Cold Hard GMAT: Lessons from fat chicks, black belts, and the 4-minute mile.IB
As I showed last week, following commonsensestrategies sometimes gets you hosed.
One example of a popular but very bad strategy: “Don’t go it alone.” In other words, your common sense probably suggests that you use thecommunity to get oriented and figure out what it’s all about. Then you cop their strategies. You commiserate when you fail. You use them as your support group.
Of course we want to be able to think and act and study like the bottom 99%... but all of us want to somehow magically land in the top 1%. This is bogus. You study in a herd, you fail in a herd.
If you’re a chick, be doubly vigilant about this kind of thinking. Ever notice that the chicks who eat lunch together (in groups, not just 2-3) often seem to gain weight together? It’s because this herd becomes our reference point, and it tells us what’s good enough, rich enough, thin enough. This is slightly more common for chicks than for dudes, but it goes for both genders: where willpower is concerned, friendship (often) facilitates failure.
So how do you use this fact to land in the one percent?
I don’t know how many of you guys have studied martial arts, but you’ve all probably seen someone break boards. There’s a trick to it. If you punch the board, you typically hurt yourself and get nowhere. If you punch four inches beyond the board, it breaks.
What’s that have to do with the? Let’s say you go on some forums and notice that a whole lot of people (at least some of whom must be smarter than you) say that they can’t get through some big notional wall at 720 or 750 or whatever. And you check the official averages and see that there does appear to be a cliff at 720 or 750.
Should that worry you? No. Be happy about it. Your 99th-percentile strategy depends on a majority of very smart people perceiving that there is a wall there. The wall has to be real for them. But not for you.
Performance barriers are viral. This is a critical basic lesson for performance in almost any area. Take the four-minute mile. A ton of people could have broken the four-minute mile before 1954, but didn’t. They were all focused on how much they had to do in order to get from 4:14 to 4:06.
After Bannister broke 4:00, everyone started breaking it, even high school kids. So I don’t think he was truly the world’s fastest middle-distance runner in ’54. He just didn’t stop at the wall.
And neither will you. Because focus directs force; whatever’s on your mind becomes part of your strategy.
Most people will hear about performance barriers from otherstudents, then train against it and typically lose to it.
But you are going to quarantine yourself and play a pure 760+ game. Don’t read advice or questions targeted at the sub-750 set. The strategy that helped that guy get from 680 to 710 could knock you from 790 to 740 (this happened to me in practice tests).
And don’t talk to or count/measure people who got into top programs but had low scores. Those people are irrelevant because you will never be like them. They were checking their email every twenty seconds on the day decisions went out. On the other hand, you'll probably do what I did: wake up two hours late, remember what day it is, read admit decision on phone, then roll over and go back to sleep.
To sum it up: Punch the wall and it hurts you. Punch four inches behind the wall and it breaks clean. There’s no pain.