2. A sloppy approach to time management
3. A sloppy approach to learning
4. An attitude of "I don't care about
I will show you where to find the extra 15-20 hours
without messing up your life. There are wasted hours
hidden where you probably have not imagined.
You must learn to work diligently in a class that you
hate, or that bores you, or that confuses you, or that you
don't think will do you any good, even if you receive an A.
Everyone is asked to take classes he doesn't like.
Super-smart students can get through such classes on
their brains alone. You probably can't. So, you will have
to work harder. You will have to do what is really
difficult: master material that is not only difficult but
which actually bores you.
It is not easy to do well in a class that bores you.
But never forget: it's not easy to get through Marine boot
camp, either. But that's what people who want to be
Marines have to do. It is a mark of their perseverance
that they do get through.
You can do this. If you can read my daily lessons,
you are intellectually capable of doing this. Whether you
will actually do it is up to you. I can show you how. I
can't do the work for you.
You aren't stupid. If you have read my lessons so
far, you aren't stupid. I don't write for dummies. I
write for people who can think. I will now make a guess
about you. See if I'm correct. There are some things that
you learn fast and well. There are some subjects that you
can discuss intelligently. You know a lot of facts about
these subjects. They just may not be subjects that are
taught in high school.
There are people who know all about fixing machines,
reading repair manuals, and putting things together who are
poor students in school. They aren't stupid. They just
aren't skilled at passing written exams and writing term
papers. High school is not designed for them.
The problem with high school is that it's mostly boot
camp. The costs are immediate, but the benefits are
Count the benefits. Then count the costs. When the
benefits are distant and the costs are immediate, a lot of
people quit trying.
Don't quit trying.__________________________________________Additional Help On-Line
This course is free. But if you find that it's not enough, you can get more help on-line. On this Web site, I answer people's questions. This includes questions relating to study techniques.http://www.garynorth.com/public/10.cfm _____________________________________________________
There are Question and Answer forums on this site that are aimed at students, ages 13 to 90. (I don't allow anyone under age 13 to join, because of restrictions imposed by Federal law.) One forum relates to study techniques. (Another relates to choosing a college and then getting into it.)
Students interact with other students. This way, everyone can contribute.
If you have a debit card, and you want to join, you can. If you don't have a debit card, ask a parent to sign up for you with a credit card. To find out how to join, click here:
STAND AND DELIVER
There is a video you really need to see. It's called
"Stand and Deliver." It's a true story about a successful
businessman, a Mexican-American, who quits his job to teach
in a high school in the Los Angeles barrio district:
Hispanic. He takes a pay cut in order to teach students
who initially don't care about mathematics.
His fellow teachers aren't too thrilled with him,
either. They had not been successful in motivating
students. Why should he think that he will be successful?
He goes to work. He even adds a course in calculus.
More than this: it is an AP course -- advanced placement.
The students who pass a national exam with a 4 or a 5 can
get college-level credit for the course.
Nobody on the faculty in that school had ever thought
that these students would take a course in calculus, let
alone an AP course. He received no encouragement, or so
the movie indicates. Even some of the parents were
opposed. One man wanted his daughter to work nights in the
family restaurant. Why should she take calculus?
The movie is really about his students. Will they
commit? Will they do what it takes to be a success? Will
they stand and deliver?
You need to see it. I am asking you to see it. You
need to assess your own motivation, your own hunger for
academic success. Compare your situation to the situation
facing those students. Compare your advantages to theirs.
Then make up your mind. Are you ready to stand and
There is a phrase people use to describe a person's
commitment to something: "Fire in the belly." There is no
source of success that rivals this determination to
I can't put this into you. You either have it or you
don't. If you have it, my course can provide you with the
tools and skills of academic success. If you don't have
it, then all I can do is set the table. You won't come to
This is a real-world course. It
acknowledges that there are limits on what
students are willing to do.
There are legitimate goals for higher grades:
getting into college, self-confidence, overcoming
fear of school, overcoming your fear of losing.
You should review your lifetime goals. Remind
yourself why you signed up for this course.
As a secondary goal, you may want to prove to
yourself or others that you're not a dummy, that
you're not a flake, that you are an achiever.
You may want to get the skills you need to
graduate from college.
This course is like boot camp. It's a credit to
anyone who survives it.
Do you have fire in the belly? Are you ready to
stand and deliver?
If you are not willing to do well in courses that
bore you, I cannot help
If you have not already done thus,
write a list of your lifetime personal goals that
are associated with raising your grades and
learning how to learn. You need to do this
exercise to prepare yourself psychologically for
paying the cost of achieving these goals. File
this list with your signed vow to complete my
Second, rent the video, Stand and Deliver.
Watch it tonight, if possible. Ask your parents
to watch it with you. Tell them that it's for my
course. Watch to the very end, when you read on-
screen what happened.
Call to the video rental store first to see if
it's there. Another student who is deciding
whether to commit to taking my course may have
rented it. Act fast. Call now. The movie will
be in the cheap, 5-day rental section.
If you rent it, take it back tomorrow. Let the next
student see it.
The movie may be in your local city library for
Don't forget to lecture to the wall: one page,
PREVIEW OF TOMORROW'S LESSON: Your home office
Any time you want to ask me specific questions regarding your plans for college, you can find out where to contact me by clicking this link: Answers.