How To Pass A Class, Even If You Fail A Test

I thought my first Physics class in high school would be a breeze. My Mom majored in Radiation Physics in college, and always told me I had a knack for the subject. So you can imagine I was surprised when I got my second test of the school year back, and a big, fat “F” graced the top right corner of the page.

At this point, most students would freak out, and fall into a death spiral of fear and confusion over a failed test. But lo and behold, when report cards came out, I had a solid B in my Physics class, which eventually turned into a B+ for the semester.

Many people believe that learning occurs at a smooth and consistent rate, and a student struggling to maintain a C in a class should slowly progress to a B in the class, and eventually an A. But learning is actually a rollercoaster ride of epiphanies and mental blocks. Especially in a math based subject, it can take one person five minutes, and another five hours, to learn the same concept.

However,  as you gain more knowledge in a specific concept, you can apply the strategies that allowed you to learn easy concepts to harder concepts, and over time, lower the time and effort it takes to absorb those more difficult concepts.

When I failed that test, instead of continuing on with a study strategy that obviously didn’t work, I looked at ways I could change my approach to produce a better result. Luckily, I got a B on my first test, so I simply compared my study strategies for the two tests. When I got the B, I spent a large portion of my preparation time doing practice questions. When I failed, I spent the majority of my time studying class notes.

Obviously, doing practice questions was more effective than studying my class notes. So by doing practice questions before each test, I began to get higher grades on my tests.

If you fail a test, know that it’s not the end of the world. Consult your classmates and your teacher. Research study strategies and try different techniques. Find what works for you! Don’t look at a low grade as a reflection of your self-worth, or even your effort. Instead, see it as an opportunity to improve not only your intellectual capabilities, but also your ability to overcome obstacles in all areas of your life.


Life Lesson: Prioritize and Execute

After a tough day of school and Tennis, I always enjoy having a break at dinner. I usually take 45 minutes to sit down, eat, and enjoy a book. Recently, I have had the pleasure of reading “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. I highly recommend the book to anyone looking to improve their lives. But last night a particular passage stood out from the rest: Prioritize and Execute.

This particular lesson applied to my homework situation last night. I had two tests, a quiz, a project, and 100 pages of reading all due the next day for school. I was tired after conducting interviews for the school newspaper and giving a half hour speech in Chinese, and I had no idea how I could get all the work done and be well rested for my tests.

While I won’t spoil the book for you, Jocko Willink was in a much tougher situation when he learned this lesson. But instead of panicking, he kept a calm head, gave orders to his soldiers to solve each problem, one at a time, and escaped enemy territory with no casualties. If you can learn to prioritize your tasks, then you can get through the day without suffering any financial casualties, or in my case, GPA casualties.

First, I figured out which assignments would be most important. The two tests made up the highest percentage of my grade, so I spent my first 90 minutes of studying preparing for each test. After completing the highest priority task, I looked at what I had left: The project, the quiz, and the reading. The quiz was to be administered last period, so I decided to skip the review and plan to do it during study hall the next day. Finally, I spent another 60 minutes completing the project and doing 40 pages of the reading, since there would not be a quiz on the full 100-page reading the next day.

Through prioritizing and executing, I took what seemed like an insurmountable amount of work, and completed it in two and a half hours. That’s a pretty good deal at my school, where many students are lucky to get 6 hours of sleep.

Let’s see how much time I saved compared to someone who didn’t prioritize and execute:

Physics Test Review: 45 mins

History Test Review: 45 mins

Chinese Project: 30 mins

~40 Pages English Reading: 30 mins

~60 Pages English Reading: 60 mins

Chinese Quiz Review: 30 mins

Total Time: 4 hours

Compared to the average student, I saved a whole hour and a half on my homework through prioritizing my tasks! And I was able to use that extra time to get a good night’s rest, and stay focused during the tests and the quiz I took today. And now that the weekend is here, I’ll have plenty of time to complete the work I didn’t get to during the week.

When faced with e-mails, meetings, and all the other jazz that goes along with a busy career, things can seem overwhelming, and impossible to get done. But by keeping a level head, you can pick out your highest priorities, accomplish them, and then continue down the list until you complete everything that needs to get done that day. And before you know it, you will have a less packed, more focused schedule, and get more done than you could ever imagine!


