Today I would like to welcome guest blogger, Kenneth Waldman, freelance writer and content creator at essay writing service EssayMama.com. He is here to give some tips on essay writing.
Writing an essay is extremely difficult if you do not have a good knowledge on the topic. Writing is also very challenging if you don’t know how to properly structure your essay, how to add annotations, bibliography or how to perform editing. It takes quite some preparations until you can finally sit down and write your essay.
If you want to get a good grade, then you need to spend quality time on preparations before even writing anything. So let’s check out a few quintessential factors to remember regarding how to write a really good essay.
Brainstorming for the perfect topic
If you are allowed to write on any topic, you need to choose something that you are really knowledgeable about. Sit down and start your brainstorming session. Think about your hobbies, your favorite books, things you are most interested in, news you like to read about the most. Something will ultimately come to you mind, and from there you can narrow down your brainstorming and come up with the perfect title.
Brainstorming often times starts with a single word. Then, from that word you will come up with a sentence, and that sentence will take you towards a story. Brainstorming is the technique used by the most creative ad makers out there, so use it because it will help. The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers some really interesting resources pertaining to essay writing.
Plenty of research
Before you sit down to write anything, you need to spend long hours on research. Only this way will you be able to concentrate all your knowledge and come up with a nice essay. If you don’t have enough knowledge on the topic, you cannot possibly write 500 words about that topic. However, if you will read enough information, you will assimilate the basics that should be developed in your essay.
Get online and start reading magazine articles, peer reviewed journals, and even a few novels that are relevant to your topic. As a source of entertainment, you can also watch relevant documentaries and movies that will add to your knowledge base. Find out more on how to do research for an excellent essay here.
Drafting is essential
Drafting, or prewriting is indeed important. Before you start writing your essay, you should add on paper important sentences, phrases and notes that will help contouring your main essay. Scribble on paper, draw if you have to, and be creative- make a draft that represents the rough sketch of your main essay. When you sit down to writing, you just need to use this draft, and it will guide you to write brilliant essay, quite effortlessly. More information on drafting an essay can be found at this resource.
Planning the general outline
If you have a rough outline for your essay before you start writing it, you will write it much easier. How many paragraphs will the introduction have? How many different topics you will talk about in the body of the essay? How many subheadings you plan to have? What about the conclusion? Is this a persuasive or open-ended conclusion?
You really need to answer all these questions in order to write a well-structured essay and respect the number of words in the directions. Otherwise, you risk writing an essay that is not proportional- too long introduction, short body of essay and so on. Always plan the general outline on paper, with approximate number of words for each section/subsection. Check out this helpful pdf on essay outlines – by the University of Washington Tacoma.
Grammar & style
You need to write a very grammatically correct essay. For this you need to spend some time on checking a few English grammar rules first. Use he available online applications, tools and grammar tests as part preparing to write your essay. Spend some time on revising carefully your grammar, and ensure you will hand in an essay that has good sentences, correct grammar and no stylistic mistakes.
There are many free spellcheckers and grammar tools online. Within minutes you can download them to your laptop, and use them as you write your essay. When you are done, remember to edit and proofread your essay, put it aside for a day…and read it again the next day with fresh eyes. For more tips on grammar, punctuation & style read this.
Practicing before the final version
If this is an extremely important essay you need to write for your college class, you should practice enough. For example you could write 2 or 3 test essays before writing the final version. Such practicing will help make your writing skills more powerful. With practicing, you will be able to write great sentences and paragraphs for your final version, and you will already know what you need to be careful about (such as too many run on sentences, certain grammar mistakes, bad structuring, etc.)
Read out loud your final work
This is the rule of thumb. Many poets, essay writers, screen writers, will use this trick. When you have finished your essay, don’t just hand it in. As a final step, read out loud your essay. How does it sound? Is it interesting? Are the sentences too long? Does the entire piece sound boring? Do you like what you hear? How would you grade it if you were a teacher? Be extremely analytic and objective when reading your own essay. Change the things you do not like about it, and the read it again. Now your essay should be perfect!
It may sound like you need to do a thousand things before you can finally sit down and write. In fact, all these preparations will help you write your essay quite fast and quite well. Don’t struggle on writing an essay of 500 words without having enough knowledge on the topic. Don’t struggle to come up with the sentences, when you have problems with certain grammar rules. Study first and get down to writing only afterwards.
Writing an essay should not be complicated, if you will pay attention to these tasks that you need to perform besides writing proper. Spend enough time on research, and choose research sources that are truly trustworthy and quality sources. You will be able to write an essay that will impress your teacher or even your application assistant in college!
“Don’t worry, I got this covered.”
