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No Elevation Without Examination

June 25, 2017

In exactly 4 weeks, I will be doing some CATS (continuous assessment tests).

Yes in case you are wondering, I am back in school and will be for quite a while. These will be my first CATS since I went back to being a scholar and I can’t help being apprehensive about them. The best I can do is prepare myself thoroughly and hope my lecturers will be in a good mood while marking my papers.

Thinking about exams, they have a lot in common with the challenges we encounter in life. For instance, have you ever discovered that when you are going through challenges almost everyone leaves you alone? Your friends, your relatives, your associates, name them... somehow they just disappear leaving you at the very time you probably need them the most. And if they do remain, chances are likely they might not really be of any help to you. Just like in an exam setup, you have this examination invigilator who keeps walking up and down the room but he or she is of no use when it comes to helping you with answers to your exams. Why? Because it is yours to do. Alone.

I once saw a quote by some unknown author that said this, “Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realizing that everyone has a different question paper!”. Wow! How profound. I guess the reason the author of this quote didn’t want to leave his or her name is because people would realize he or she must have tried to copy answers from his neighbor only to realize that the questions were very different from his/her. Me thinks.

But jokes aside, isn’t that quote representative of what we go through in life? Each one of us is going through a different test in life. What surprises me is that what I may deem as being tough for me may be very easy for someone else. What I may see as being very easy for me to deal with could be a Mt. Kilimanjaro to someone else. But here is the thing, we are all going through tests of one nature or another. We are all fighting different battles in different areas of our lives. That is why I completely concur with Plato who said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.

Tests in life and exams in school/college/university are so similar in characteristics. Actually the more I think about this the more I realize how similar they are. As a matter of fact this article is probably speaking to me more today than it might you and so am glad that I chose to write this instead of something else.

Going back to the exam situation, let’s look at another similarity.

One would have to be crazy to give someone an exam for subjects or topics/units the student has not covered. Of course it does happen in some cases but that is in cases where the lecturer is being purely malicious (or crazy like already sited).  For instance, you do not expect a child who is in class one to be given exams that are supposed to be sat for by someone in form one, now do you? You will only get exams for the class you are in and once you pass them, then you advance to the next class until you graduate from that level of school.

Same case applies to life’s tests and challenges.

You will never get a test that is beyond where you are in your life right now, neither will you ever move on to the next level until you pass the current test life has placed before you. Life’s tests and challenges are like battles. You will never conquer until your opponent (challenge) is removed. You will never move on to the next level of your life unless you fight and win the current battle in your life. Tough but true. Unfortunately in life’s exams/tests there is no cheating, nor are there any shortcuts.

And there are no fake certificates (*cough*).

It is either you pass or you fail. If you pass you move on to the next level and if you fail you keep repeating the exams until you pass them. Fortunately there is no discontinuation in life. The only time you experience a discontinuation is when you breath your last but as long as you are still alive, you have to keep fighting until you win and move on to the next level.

The other day I was watching a clip showing how a wildebeest’s tail had been captured by a crocodile during the usual annual animal pilgrimage (if I may call it that) that happens in the Masai Mara or in the Serengeti. The poor animal kept trying to get lose from the jaws of the croc but the croc was not letting go. For several hours it kept trying until it got tired and slacked a bit. That was its first mistake. the moment it slacked, the croc released the tail and immediately caught the left hind leg. The wildebeest became frantic and tried pulling but the more it tried, the deeper the jaws of the croc cut in and the more tired it (the wildebeest) got.

Eventually, it gave up and decided to just sit, or so we thought. Apparently, it was a strategy. You see, while all this was going on, the croc was also getting tired of pulling and so it (the croc) let go of the leg slightly when it saw the wildebeest had “given up”. The moment the croc slackened its hold on the leg, the wildebeest gathered all the strength it had inside of it and jumped out of the water to freedom. Even though it was exhausted and limping, it was free from the jaws of the evil crocodile at last.

Life’s challenges are like the crocodile and wildebeest scenario described above. You have to fight them with everything you’ve got for you to break through to your freedom. If you don’t break through from them, they will keep pulling you back and messing around with you until you give up and just die.

Listen, I don’t know what examination (challenges) you might be going through in your life right now. What I do know is that if you look deep inside yourself, you will get all the answers you need in order to pass that exam and emerge a winner, ready to move on to the next grade (of life’s tests). Why? Because no challenge will ever come your way prematurely.

Here’s something else I also know; you are born a winner by default. All you need to do is just make that conscious decision to try and keep trying until you are crowned the winner.

Remember, there is no testimony without a test, no message without your mess. So the next time you are going through tests keep this in mind; tests in life are not there to frustrate you; they are there to expose the real gem that is inside of you. 

Don’t give up. Keep taking the test(s) until you excel.

 

PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 25th June, 2017, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".

 

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