The other day I dropped my eleventh-grader off to take the PSAT. As we drove the mile and a half to the high school, I blurted out the one thing I remember from my SAT prep course thirty years ago. “Scan-Discard-Select-Move On.”
In addition to all the content we covered, this was the lion’s share of the strategy I was taught, to conquer this all-important measure of my seventeen-year-old brain.
After exclaiming the one thing I remembered from three decades past, my daughter (as is often the case) looked at me like the alien creature she believes me to be. However after wiping the sour look off her face she asked, “tell me more about that.”
Here’s how it breaks down. After reading (and presumably understanding) each question on the test you should:
SCAN all the answers
DISCARD the answer choices that are clearly wrong
SELECT the best choice from the remaining answers
MOVE ON to the next question
The goal is to keep you moving at a good pace so you run out of questions before you run out of time. Put another way, it is better to make an educated guess between two remaining choices on one question, than to spend too much time on it and never get to a different question about which you know more.
I took the SAT prep course and then I took the SATs a total three times. In the end I scored 550 English and 690 Math, which is really pretty funny since I stopped taking math after one required course in college. I went on to earn a double-major (English/theatre) BA, with which I have spent the past twenty-five years basically writing for a living.
Is the SAT an accurate measure of one’s actual abilities? I would say not. Instead I would posit the SAT is a marvelous measure of one’s ability to study for… the SAT.
After college I moved to New York City, where I was an active participant in a social life worthy of a second-rate sitcom. Throughout my twenties, I drifted in and out of some relationships and the less formal tri-state dating scene. I wrote about this in great detail in Chapter 16 of The Penny Collector, a story called Dollar Store Goofball.
One night while driving home after an abysmal “internet” first date, I recalled the mantra beat into my head by the instructor of the SAT prep course. Scan, Discard, Select, Move On. From that day forward I employed the same technique in my social dealings. Within a year I met my now wife and we have been happily married for nearly eighteen years.
After I dropped my daughter off on Saturday, I thought more about the value of Scan, Discard, Select, Move On.
I was reminded if a video someone shared with me a few months ago:
Modern American humans have a problem. We are so concerned with making a wrong decision; we spend too much time on single questions. We scan and discard, but we get stuck when we should be selecting and moving on. As far as I’m concerned, the man standing or walking in the video is not selecting or moving on fast enough.
We will all make bad choices, it is unavoidable, but the sooner we do, the faster we will get to the decisions that really matter. What is it they say? Oh yeah, FAIL QUICKLY!
We all have those people in our lives who love to schedule meetings to discuss things ad nauseam, but never get to a decision. Be careful to avoid these people, but also have the insight to never become one yourself.
Back in the 1980s I was appointed to an ad-hoc committee at our church. Our task was to research and make recommendations about purchasing the congregation’s first computer. We had a couple of meetings and then we went and visited with other Lutheran churches that had already taken the PC plunge. At the next meeting the greatest perseverator in the group started the meeting by reciting his long list of discussion points. Another guy on the committee was a computer professional and after the lengthy recitation stood up and said, “I’ve had enough of this discussion, if I donate a brand new computer to the church, can we stop talking and actually start doing?” The committee’s vote in the affirmative was unanimous and we were immediately disbanded.
My father-in-law was a surgeon and the philosophy he took into the OR every day was essentially the same. He would say:
Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, never in doubt!
I am posting this on a Monday morning. As you head out into your week why not try to live your life like the SAT. In every applicable situation:
SCAN – DISCARD – SELECT – MOVE ON
When the week is over, have a look back and see just how productive you were. Better yet, this practice is the behavior of every meaningful leader. Waffles are for breakfast, not for decision-making. Today is the day you break free and really start to hustle. Heck, you might even get into college.
Copyright © 2016 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.