Everyone has that moment. That moment when you’ve just left the car and are about to step into your house or dorm. Or about to key into your office for another day full of uneventful work. You reach down your purse or pocket for your keys, and are dumbfounded when you grab a full load of nothing. Nada. You may be grabbing that old mint you left in there weeks ago, but no keys. We’ve all had this happen to us at least once, in many different situations and locations, but yet we all react the same way. Based on the Kubler-Ross model, here are the five stages of grief we go through whenever we lose our keys.
Stage 1: Denial- “I didn’t lose my keys”
“That’s not possible!” you think to yourself, as you check your other pockets. “Surely, I must have them.” Despite the fact that we are beings of routine, that we always put our things in the same place in our pockets/purses/bags for the sake of convenience, you believe that this one time, for one reason or another, you decided to switch things up. Why? Who knows? Maybe you were feeling feisty. Maybe you were bored with the direction your life was headed, so you felt that the rebellion of switching up the location of your keys was a minor victory in a world full of predictable mediocrity.
Whatever the reason, you decide to check every nook and cranny of your person, even going so far as to check the very same pocket again! Surely you must have not dug deep enough the first time. Maybe you’ll find it there the second time you look. Right.
Stage 2: Anger- “Why did I lose my keys?!”
Once you’ve come to the startling realization that you have, in fact, lost your keys, a surge of anger kicks in. First, you blame yourself. If only you had checked before you left the house. If only you had them in your hand the whole time, then you would always know where they were. If only.
Then, you blame others. You quickly think back through your day to figure out who is to blame for this scathing revelation. Your friends who invited you to dinner, giving you a chance to lose your keys there? The cashier who forced you to pay for your groceries, making you reach in to pull out money, taking out your keys in the process? Your significant other, whose couch may have decided to devour the contents of your pockets, never to be seen again? There are just so many to blame, and so little time!
Stage 3: Bargaining- “Maybe I can still find them”
Still holding on to that last glimmer of hope, you immediately begin to problem solve. The situation is not truly lost, or so you believe. Perhaps you can retrace your steps. Surely, you’ll be able to remember exactly where you last saw them. Maybe you still have time to run back and grab them.
This is usually the time when you wonder whether or not this is an issue that’s big enough to concede to a higher power. If you are the religious type, is this a prayer-worthy situation? You wonder if God would appreciate you using His time for something as trivial as losing your keys. Even if you are not religious, this is about the time when you wonder if this was some sort of predetermined plan for you to lose your keys, some sort of cosmic fate that would result in this scenario regardless of what you did. This is the time when you wonder what you can do to change your fate, to undo that which has been so unjustfully done.
But then, you get the startling realization which leads to…
Stage 4: Depression: “I won’t find my keys. My life may be ruined.”
All hope is lost. You’ve finally realized that you are not going to find these keys in time to open this door. Your life, just like your passage through this door, has come to a complete halt.
With nothing else to do but wallow in your own thoughts, you begin to wonder what really happened to those keys. What if you dropped them somewhere public? What if someone found them and now has access to all of your personal things? They can get into your house, your car, and that love locket your bff gave you when you were 14.
And what of you? Where do you keep the spare keys? Now you’ll have to go to the locksmith to make yourself another copy. Do locksmiths even exist anymore? You’ll probably have to spend hours at Wal-mart having to locate the locksmith section to make you a key copy! Dang it, are they in housewares or electronics?!
As your thoughts into your keys’ future spiral out of control, you are finally ready to move into the final phase:
Stage 5: Acceptance- “I lost my keys, and that’s okay.”
Finally free of despair and resentment, you finally come to terms with the departure of your keys. You realize that sitting around, moping, is not going to get you into that door. Now is the time to call that friend or family member who holds your spare to come get you. Or to call campus security to let you back into your dorm. Or wait for a nice enough colleague to arrive at work to use their master key to open your office. Regardless of what happens, you know you are going to be late. Late to work, late to that meeting, or even late to bed. But that’s okay. You’ve realized that at this point, there is nothing you can do to change your fate, but to get that door open somehow and solve your key problem later. You will live to see another day, and likely lose another set of keys.
It’s the question we’ve all had in our minds as soon as our brains were capable of thought. Which type of intelligence do we prefer, book smart or street smart? Learning through traditional, organized education or learning important life lessons through trial and error and tough love?
When hearing these terms, what do you think of? For many, the stereotypical book smart person is usually some type of nerd or geek, adjusting his or her glasses while burying his or her head in some type of book.
Likewise, those versed in the arts of street smarts are usually thugs or those who grew up on the “street”.
The truth is, being book smart and street smart has a lot more to do than just your upbringing and personality. It has a lot to do with your preferred learning style, and which way you perceive the world.
Some people are analytically intelligent (or book smart). This type of intelligence is used to recall or recognize, analyze, evaluate, and judge information. In other words, your traditional school-type of learning. Someone, usually a teacher or instructor of some kind, will disseminate information through oral or written methods, and you will learn. Simple, right?
