The Study Dude—When Your University Muzzles You

You can get straight A’s at the university, no matter what your current performance looks like.  But don’t get disillusioned once you reach the top.  Universities may muzzle your creativity.  But you can still upset the status quo—especially with a routine of rest, exercise, and outside interests related to your major.

Be warned that universities can stifle creativity.

“Edward de bono said business people were more interested in better ways of thinking than were university people ….  The point was made that the business people wanted to think better because their business depended on it.  Whereas the university people were often in a fixed pattern of play it safe, don’t make any waves, if we write about this popular topic in the typical way we will get grant money and so on” (Rogers, p.  129 of 243, 58%).  Universities can often silence creative thinking.  On the other hand, businesses demand it.  If you write an academic paper on the horrors of hotdogs, expect big food industry with vested interests to hire researchers to scour your articles.  They aim to expose your slightest errors or inconsistencies.  They want to create doubt with your findings.  Industry will hire these academics to discredit everything—and anything—you’ve ever written.  I saw this exposed in a health documentary on Amazon Prime.

But exercise your creative, independent thinking anyway.

“Sometimes it’s helpful to debate a topic with yourself.  Think out ways to support and criticize a given statement” (Rogers, p.  106 of 243, 47%).  My boyfriend is a maverick.  He doesn’t believe everything he reads.  Instead, he often challenges ideas that don’t sit with his intuition and judgement.  And now, I find myself questioning age old wisdom, too.  If you can, seek out independent thinkers.  They’ll grow you in ways the University won’t.

Hone your inner maverick by joining clubs related to your academics.

AUSU once had some student clubs, but they’ve disappeared, as far as I know.  I would have loved to join an AU debate club.  When I was a grad student at a physical university, I wanted to start an intramural sports team.  But none of the grad students were interested.  I also wanted to start an academic journal.  But, again, none of the students were interested.  Instead, they roamed off in a gang to the lounge for booze and gossip.  So, while they did that, I went to the gym for my two-hour workout.  And then I cycled home.  “If you want to get better at math, then join the math team.  If you want to get better at public speaking or go to law school, then join the debate team.  The … school newspaper can be an opportunity to learn photography including sports photography” (Rogers, p.  97 or 243, 44%).  The more skilled you get at your craft, the more able you are to drum up original thought.

Exercise to skyrocket your smarts.

“Exercise belongs in this book because it is proven to make you smarter … in the following ways: self-discipline, strenuous workouts, increased brain glycogen, increased brain mitochondria and increased brain capillaries” (Rogers, p.  95 of 243, 43%).  That’s doctors’ speak for a smarter you.  If you’re single, aim to work eleven-hour days broken up with an hour and a half stint in the gym.  If you’ve got children, find ways to involve your tots in fitness.  That way, they’ll gets smarter, too.  And research shows that fit kids have a higher chance of avoiding delinquent behaviors.  (Some martial arts clubs allow children as young as four years old.  Also, some gyms offer daycare.)  There’s a reason why many of the worlds’ greatest ideas came from young (healthy) thinkers.

Study six hours straight and then go for a nap.

Sound good?  Yes, sleep matters.  I get 9.5 to 10 hours sleep a night.  Maybe too much.  But when you train at high intensity seven hours a week, you need extra z’s.   “Naps can be beneficial.  They can break the day in half and recharge your brain.  If I plan to study a lot on a given day, after studying from 7 am until 1 pm, my brain will tend to be tired and no longer capable of complex work” (Rogers, p.  78 of 243, 37%).  So, recharge with a fluffy pillow.  Plus, with rest, you’ll better withstand attacks on your originality.

Go to sleep at the same time every night.

“It is good, if possible, to go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day” (Rogers, p.  78 of 243, 37%).  Typically, the latest I go to bed is 10 pm.  But I prefer to go to bed around 9.  “There is a benefit from going to bed earlier, rather than later.  In high school, my wrestling coach told me, ‘The sleep hours before midnight count for more than those after midnight’” (Rogers, p.  78 of 243, 37%).  I read one health article that said our body, when asleep, does many important repairs before or around 11 pm.  So, get shut-eye early.

Also, I read a Dr.  Mercola article that said every cell in our body has its own circadian rhythm.  I believe our bacteria have their own internal clocks, too.  Dr.  Amen’s wife, Tana Amen, says to think of your body’s bacteria as pets.  I say, think of them as your kids.  Shower them with love.  Healthy diets.  Great exercise.  And good rest.  But the clocks of those little cells are all governed by the clock we as humans set.  This means, if we put in an all-night study stint, all those cells inside our body get jolted out of their own circadian rhythms.  That causes bodily chaos.  And bodily chaos doesn’t payout come study time.

Universities may shut down your creative ideas.  But a routine that nurtures your originality may help you survive the backlash.

Rogers, Peter, MD.  (2014).  Straight A at Stanford and on to Harvard.  Teenager Version: How to Become a Great Student.  E-book.
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