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How to Do Well, Even When You Aren't Interested

in Your Class

| “If you think about what you’re interested in right now, then you’re going to spend your time. But if you think about what you want to be doing in 5-years, then you will invest your time.”

Nearly everyone at some point needs to study something they don't enjoy. But colleges want your complete transcript, not just the records of the classes you liked. So you need to find a way to perform well in the classes that bore you. The question is, how? 

How do you perform well in classes that you aren't interested in?

Listen in, because that’s what we’re about to discuss today!


  • One thing you should do when you’re forced to study something that’s not interesting
  • A mindset of successful people who are achieving great things in life
  • Why it’s critical for you to set a solid foundation at an early age
  • 5 immediately applicable keys to help you to be successful even in subject areas that you don’t enjoy studying
  • Why today is the best day for you to start adjusting your mindset to guarantee future success 

     And so much more.


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Nearly everyone at some point in middle school or high school or both is going to need to study something that they don't enjoy and figure out how to do. Well, anyway. You're old enough now to understand what you like and what you don't like. But you're not quite given the authority or the trust or the responsibility to go and make your own choices. So you still have to study things and learn things that you aren't interested in. And even though that gets better as you get older, if you're listening while you're in middle school or even high school, and even to a lesser extent in college, you're going to have to do things that you don't like and figure out how to do them. Well, parents or teachers or college counselors who often listen to this podcast might be thinking.

As an adult, I still have to do things that I don't really enjoy, and I have to figure out how to do them well. But from a teenager's perspective, you have to understand that; actually, you have a lot more choice around how you frame your life and how your decisions impact what you end up doing all day long. So I want to focus on you students who have very little or no choice over some of the classes that you have to take. The GPA that you are going to send off to colleges when you apply is going to include these classes, whether you like it or not. It's not going to just be a gap in the classes that you're interested in.

We have to figure out how to perform at a high level, even when the stuff that we're studying is not interesting or is even frustrating. That could be either because of the material or the teacher or any other myriad of factors.

When you're forced to study something that's not interesting, it's really important to shift your perspective to the long term. You can even remind yourself that you can still work hard on something that you do not enjoy. See, successful people spend their time thinking 5 to 10, maybe even 15 years into the future. That's true whether you're 15 years old or 50 years old. As a student, your current behavior, in fact, has an outsized role or influence on your future success. Many of the decisions you make right now set you on a course. It's kind of like you're at the top of a water slide. And at the very, very top, you have lots of options. There are lots of slides that you can go down. But once you choose the slide that you go down, you can't just start again. You have to take that slide and finish the course that choice leads to. During your teenage years, there are so many more of this kind of water slide choices where once you've made a choice, you can't really do it again until you've lived out the entire life of that choice.

Then you can come back up and make a different choice. There are many more of these kinds of choices when you're a teenager compared to when you're older. Yet you don't quite have the life experience to know really where those choices are going to lead.

Because of that, teachers, parents, other mentors, or adults in your life are often going to restrict your ability to make choices, which is really frustrating. You want to do the things that you're interested in. You want to do the things that you enjoy, but you don't always have that freedom. You don't always have the ability to make those choices for yourself. Still, your mindset is completely up to you. And it's the fastest way that you can change your behavior. And even to a certain extent, change your level of interest, let's put it this way. If you give yourself what doctor Edward's band field calls a long-term perspective, Edward Banfield was a professor at Harvard University. If you give yourself what he calls a long-term perspective, he has found through his research that perspective is more indicative of future success and more important than race, background, and family connections, than intelligence. He claims more than any other factor.

So thinking long term is going to be the biggest bang for your buck. I like to think of it this way. If you think about what you're interested in doing right now, then you're going to spend your time. But if you think about what you want to be doing in 5 years, then you will invest your time and investment rather than just spending, which requires self-control. It requires discipline, requires awareness, and a whole bunch of other things that represent greater success.

So this long-term perspective is the first key. You can shift your perspective beyond that mindset shift. It's also important to understand your physiology, your actual body, and how that body responds to different variables. If you are sleep deprived, or if you're exhausted but not sleep deprived, you're exhausted from too many activities, or you don't have outlets for your interest and your creativity. You don't have ways of developing or spending time on the things that you do enjoy or any number of other factors. Then you can really deplete your battery of self-control, this reservoir of willpower and self-control and self-management, self-regulation that you have available to you. You use that all up through decision fatigue and through just pure exhaustion or sleep deprivation when you're not making some of the little choices correctly.

So if you're having a really difficult time doing the things that you don't really want to do, there's a really good chance that your store of willpower, your kind of your reserve that's available to you, is being depleted because of other choices that you're making.

So the very first thing that we do in the ivy league challenge, the very first week, is introduce the ivy league health challenge. If you haven't listened to it yet, I encourage you to listen to my podcast on the importance of sleep and begin to make different choices about how much sleep you get. If you're sleep-deprived, you're not going to do well in the areas that you don't already enjoy.