Well, that’s because at its core, it is. Analytically intelligent people love to learn and are good at learning. They are organized, prepared, and will always have back-up plans for everything they do in case something goes wrong. Let me illustrate an analytically intelligent person using one of my favorite shows of all time, Leverage:
As the video shows, Nate has a plan for just about every single thing that can go wrong in an operation. Is this you?
According to this article, people with more analytical intelligence tend to have the following traits:
The more you learn analytically, the better your tacit knowledge becomes, or your method of learning. For example, say you are taught that 2 + 2 = 4. Through analytical learning, you are taught that by a teacher, as well as the logic involved with coming up with that conclusion. That’s how you build analytical intelligence. It’s pretty easy to remember that 2 + 2 = 4. But what about 3 + 3? Or 4 +5? You can’t realistically memorize every math problem. That’s where tacit knowledge comes in. Using tacit knowledge means learning why 2 + 2 = 4, then being able to apply the same concept to other math problems.
Sure, your teacher can tell you the answers to all of these, and even how to solve the answers for all of these, but unless you practice it yourself, figure out the nuances, you will never be able to do the problems without your teacher. This is why basic arithmetics is repeated over and over in elementary school, having students doing problem after problem after problem. In addition to learning through repetition, students learn the patterns, the trends, and the applications of these problems into other problems. Tacit knowledge involves finding a learning method that works best for you.
Let me illustrate the concept of tacit knowledge through another Leverage clip:
Even though Parker was being taught the art of persuasion one way, she managed to reach the same solution using an alternative method that worked for her.
Now, practical intelligence (or street smart), is learning through experience. You can’t be taught the kinds of lessons you learn through practical intelligence. Let me illustrate with an example. Your neighbor bought an expensive car. How much did it cost?
What was your answer? Now go and ask that same question to your best friend. Now call up your parent and ask them the question. Now go ask a stranger on the street (be cautious of pepper spray!). Do you think you’ll all have the same answer? Why not?
We all know what a car is. We were all taught what a car is through analytical learning. We also know what “expensive” means. It means “a lot of money”. But how much is a lot? Can a teacher “teach” you how much “a lot of money” is? Well, he or she certainly can, but that is completely subjective. Their idea of “a lot” is based on their experience of money. Something that they learned through experience.
People with high practical intelligence are adaptable. They learn from their mistakes, like the child who put his hand on a hot stove. They learn what works and what doesn’t. Once again, let me use a Leverage clip (seriously, they should be paying me for this), to showcase a person adapting to their environment when faced with a sudden crisis.
Sometimes there’s just no time to plan. You have to think quickly and use the tools around you to solve a crisis.
According to the same article mentioned earlier, people with high practical intelligence:
As you can see, intelligence is divided up into two areas: analytical and practical.
Lower levels of analytical intelligence simply allows you to learn through teaching, which most people can do once they start school. The higher levels of analytical intelligence involves improving your tacit knowledge, or your ability to learn more complex concepts using learning techniques you’ve acquired through life (such as using a more effective way of studying for a test after understanding how you learn best).
Lower levels of practical intelligence allows you to learn on your own. You do this automatically as a child when you learn to walk, as well as when you learn that crying and throwing tantrums as a young child gets you what you want, but then gets you a spanking when you reach a certain age. Higher levels of practical intelligence involves using these learned experiences from your past to adapt to situations in the future, such as knowing which way to take an organization as their new CEO based on strategies you’ve used in the past that worked and those that didn’t.
So which one are you? Are you more book smart or street smart? This little quiz is fun and gives you an idea of which way you skew.
So how do you use this information to do well in college? Here are some tips:
Improving Analytical Intelligence:
– Go to class!
– Not only study, but find a great studying technique that works for you
– Do the readings for assignments. This isn’t high school; the readings will help you in the test
– Don’t be afraid to ask questions, use tutors, and visit your professors in their office
– Read! Not just your textbooks, but read for pleasure. Fiction or nonfiction, doesn’t matter! It keeps your mind working and alert, allowing you to become a more efficient learner.
Improving Practical Intelligence:
– Join on-campus clubs and organizations
– Lead on-campus clubs and organizations; you won’t believe the amount of skills you’ll learn as a leader
– Apply for internships
– Use your college resources such as mock interviews, resume critique workshops, and life skills classes (if offered)
– Network! If you go outside your circle of friends, you will learn so much about the world. College is a salad bowl of cultures and customs. There is much to experience by leaving your comfort zone and making new friends and connections.
Twas the night before finals, in the dorms they all sat
Not a student was partying, not even the frat.
The books all piled up to the top of the room,
Only 12 hours left ‘till they head to their doom.
