The keys to success: fear, arrogance, and laziness

January 22, 2020

A student wrote to me to ask where I got the motivation to prep my anatomy lectures. Here’s what I sent back.

I’ll be honest, for me it is partly fear, partly arrogance, and partly laziness:

  • Fear of going up in front of 270 smart folks with the internet at their fingertips and not bringing my A game.
  • The arrogance to think that I am pretty good at this, and the desire to show off a little by doing it well.
  • Laziness because the more I put into the slideshow now, the less work I’ll have to do in the future. I prefer to have the lecture be so self-explanatory that I don’t really need to prep for it (even though I will), I could just go up to the podium and riff off the slides and not worry that I’m going to forget something crucial. Anything crucial goes into the slideshow for me, so even if I draw a blank, the slides will remind me of all the points I want to make.

Related: it’s faster to take 5 minutes right after a lecture and fix the problems with it, than it is to come back in 10 months and spend an hour trying to figure out what I wanted to fix and probably still forgetting half of it. If it’s a choice between doing a little work now and a lot later, I usually go for the first option.

What works for you?

2 Responses to “The keys to success: fear, arrogance, and laziness”

  1. Mike Taylor Says:

    This is very good — and very resonant of Larry Wall’s famous observation that the three great virtues in computer programming are laziness, impatience and hubris.

  2. Andy Farke Says:

    Very true, all around! I’ve written out relatively detailed lesson plans for most of my class sessions, and it definitely pays off in the long run. Short-term pain, long-term gain. In terms of self-assessment and improvement, I have a “to change.txt” file, in which I jot down post-class notes, ideas for future assignments, etc., and then go through it all as I’m planning the syllabus in subsequent semesters.


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