Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Of Midterms and Mediocrity

Forewarning: there is no gaming content in this post.

Had my first midterm of the semester on Monday.  It went...  poorly.  Not "failed it" poorly, but low-B / high-C poorly.  The kind of poorly whose siren song lures us to indolence and "Ah well, I'll graduate just as much with a C as an A" logic.  In another class and another time, I had adopted that mode of thinking, but I just can't do that here.  That course was Operating Systems, which is our capstone basically, and those exams were real pieces of work.  This time it's Network Security, and I can't just let it go.  I know I can do better here - my performance on the homework shows as much.  Plus, I'm kind of hunting a job in this arena, so doing poorly on the exams reflects poorly on me for interviews.

I could make excuses - was out flying around the country for interviews all weekend, up late last night working on a paper, didn't eat enough breakfast because I was still feeling nauseous from airport food, and so forth.  But they would be bullshit.  True enough facts, but not the reason for my failure.  Looking at the solutions provided afterwards, I just missed details and made stupid arithmetic errors.  My knowledge wasn't lacking - I did great on strictly knowledge-based questions.  But when it came to applying that knowledge, I made errors more often than usual.  Looks like I was just in a hurry and not paying attention; maybe got a little cocky after I did well on the homework, maybe just wanted to get home so I could eat something.

In a sense, I prepared incorrectly.  Mentally, I prepared my brain, but to borrow from Musashi, I did not prepare my spirit; I did not have the spirit of winning, of cutting the enemy.  My sword was sharp, my arm strong, but my head just wasn't in the right place.  Next time, I will do better.  Slow down, focus on every line, think about it, double-check my math.  Because what kills me is that I could've made an A; nothing on this test was unreasonable or beyond my ability.  I made perfect scores on harder tests in high school, sometimes more than one in a day.  Just gotten soft on the permission of mediocrity.

Next time, I will do better.  Have another midterm tonight; time to see what I can do.

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