The freshmen were cramming it all in their heads,
Not a single Facebook status was left unread.
My roommate in her pj’s, and I in my slacks,
Trying to find a way to relax.
When out in the hallway there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the chair to see what was the matter.
I opened the door to a delightful surprise,
My friends were leaving to get burgers and fries.
I said to myself, “It’s early enough,
And studying while hungry can be a bit rough.”
So, I put on my coat and I put on my shoes,
And we went to get food, some snacks, and some booze.
After a ride into town, and a little bit of fun,
I came back to my room, a quarter past one.
Less than eight hours to go before my exam,
And three different subjects for me to cram!
I grabbed my first book and as I sat on my desk,
I said, “There’s no way I can work in this mess!”
So hyped up on sugar and lots of caffeine,
I put down the books ‘till the room was all clean.
I looked at my clock and saw it was three,
I cried, “How could this happen to me?”
“I really hope they offer extra credit!”
Is what I posted on Twitter and Reddit.
And then, with a buzzing, I felt in my pants,
I just got a Snapchat from my buddy in France.
He was studying abroad and his finals were done,
He sent me a pic going down a ski run.
Depressed and distraught, I went back to my book,
It was an e-version that I bought for my Nook.
The miniscule font was driving me insane,
And searching for the settings proved to be a pain.
Fraught with pure anger and in such disarray,
I did the unthinkable and tossed my e-reader away!
It hit my left bedpost which cracked the display.
I let out a sigh. “This just isn’t my day.”
As I sat at my desk and worked on some math,
The undercooked meat I ate unleashed its wrath.
Propped on the toilet I held on for dear life,
As I let out a fudge bomb that stung like a knife.
Though tired and stressed, I still studied some more,
while trying to drown out my roommate’s snore.
Ticking and tocking teased that damn clock,
As if poking fun at my mental block.
But I studied and studied every chapter and section,
Memorized my terms to the point of perfection.
There was really no more I could do to prepare,
But to show up to class with a hope and a prayer.
Later that morning, I sprang out of class,
With a skip in my step, with a notion I passed.
“What do we do now?” asked my friends in delight.
“Well, my finals are over, so to all a good-night!”
It’s the night before that big paper is due. An unfortunate combination of technical failures, insufficient sources, and good old fashion procrastination has you pulling your hair out as you take a bite out of your day-old Taco Bell and down your fourth cup of coffee. Sure, you can try to pull yet another all-nighter and try to concoct something barely readable. Maybe you’ll get a sudden 5am rush that will turn you into a writing genius and finish those last five pages like you were coloring by the numbers.
But then again, that bed over there is seducing you with its cozy comforter and plump pillows. Perhaps it’s easier to just show up early to class tomorrow, dressed in your best brown-nosing attire, and sweet-talk your professor into extending your deadline. But what can you tell your professor that they haven’t already heard? The good old days of “My dog ate my homework” just won’t cut it anymore. You have to evolve with the times. Get ahead of the curve. Come to your professor with a story that will bring her to tears. She’ll have no other choice than to gift your troubled soul with an extra day to turn in your paper. Right?
Wrong. For every unique excuse you can come up with, your professor has heard three variations of it. So save yourself the embarrassment and read the below 10 excuses that professors heard a million times, with reasons why they aren’t willing to accept them.
1. “My computer crashed!” (and other technology problems)
In an era where digital papers and electronic submissions are the norm, a plethora of problematic possibilities have opened up for the already-stressed college student. You’re working on a paper, forget to save, and right as you’re about to hit that little disk icon on the top left of your screen, your screen freezes and your mouse stops working. Or the power goes out at your house. Or your internet gives out the night you have a huge research project to do. Or your DVD drive fails right when you’re about to watch a video for class. Or your printer fails to print that 30 page pdf. I could go on and on.
The point is, surely your professor can’t fault you for that. After all, you can’t control any of the above-mentioned situations. While that is true, any professor who’s been around the block will tell you that such a problem only happens if you’d waited until the last minute to work on your assignment. Procrastination is your biggest enemy with this excuse, because it tells the professor you waited until the last minute to start an assignment.
Had you started the assignment earlier on, you would have had time to get that situation fixed when the university’s IT department is actually opened. Even if the problem set you back a few days, your professor would be more likely to accept the excuse the day before the assignment is due, rather than the day of.
2. “I slept through my alarm”
It happens, I know. I’ve slept through a few alarms in my day. This is especially ruthless for those dreaded 8am classes, where you’re not likely to wake up on your own due to the late nights you’ve pulled. This excuse may work once towards the beginning of the semester, especially if you’re a freshman and getting used to living independently.