Understand Your Perspective

“That’s nothing!” My Dad’s friend said after I pointed out a Bentley sitting in VIP Parking at the Miami Open, a Tennis tournament my family attends every other year in South Florida. He jokingly called his brand new BMW a “poor man’s car” as we drove out of the parking lot onto the main road, surrounded by Porsches, Lamborghinis, and other exotic cars. In most places around the world, the thought of a BMW being a necessity is ludicrous. But this is Miami, one of the wealthiest cities on Earth.

Riding an economic boom from Latin and Asian money pouring into the real estate sector, Miami has grown drastically over the past decade. Downtown Miami now resembles a mini-Manhattan, but right in the middle of a tropical paradise. Construction cranes dominate the skyline, building condos that will be priced into the millions of dollars. New nightclubs sponsored by top celebrities are popping up on every block, and some restaurants in Miami rival the best eateries in places like New York City and London. And for many now living in this tropical paradise, all of these luxuries are considered a standard for the middle class.

But the crazy thing about all of this is that no reasonable or logical human being would think that a $100,000 Porsche and a $1,000,000 condo are required to live a happy and satisfying lifestyle.

Yes, if you’ve made an incredible amount of money and want to enjoy some of it, this kind of behavior is completely fine. But you will destroy yourself financially if you try to live a wild lifestyle on an average income.

When everyone and their dog gets a lease on a BMW, it seems like spending $500 a month on your car is a requirement for a happy life. If all of your friends have gone out to that new restaurant downtown, don’t you deserve to blow $200 on a night out? Well, if that night out can eliminate 20% of your savings, I wouldn’t recommend it.

The biggest lesson Miami taught me is that when it comes to spending, you have to understand your perspective and appreciate all that you have. Billions of people around the world would kill for the average American lifestyle. So if you think that you HAVE to have that new purse or SUV, think again! Be smart with your money and spend it for your own personal satisfaction, not to impress others and keep up with the joneses.

Life Lesson: Know Your Audience

Last night, I spent a few hours hanging out in the game room of a resort I am staying at. After acquainting myself with half a dozen other teens through some heated ping pong battles, I pitched 17 to Financially Free to them, hoping to gain some more viewers. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of them are gonna check it out anytime soon.

I told everyone about how important it is to be financially secure, and that consumer debt is severely restraining the middle class in America. I had the pleasure of watching their eyes glaze over, and eventually look back down to Snapchat stories and Instagram feeds. Even after mentioning that they can look up the mobile version of the site on their smartphones, none of them bothered to do so.

After walking back to my room, feeling defeated, I had an epiphany: Why the hell am I trying to get teenagers excited about eliminating credit card debt and living frugally? 99% of kids my age don’t care at all about financial stability; they care about spending cash and having fun! The title of the first personal finance book I ever read was “How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents”, not “The Dangers of Consumer Debt in America’s Middle Class”!

From now on, I’ll include some more exciting aspects of personal finance in my pitches: Being able to afford sweet rides, big mansions, and exotic vacations. While most members of the personal finance world don’t have these goals, it will definitely get young people excited about saving money.

The main thing I learned from this experience is to know your audience. Steve Jobs turned Apple into a technology empire by making his products appealing to millions of American consumers. The perception people have of your product or service is just as important, if not more important, than the quality of that product or service. So no matter what you are pitching, focus not only on the idea, but also on how you convey that idea.


Dealing With (Stupid, Annoying, Mean, etc) People

It looks like I haven’t posted anything on this blog in three weeks… Boy, am I lazy! But I’m back, and better (actually more tired) than ever! One of the reasons for my absence has been my high school Tennis season, which requires regular travel and 2-3 hours of practice a day, 6-7 days a week. While I train year round, the expectation my school sets takes it to a whole new level. And to top it all off, my coach is a complete jerk!

He gives me a lot of advice that makes no sense, yells at me all the time, and, in my opinion, significantly depresses the potential of our team. Unfortunately, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon, since he’s not breaking any actual rules. And when he yells at me, I get a strong urge to give him a piece of my mind! I could easily tear him apart and escalate the situation to it’s breaking point.