Let me give you five immediately applicable keys or things that you can begin doing right now to be successful, even in the areas where you don't really enjoy what you're studying. Number one, clarify the most important thing. Once you clarify what is most important to you, then you'll make decisions that align with that. One of the best ways to clarify is to ask yourself two questions, and you can ask yourself, as often as you remember, it's something you can really do very, very frequently. The first question is, what are my highest-value activities right now? I even encourage people to ask their teachers and their parents. What are my highest-value activities? What are the things that I do or that I can do that I can work on? That leads to the highest returns; talk to a number of people about that and see what you come up with; the clearer you are on, what your highest value activities are. The more productive you're going to be with your time.

The second question, once you've clarified the first, is, what is the best use of my time right now? If you understand yourself in your highest-value activities, then you can prioritize your time and prioritize your energy so that you can be more effective at accomplishing the things that you need to be doing right now. So that's number one. Clarify the important things or clarify; just gain clarity. Number two, remove activities that are not aligned with your success so that you don't exhaust yourself. I know so many students who believe that the key to being more competitive for these selective universities is to do more to do it all, do it well, and do it all.

Now. This is an overwhelming and impossible strategy. You can do anything you want, but you cannot do everything. So that's an important thing to understand; that means that you need to be careful and selective about your activities. You need to say no to activities that do not align with your core values with your highest value activities. And that's an important part of what we do in the ivy league challenge when I take my students through an activity audit so that we can clarify those activities that are helping them to stand out from the ones that are absolutely doing nothing for them.

In fact, because those activities are taking up time, they are hurting the candidate because you're using up time that could be spent recovering or that could be spent doing activities that you enjoy, that recharge your batteries and help you feel engaged in life. Removing those activities is step number two or the second thing that you can do.

The third is a principle that was popular decades ago that I think is really interesting. And it's called eat that frog, eat the ugliest, dirtiest, nastiest frog that you have to eat. Instead of putting it off, just get it done. That's a mindset issue. It's easier to know what the frog is. If you're clear on what your highest value activities are, what your core values are, and how your daily activities align with those core values, eating that frog is dependent on steps one and step two, gaining clarity and removing activities that don't align with who you really are. But eating that frog means I don't have a choice; I've got to do it. Just go ahead and get it out of the way. Don't put it off just because it's ugly and nasty and you don't want to eat it. You have to eat it one way or the other. Just eat it first, get it done, and get it out of the way. Number four, optimize your health. I talked about earlier sleep. The other thing is breathing and getting plenty of nutrition; there are all kinds of little tiny choices that make a big difference in how well you can handle frustration in your life and be forced to study or do something that you don't enjoy doing.

But knowing that you still need to do it, well, is a source of frustration, the higher your level of health and well-being, the better you can handle these frustrating experiences and these sources of frustration.

To optimize your health, adopt the ivy league health challenge and commit yourself to getting extra sleep, stretching out your body, and improving your talk, which are all key elements of the ivy league health challenge.

And finally, number five, understand the science around procrastination. This gets back to step number three, eat that frog right away, and take any tiny action now, rather than endlessly preparing but never really starting. Don't buy into the myth that the deadline is your greatest motivator. That's only the case because that's how you've been performing. Suppose that's how you've been performing. There is absolutely no study that I'm aware of. That supports the idea that you perform better against a deadline. In fact, there are a lot of studies that show that your performance is going to be worse. If you're not putting in the time ahead of time. If you need to do well with this, you need to do it, even though you don't like it. Don't buy into the myth of pushing it off until the deadline, until you have no other choice. It is the best strategy. Take action right away; eat that frog.

Finally, I did create a course called defeating procrastination that is completely based on science and is designed to help you understand one tactic that you can use, learn it quickly in 2 to 5 minutes, and then apply it immediately, rather than what some people do, which is they delay what they need to do by studying procrastination.

If you're interested in the course, I've been selling it for $100 for quite some time for several years. Now, I've just reduced the price on it to $27. You can go to tilc dot to forward slash procrastination course. Those are five things that you can begin doing right now to help you study effectively and learn effectively, even if you're not interested in the material. Here's the thing you are in charge of your own success. And I know that it's frustrating that enough about yourself that you would make different decisions, but you just don't have the ability or the freedom or the response possibility yet to be able to make those choices. And that is frustrating. And it will continue to be frustrating. I hope that it is encouraging to know that it gets better over time as you get older and you make more and more choices that prove that you can be trusted and that you do take responsibility, then you begin to have more opportunities and more options in your life.

But for some things, in order to get what you want, you have to do some things that you just aren't interested in first. That could be qualifications for certification, qualifications to get into college, qualifications to study the thing that you need to do so that you can do the other thing that you're actually interested in. But you have to have this foundation of knowledge. First, that experience of needing to do something that you don't love so that you can have something or accomplish something that you do really want for yourself. That's an issue that is not going away throughout your entire life. So learning to adjust your mindset now, to take more of a long-term perspective, to choose to invest your time because you're thinking about what you want in 5 years rather than just spending your time. Because all you can think about is what you want, right? Now, learning to do that is going to have massive returns throughout the rest of your life. You might as well take advantage of it.

Now, while you're young, develop these skills, develop this ability, develop the mindset. So that you can be successful now and you'll be glad you developed it because you'll use it for the rest of your life.