But any time after that and a professor will just see you as someone who is irresponsible. First of all, there are several types of alarm rings on your alarm clock or phone. Experiment until you find one that works. If you really are sleeping through every single alarm you can put up, then you are probably not getting enough sleep. If that’s the case, then you need to work on your time management. Get things done more efficiently so you don’t have to sleep so late.
The thing is, sleeping through your alarm won’t work when you get into the working world. Your boss doesn’t care that you can sleep through a foghorn. If your sleeping patterns are that abnormal, then you probably need to get that checked by a doctor. College is a wonderful place to make these types of mistakes, as the repercussions are not as bad as in the real world. But still, spare your professor the excuse and just acknowledge that you won’t be late again.
3. “There’s a lot going on in my life right now”
Ahh yes. The “woe is me” approach. I hear this one all the time when a student misses a deadline for something I assigned them to do. Not only is this excuse vague and of little value, but this excuse tells me that you are self-centered enough to believe that you are the only person in the world with a lot going on in your life right now.
Wake up, please. We all have “a lot going on in our lives right now”. That’s just the way our modern society works. We are over-worked and over-stressed and life constantly gets in the way. A part of growing up involves learning to adapt to these situations and make them fit into our busy lives. Breaking up with your girlfriend or losing your childhood pets are emotionally distressing, sure, but such is life. It has its ups and downs, but anything short of death in the family or something equally devastating could be worked around. Could you imagine if everyone used that excuse when things got too tough? We’d be a mess!
4. “My other class is taking up all of my time”
This one is a major no-no! I’m telling you this one from experience. I tried this once on a professor, and I didn’t hear the end of it. Let’s just say that professors are proud of the classes that they teach, and in their own little world, they are the only ones in our lives and all our allegiance belongs to them. They don’t want to hear that not only is there another professor in your life, but that you clearly prioritize your time with their assignments over this one. It’s like telling your significant other that you missed your anniversary date because you had to help your mother with the dishes.
It’s quite the catch 22. All your professors seemingly schedule all their tests and all their assignments due on the same week, then get upset when you have a hard time balancing them all out. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the harsh reality of college. Proper time management and controlling your procrastination can help you escape this conundrum.
5. “I forgot this was due today”
It’s pretty obvious to see why this excuse won’t work. “I forgot” didn’t work in elementary school, and it won’t work now. But what makes this excuse even worse is that in most of your classes, due dates are typically listed on the syllabus! You know that piece of paper you’re given on the first day of class that you doodle on while the professor goes over it? Yeah, you’d best not lose that. Professors tend to put test dates and due dates for assignments on their syllabi, making that a handy tool when trying to keep track of all your assignments.
Plus, this excuse is so lazy and unoriginal, you’ll be insulting your professor more than anything. So please, just avoid it and take the late grade.
6. “I didn’t know it’s considered plagiarism”
This one can be tricky, because it’s most likely true and it’s most likely an innocent mistake that can happen to anyone. In fact, it happened to me in college one time. I had to write a paper for a business class. I took this class before my first college writing class, and I kinda breezed through my high school writing classes without much thought, so I didn’t know much about citing your sources. There were plenty of paragraphs that had no sources, and could be considered plagiarism.
When confronted about it by my professor, I told him I didn’t know it was plagiarism. What he told me was a life lesson I still remember clearly to his day. “Ignorance of the law does not allow you to break it”. Plus, every college has a student handbook with a conduct policy that discusses plagiarism rules and what you could get in trouble for. Student handbooks are long and rather dry reads, but it wouldn’t hurt to look at their plagiarism section and see how to avoid it.
In the end, my professor gave me a chance to redo the paper, and many professors will probably do the same for you if you’re a freshman and it’s a first offense. But still, try to steer clear of this excuse, as there are only very few situations where such an excuse would work and not make you look like a fool.
7. “I didn’t know this would be on the test”
One rule I quickly learned in college is that, with very few exceptions, everything ever taught in a class has the potential to be on the test. You never know when an off-topic subject told by a professor during his incessant ramblings ends up as a bonus question on the final. Even in classes where they offer study guides, don’t get too cozy. It’s possible that they can change their mind and add something in there. Many syllabi even state that everything from class discussions, to assignments, to study guides are testable material.
So the lesson here is that unless your professor specifically states that it won’t be on the test, it has a chance of being on the test. So for you to show up and tell them you didn’t think it would be just makes you seem silly and amateurish.
8. “They called me in to work”
This one is tough because I know many very responsible students who work because they have to, not just because they want some extra cash. Many of them are paying their way through college themselves, or have to support their families with their supplemental income. And many off-campus jobs are not flexible with work schedules. Sometimes they will schedule you at the worst time, and there’s very little you can do about it.
Unfortunately, it is very rare that a professor will accept work as an excuse for not completing an assignment, studying for a test, or especially for not showing up to class. College is expected to be a priority above all else, and if an off-campus job won’t allow you to do that, you are expected to find a different job or to work on campus.
