Why I don't cheat.

A tale of 2 exam papers

Twenty seven years ago, in a small but important town in southern Nigeria,  two teenage boys – bored with revising for their GCSEs – succumbed to the temptation of ‘guaranteeing the outcome’ of their Chemistry exam.

As with any situation with demand, supply always rises to meet it. As such, both boys independently went off to acquire the exam paper from different sources.

A few days later, they jubilantly reunited – each with their exam paper – suitably contained in large brown envelopes. As each boy opened his envelope and read the questions to see how well they were prepared, the first student commented that one of the questions didn’t make sense, thus prompting the second boy to look at the question.

Before too long, both boys looked at the papers side by side in disbelief. Both papers seemed identical on the front page but as soon as the pages were turned, the questions were completely different.

If they were different to each other, were either the correct paper or were both actually just passable fakes.

Despite their unscrupulous intentions, lady luck smiled on the boys. They still had a week before the exam and, to put it mildly, resumed revising with unquestionable focus.

One of those boys was me. I remembered I paid 70 Naira for my fake exam papers, at the time that was about £20.

That was the first and ultimately the last time I ever tried to cheat – neither in an exam or in any dealings with anyone.

Lessons to live by

That experience held some powerful lessons for a young person to learn, namely:

That some things are too good to be true – especially when the alternative is hard work. That the time you spend chasing the quick win is valuable time being ‘stolen’ from working hard on the surer win.

Something quite tremendous happened in addition to the lesson – I developed a strong principle of not cheating and not tolerating it from anyone else.

This is not to say don’t look for shortcuts – because there are some. But rather, invest in looking for the honest ones, that don’t compromise your principles. Of course, if you don’t have that principle then none of this matters.

What experiences and lessons about cheating have you had? Or what principles have you developed from your own experiences – I’d love to hear them.

 

Be a Person of Substance

I love to take my dog – Maya – for walks and she loves it when I throw for her and she fetches. A long throw really helps her open up the speed!

As I took her for a walk this morning, I brought with us one of her ‘throw and chew’ balls. Much like a tennis ball but squidgier.

Usually I throw rocks for her and I have a pretty long throw – but despite my usual effort, this ball didn’t travel as far.

Now, it was substantially larger than a stone and almost perfectly spherical – looking picture perfect to throw, but it lacked density and this is why it didn’t make the most of the strength with which it was hurled. In fact, sometimes it only travelled a few meters! Needless to say, Maya was none too pleased.

It got me thinking

I believe that Life, the Universe and the force that is greater than us all, seems to want to propel us to great heights towards what we wish for ourselves, but what do we bring to this ambition to help it along?

If life presents an opportunity to propel a person forward – perhaps to greater learning and prosperity, how does that person get themselves in a position to maximise how far they travel?

As I pondered this, I wondered if the density or substance of the rock was more suitable to be propelled than the ball – which ‘looked’ like the best thing to be propelled.

What is the substance of a person that helps them make the most of the propulsion that life offers? Seems to me that by the time the opportunity arrives,  there is likely very little a person can do to acquire the skills to make the most of that particular gift. So it seems substance is a set of general characteristics and capabilities.

Here’s a list of attributes that I think count as ‘substance’ by which a person ‘goes far’.

  1. Integrity – being true to your word and being guided by your principles.
  2. Being good to work with – being respectful of others, open to collaboration.
  3. Being adaptable – anticipating and responding elegantly to change,
  4. Learning what they need to – and quickly.
  5. Being generous – with their time, knowledge and resources.
  6. Being open – in mind and of heart.
  7. Persistence –  knowing when to push on (and pushing on) and when to pull out.

I’m sure this is not exhaustive but what do you think?
Do you agree with my list, can you think of any more?
How does one develop these capacities to be a person of substance?