But that isn’t the smartest thing to do. You see, when a young man disrespects an authority figure, things end badly for the former, more often than not. So instead, I suck it up and deal with the situation.

When you are dealing with mean people, you begin to look at things through an emotional lens, and start making irrational decisions. You also think that situations and events are worse than they really are. After a confrontation, instead of acting quickly and rashly, take 24 hours to cool down and look at the situation logically. If you are patient, you will likely find solutions to the problem that you didn’t see in your initial haze of anger.

If you have to deal with someone in the long term, learn to work with that person instead of making your relationship with them worse. Be respectful. Find easy things you can do to make them happy. If they’re your boss, do what they tell you to do, or at least make it look like you are doing what you’re supposed to. As the famous saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer!

Have you ever had to deal with someone you couldn’t stand? If so, how did you handle it?



How To Avoid Buying Stuff You Don’t Need, Or Even Want

We live in a consumer-oriented society. Constantly inundated by billboards, TV commercials, and internet ads, it seems like the world is always telling us to go out and buy stuff! But the people telling you to buy this merchandise are actually the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies and other powerful people in the business world. And while some of their wares are useful and will improve our lives, a lot of what you buy will give you a poor return on your investment.

There’s a lot of cool stuff out there to buy! Today I looked at this uber-cool 3-D LED light for my room, and it’s on sale for only $59.00! And with my net worth sitting at $1,100, I could easily afford it and replace the old reading lamp in my room. While this lamp is, in my opinion, incredibly awesome(!!!), it’s not something I really need. If I did buy it, I’m sure that after a few days of looking at it, I’d get bored of it and question why I even bought the stupid thing in the first place.

Instead, that $100 will go towards my $400 savings goal for new camping equipment and a kayaking trip with my friends. I’ll get to spend a ton of time with people I enjoy being around, see some beautiful scenery, and get a good workout. Plus, I will get to keep the memories of the trip forever, and good memories never get old! Overall, I think that my money will be much better spent paying for an experience, rather than buying another material item.

New cars (of any kind), Rolex watches, Gucci clothing, and massive mansions, among other things, are all signs of excessive spending. Even those new Toyota Corolla’s rolling down the road are examples of overspending. Why spend $20,000 on a new Corolla when you can spend half of that on one that is only 3 years old and has less than 50,000 miles on it? You can even drive luxury cars on the cheap if you buy used. Many 10+ year old Porsche Boxsters go for less than 10 grand, and a writer for Automobile Magazine drives a 2000 Mercedes S-Class that cost him a grand total of 4 grand! Unless you are addicted to that new car smell, it’s pointless to pay MSRP for any car, whether economical or luxurious.

One piece of advice you should follow is to sleep on every major purchasing decision. Even if that new pair of shoes is the deal of a lifetime, go home, consider if you truly want it, and then wait until the next day to decide if you will actually buy it. And when you set savings goals, don’t aim to buy a new car or a luxury watch, but aim to take a vacation to Paris, or take your children to Disney World. Buy experiences, not possessions. If you follow those two basic rules, you will be on your way to living a more efficient and less consumer-minded lifestyle.


A Beginner’s Guide To Not Screwing Up The College Admissions Process

This Spring, millions of students across the country will be deciding where they will be going to college next year. Their choices will range from the local community college to Harvard University, and even places off the beaten path such as Deep Springs College. Unfortunately, many students are either unsatisfied with anything less than an Ivy League University, or can’t even find a college they can attend in the first place.

With skyrocketing tuition costs and stringent admissions requirements at tier 1 schools, many students feel like receiving an adequate degree at a reasonable price is impossible these days. But this simply isn’t the case. There are thousands of colleges throughout the US, many of which provide good educations at reasonable prices. You could also take a nontraditional path, such as going to community college and then studying at your local university for another 2 years afterwards in order to receive your bachelor’s degree.

Ultimately, the goal of your college process should be to not screw it up, instead of focusing on one specific school. All you need to do is stay out of trouble and receive at least a 3.0 GPA and you should have a good shot at attending college!

There are numerous tips and tricks that I will write about in the future as I travel on my own college journey, but the main thing every student needs to focus on is not screwing up! As long as you put in a decent amount of effort and don’t receive a felony charge, a college degree will be waiting for you in the future.