This is easier said than done, I know. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for this type of situation. Unless you’re willing to pull an all-nighter after a long evening shift, your best bet is to talk to your boss way in advance to see if he or she is willing to work with you on a particular assignment or test. I’ve found that employers are more flexible if you talk to them early.
9. “You weren’t in your office when I looked for you.”
I get this one a lot, which is especially frustrating for both parties involved since I am out of the office very often. Let me once again refer you to the syllabus. Every syllabus I’ve ever seen has every available method to contact your professors. Office hours, location of office, phone number, cell phone number (for those brave souls), and email address are listed, as well as their preferred method of contact. Telling them that they weren’t in their office tells them that not only did you not look at the syllabus, but that you didn’t attempt to contact them any other way.
And don’t even think about using this excuse if you didn’t actually stop by their office. There’s nothing more embarrassing than telling them you stopped by at a time that they were actually there.
10. “You never said that”
This one should be a no-brainer. How else do you think a conversation would go where you are essentially telling a professor exactly what he or she said or didn’t say? Ordinarily, I wouldn’t put this excuse on here, but I’ve seen it used enough times that I felt it was worth mentioning.
The truth of the matter is that a professor is most likely to know what they did and didn’t say. Even in the rare occurrence that they are mistaken, who do you think they are going to believe: their own memory or yours? Unless you have evidence to back it up, don’t attempt to get into an argument with a professor regarding what he or she didn’t say. You will lose.
Happy Wednesday to all!
Today I’d like to share with you a funny leadership video my wife and I made to demonstrate a leadership model I created called MICE. It was made for a class project, but I feel it’s relevant enough to this blog to share. Hope you enjoy! (No actual mice are involved in the making of this video)
Leadership is a constantly evolving concept, changing as people discover new, more effective ways to lead others. However, with all the different ways people tell you how to be a good leader, you don’t hear much in regards to how to be a bad leader. Makes sense, though, right? Who in their right mind would waste their time learning how to be a bad leader?
Ever got told by your parents never to put your hand on the stove? For many, a parent’s wise words of wisdom are enough to deter a curious youngin’ from going any further. However, there will always be the child that needs to put that hand on that stove, and let the stove’s burning vengeance teach that child a lesson about never doing it again.
Similarly, learning about bad leadership is a good way to avoid it. No one is perfect. We all tend to fail at leadership every now and then. But by understanding our failures, we have a better opportunity to correct them.
A study on wisdom research by Dr. Robert Sternberg called Why Smart People Can Be So Foolish describes five fallacies, or an argument that exercises poor reasoning, that deter them from being true great leaders. These fallacies have very complex names, and even more complex descriptions that makes it hard to differentiate them from each other. So to help understand them, I will describe them using famous TV and movie icons that use them.
1. Unrealistic Optimism Fallacy
Leaders who fall under the unrealistic optimism fallacy think they are so smart and effective they can do whatever they please. They believe they can surmount any obstacle because they are smart. For those who have seen the Dreamworks movie Megamind, you’ll know that Megamind is a villain in Metro City who has dedicated his life to taking it over and defeating their resident hero Metroman. Despite the fact that Metroman is faster, stronger, and more charming than Megamind, he believes that his intelligence is enough to defeat him and rule the city.
Don’t fall for this fallacy. Don’t let your intelligence in any particular area corrupt your way of thinking and believe you can look down on others. Just because you believe you are smarter than a cashier doesn’t give you the right to give them a hard time when they input the wrong price on an item you are buying. Likewise, just because you have an opinionated, uninformed friend spouting out ignorant political statements doesn’t give you the right to be rude and consider yourself better than them. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and a little bit of tact goes a long way.
2. Ego-Centrism Fallacy
People who use the ego-centrism fallacy think that only they matter, not the people around them who rely on them. An example of this would be Lex Luther. His history with Superman has been one of a deep-rooted rivalry, similar to Metroman and Megamind above (possibly because one was inspired by the other). Lex Luther is a selfish man, whose hatred of Superman stems from the fact that he is more well-liked and overall a great person. People love him and he is famous. Not being one to want to share the spotlight, Luther constantly attempts to take down Superman to boost his own ego. Luther dreams about being the one true power in Metropolis, having people serve him and worship him like a god. Despite the fact that he has money and followers (after all, he does own a large corporation), it’s not enough. His efforts to grow his corporation and provide services to Metropolis come second to fulfilling his own desires and wants.
As a leader, it can be very easy to make leadership all about us. Once we’ve done a couple of things right and gained recognition for our efforts, it’s easy for it to go to our heads. When placed in a role of authority, always keep in mind the end goal, and why you are doing such task in the first place. Once it becomes all about you, you have failed your followers and teammates and should take a look at your priorities.
