Thursday, October 4, 2018

39 of 58 for 58: Learn to Follow Instructions

Sometimes—heck, a lot of the time—you simply have to follow instructions to get what you want.

Take, for example, working towards an undergraduate degree—or other advanced degrees. You simply cannot earn them if you can’t or won’t follow instructions.  

I’m talking about reading course syllabi. I’m talking about making note of assignments and their requirements. I’m talking about completing assignments on time. In short, you pursue the roadmap provided by the instructor to complete the course. Sometimes that requires you to diligently seek guidance from faculty members. They ideally will tell you how to succeed to the best of your abilities. But unless you can follow instructions, your efforts will go for naught.

School assignments often are not opportunities to write creatively. That’s true in several classes I teach. Instead, I urge my students to follow the requirements I lay out for them in explicit detail.

What about intelligence, you’re no doubt wondering? Sure, you need more than an iota of “book smarts” to earn your degree. But I know plenty of smart, even brilliant, people who failed to earn their degrees. I know people who successfully defended their doctoral dissertations but did not graduate. Why? They didn’t process edits and feedback from their dissertation defense. They neglected to submit an updated version to the university. In short, they didn’t follow instructions from their advisor and university administrators.

I wish this example was an outlier. It’s not. I’ve seen countless students underachieve because they did not follow instructions. Some have even failed.

Let’s move outside of higher education. Sometimes, you can only get what you want by following specific instructions. Like getting a home loan, for example. Or obtaining any kind of license.

It’s futile to argue with the logic of the requirements in such instances, I’ve learned. The instructions may or may not make sense. You may not even like them. But to get what you want, you have to accept them. You have to follow them.

So, learn to follow instructions. Your life will be much richer if you do, as I’ve learned.

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