#1: Avoid competing with others. Compete only with ourselves. If another student outshines us, seek synergy, where we strive to be our best and nurture the best in others. Let someone else’s success inspire us to excel ourselves as students.
#2: Be the classroom cheerleader. Cheer on our professor’s wisdom. Cheer on our fellow students’ questions and comments. Bring on the positive energy with our very presence.
#3: Nurture—even mentor—our fellow students. Try to have the attitude of “no-one left behind.” Everyone gains from knowledge. If a fellow student is struggling, we benefit from offering a helping hand. The student gains support, and we learn faster by teaching others.
#4: See ourselves as part of a team. Our fellow students are on our team. Success for everyone is the ultimate goal—in life and in academics.
#5: Boast about our professors’ and fellow students’ finer qualities. I heard a story from Paul Friedman that went something like this: “My son told me that a fellow student didn’t like him. So, I asked my son, ‘Do you like him?’ My son said yes. So I asked, ‘Do you tell him how great he is at what he loves to do? Do you tell him the reasons why you like him so much?’ My son said no. I replied, ‘Then why should he like you?’” The moral is to dwell on every positive about others, boast about others, praise them, lift them high—every chance we get!
#6: Don’t argue with the professor. A loved one told me that China culturally holds their teachers in great esteem. If we uphold our teachers as valuable and worthwhile mentors, we gain an eternity. Teachers impart knowledge, even wisdom, and that insight can change lives. Teachers are like gold. Not one of them should be minimized. If we take a bad class but learn at least one thing, we have grown.
#7: Side with our professors when they are faced with resistance. When another student criticizes or condemns our professors, it’s important we come to our professors’ defense. Learning increases in cooperative environments. And we can best model that cooperation by showing support to those who impart knowledge on us.
#8: When we fail, find the opportunity in our failures, says Napoleon Hill. We rise above when we stay positive, optimistic, and cooperative even when faced with failure. Failure is never the end. In fact, failure offers an opportunity for us to grow, to discover more about ourselves, to find out where we fit today and might better fit tomorrow. When my niece said sadly that she quit high school, I replied, “Don’t feel bad. You were practicing. Next time, you’ll claim your diploma.”
#9: Go the extra mile. If we are assigned a textbook on linear algebra, perhaps we could borrow and read five other linear algebra textbooks from the library. That way, we go beyond what is required in a way that fills any holes in knowledge. One friend modeled this approach by reading multiple textbooks, simultaneously, on the same subject. She made it to the PhD.
#10: Max out on participation marks. If our prof gives marks for our attendance on a forum, max out our marks with lots of contributions. No prof will scowl when we put up our hand every chance or when we heavily participate in their online communities. In fact, that participation is what tends to distinguish A students from the rest.