3. Omniscience Fallacy
People who exhibit the omniscience fallacy often think they know everything, and as a result, lose sight of their own limitations. Like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory, they often overestimate their abilities. This fallacy, while similar in scope to the unrealistic optimism fallacy, differs mainly through intent. In the unrealistic optimism fallacy, there is malicious intent involved with the intelligence. Being smarter means you can downplay others and do whatever you want.
The omniscience fallacy, however, is driven by good intentions. A smart person using the omniscience fallacy is only trying to help by using their knowledge in a particular area. However, they truly believe they know more about the subject than they actually do, and as a result, give the wrong advice. Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a theoretical physicist, knows a lot about many things. However, his knowledge isn’t limitless, especially when dealing with social situations, yet he treats them as if he know all about them. What results is hilarious situations where Sheldon tries to form logical conclusions about situations that don’t necessarily require logic, but instead customs and norms (like mentioning a girl’s promiscuity directly to her face in an effort to compliment her social skills, for example).
We’ve all been guilty of helping a friend on his or her time of need by offering “valuable” advice, even if we are not qualified to do so. I’ve seen a single girl (who’s never dated anyone) give another girl relationship advice, or a stressed person telling another person how to stop stressing.
The most dangerous part of this fallacy is the fact that we think we are doing a good thing by offering advice we are not qualified to give. We can do more harm than good by incorrectly diagnosing someone’s cough and headache as a cold by keeping them from seeking medical attention if it’s something worse. We are driven to form relationships, and it feels good for both parties when one party helps the other. One gets helped, and one feels good by being relied on to help. It’s okay to help others, just be aware of your limitations and have the courage to say you don’t know what to do (and help them find someone who does).
4. Omnipotence Fallacy
People who fall under the omnipotence fallacy think that they are all powerful and can do whatever they want. Again, this is similar to the unrealistic optimism fallacy, but instead of using your smarts to get what you want, you use your power to get what you want. The prequel trilogy of Star Wars (as well as the original trilogy) chronicle Anakin Skywalker’s transition to the dark side. This fallacy is made most apparent in the third movie, Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin fell in love with Padme, but being a jedi did not allow him to marry her. He knew he was a powerful jedi, and his corruption came as a result of him attempting to use his power to be able to be with her.
While the results of abusing our power may not be as extreme as Anakin’s, there is a danger to being a power-hungry leader. This type of fallacy is more commonly seen in leaders that were placed in the role of leader, though not necessarily earning it. Leadership is a very powerful title, giving the holder of that title a sense of aggrandizement and entitlement. How many of you have placed first in a competition and think that you could really make a future doing that if you wanted? How many of you accomplish your fitness goal and feel all the power in the world?
It’s a great feeling to have, and there is nothing wrong with it if used correctly (such as to self-motivate). The problem is when this feeling of power is used to make yourself seem better than others. It’s a problem when you use this power to do the wrong things, influence the wrong people, and head down an unethical path. Humility is a powerful counter to power. Keep a healthy balance of both to keep yourself in check and stay on task with whatever you are doing. To quote the wise words of Uncle Ben: “With great power, comes great responsibility”
5. Invulnerability Fallacy
Leaders who use the invulnerability fallacy think they can get away with anything, consider themselves too clever to be caught, and even if caught, figure they can get away with it because of who they imagine themselves to be. This fallacy is almost like a combination of the last four, where a person builds an image of themselves that may or may not be accurate. They believe they are special in such a way that they are destined never to fail, doing as they please with no consequences. In the television world, these type of characters are labeled as a “Mary Sue”, in that nothing bad ever happens to them no matter what they do. In television, they call this “force” that protects them plot armor. In real life, however, this is a sense of delusion that must be avoided.
Bugs Bunny is the perfect example of this, as he spent many of his early cartoon years outsmarting rivals such as Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and Yosemite Sam over and over again, never losing out on a match. Sure, sometimes these fools brought their fates upon themselves by bothering Bugs to begin with, but Bugs didn’t ever stop while he was ahead. For even the most trivial annoyance, Bugs Bunny would constantly mess with them, to the point of getting them beaten, burned, smashed, and in some episodes, even killed. Yet Bugs would come out of the situation completely unharmed.
The only notable exception to this rule is in the “tortoise and hare race” shorts, inspired by one of Aesop’s fables. Just like the fable, Bugs Bunny would get beaten by Cecil Turtle in a literal race, due to Bugs Bunny’s overconfidence in his invulnerability and underestimating his opponent.
We could always use a turtle in our lives to snap us back into reality when we fall under this fallacy. We are not perfect or immune to anything, no matter how much we try to believe otherwise. We do not live in a TV show, where everything will end up working out in the end. Sometimes, there will be sad endings, and we need to learn to live with them and move on.
I feel that this fallacy is the most dangerous because society pushes this one as the “correct” way of thinking more than any of the others, especially to our children. Have you seen an animated movie lately? How many animated movies (meant for children and families) have you seen where the main protagonist does not achieve his goal by the end of the movie? That’s just it, no matter how unrealistic the goal is, that little plane will beat all the other bigger, more qualified planes in the race, or that young woman will find true love by wishing it so, or dog will find its way home by believing hard enough.
Current media is teaching our children that anything is possible if they set their minds to it. That’s just not true. We all are born and raised with different talents, and we should strive to work with the talents that we have. If they attempt to do something that they are not good at, that’s fine, but they should expect the realistic chance of failure trying something that doesn’t fall under one of their strengths (something that’s become increasingly harder to do with snowplow parents who attempt to shield their children from failing).
The best cure for the invulnerability fallacy is to accept failure in your life. It will be a part of many things that you do, and that is okay. With every failure, there will be a lesson to be learned that can be applied elsewhere for successes down the road.
We’ve heard for years about Helicopter parents. You know, those parents that do a child’s science project at school, take control of every PTA meeting, take care of every fundraiser with no effort from the child. However, an increasing trend in the US is the ‘Snowplow Parent’, parents who continue to hover over their child way into college and beyond.
This article on the Boston Globe explains what a snowplow parent consists of, with many frightening-but-true examples. These are just a few snippets of what the article describes as snowplow parents:
Astrid Franco, 21, of Framingham, lived away from home her first two years at UMass Boston and got constant calls and messages from her parents. “I’d be out with friends and I’d get a text from my mom, ‘What are you doing?’ With time, I stopped answering and they wondered why. I felt it was being nosy,” says Franco, now a senior.
In one extreme case of parental over-involvement, a college senior in December 2012 won a protective order against her parents for stalking and harassing her. Aubrey Ireland, 21, told a Cincinnati judge that her parents often drove 600 miles from their Kansas home to the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, unannounced, to meet with college officials, and falsely accused her of promiscuity, drug use, and mental problems.
Her parents, Julie and David Ireland, admitted in court that they installed monitoring software on their daughter’s laptop and cellphone. But they said they had her best interests at heart. “She’s an only child who was catered to all her life by loving parents,” her mother told the judge.
“We see snowplow parents when they come in with their son or daughter to apply for a job,” says Green, whose family owns several restaurants, including West on Centre in West Roxbury. “They say things like, ‘I’m here with my son, Mark, to apply for a bus boy position.’ Mark is standing there not saying a word. We’re thinking if Mark can’t talk to us, how can he interact with our staff and customers?”
The truth is, in my time in college (and working in a college), I’ve seen this type of behavior firsthand. People joke about the fact that elementary school teachers are now being harassed for handing out low grades to students, but the consequences of such behavior are starting to see a societal impact. This new generation of sheltered, over-protected kids are now entering college, and soon, the real world. Many of these students are unprepared to deal with the challenges that life will throw at them, because their parents have always taken care of it for them.
Once these students leave college, one of two things are going to happen: either their parents are going to continue to do everything for them (such as applying for jobs with them as mentioned in the above example) and then wondering why no one will hire them, or they will finally let them go, once again wondering why their grown up children can’t fend for themselves when buying a house, raising a family, or managing a budget.
What are your experiences with snowplow parents, either as a college student or bystander? Are you friends with one? What can we do to solve this type of problem? Let us know in the comments.
A while back I came across a very interesting article stating 11 rules about life as quoted by Bill Gates. It was very insightful, as they were things that students were not taught in schools. Though Mr. Gates is a pretty smart guy, a quick search on Snopes.com tells us that these rules were incorrectly attributed to him. There are actually 14 rules, and they were written by Charles J. Sykes, author of the 1996 book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, Or Add.
I think it’s a very good read, and something that every college student should read before heading off into the real world. Behold, Mr. Sykes’ 14 life lessons you will not learn in school:
Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teenager uses the phrase “It’s not fair” 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.
Rule No. 2: The real world won’t care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It’ll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain that it’s not fair. (See Rule No. 1)
Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won’t make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won’t be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn’t have a Gap label.
Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait ’til you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you feel about it.
Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren’t embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.
Rule No. 6: It’s not your parents’ fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of “It’s my life,” and “You’re not the boss of me,” and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it’s on your dime. Don’t whine about it, or you’ll sound like a baby boomer.
Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t. In some schools, they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone’s feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4.)
Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don’t get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don’t get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we’re at it, very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)
Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.
Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.
Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you’re out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That’s what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for “expressing yourself” with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.
Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven’t seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.
Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school’s a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now. You’re welcome.
Read more about it here.