I have often heard people say stuff like ‘if I was in so and so place, or if I had so and so opportunities, or if I was alive during so and so era, my life would have been so and so better’. Chances are huge that you too have said such at some point in your life. Most of the time, when we encounter failure by performing below what is celebrated or below what we really wanted, we tend to fall into one of these 2 extremes.

The first is a state of complete loss of belief in oneself and ability. This is when we come to accept failure and as such tag ourselves as failures. This is the root reason why many people drop out from school. When we fall into this mind-set, we stop seeing the need to try again and as such we simply just decide to quit and sometimes not do anything again; or quit to take up a different route and challenge.( example of such people are those that transfer from science related studies in school to the less tedious administrative courses. Of course, at times this is the wisest resolve to take on)

The second category consists of those who decide to give excuses like the ones in the opening paragraph. I heard someone describe an excuse as the tool of the incompetent and a monument of fools. I like to call it an unjust justification of failure. An excuse given is a failure tolerated and so excuses should be avoided at all cost.

The both categories are not good responses to failure. But somehow, I believe the latter is worse because it places you in a fool’s paradise where deceit is forcefully and foolishly accepted as reality. And many people especially in the school I come from like to take this option.

I finished from Obafemi Awolowo University which is arguably the best university in Nigeria and one of the best in Africa. We are notoriously known for being tough and difficult and we boast of having the best human products to show for it. The curriculum there is tough and so not too many people finish with first class honours. It is in fact believed that employers rate a second class lower honour from OAU higher than a second class upper from most other schools in the country. These facts and many more is what forms the basis why many students who don’t perform too well in my school console themselves with the idea that they would have struck better academic fortunes in some other schools.

I don’t believe this is always true and I would prove that with the knowledge from a concept in the field of marketing called the structure-conduct-performance-paradigm.

Well, it has been a proven fact that a first class student from OAU would most likely repeat same fortune in any other school not just in Africa but in fact, any other school in the entire world and that a first class student from many other schools might have to struggle to clinch a first class or even second class upper honours in our school. But I am not in any way convinced that a 2:1 student in OAU will automatically translate to a 1st class student in any other school just as much as a 2:1 student in those other schools will not automatically translate to a 2:2 or 3rd class student here.

Let’s do a quick little lesson in marketing. Under the structure-conduct-performance-paradigm approach of understanding market situations, performance of the market is usually a function of conduct in the market; while conduct is a function of structure of the market. Therefore, invariably performance is a function of conduct and structure. Now let’s apply this to our foregoing discussion.

Your performance anywhere and at anything is a function of your conduct and attitudes in as much as it is a function of your abilities. It could be argued even further that performance at anything is more influenced by attitude and conduct rather than innate abilities. Like the saying goes, it is your attitude that determines your altitude in life. There are several tales of geniuses who never went far; men of great potentials that ended as non-entities in life…. There are also great stories of ordinary men who achieved extraordinary feats and natural men who achieved supernatural results. These stories are everywhere; in movies, books (I recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s outliers), in sitcoms, history literatures, the bible, etc. so we can say directly that performance is determined by conduct (or action); and also that attitude more than ability influences your conduct and actions.

In the same vein, attitudes and conducts are also a function of environment (except in extreme cases which we would look into later on). In the bible we are told that when King Saul got into the company of prophets, he also prophesied (1Sam10). This is a classical biblical example of what I’m trying to establish.

The implication of this is that, when we get to certain places, we tend to behave the way the people there behave, i.e. like the environment requires. This has been termed in some literature work as the ‘joneses effect’. The field of economics also has some stuff to say about this in its explanation of consumer behaviour. We are more likely to be influenced by external factors than internal ones especially when it comes to social behaviour.

Now to those second class students who like to make those lofty claims….the reason why you behave the way you behave and study the way you study so hard, is simply because you are in a relatively tougher school. If you were in a relatively less demanding school, you would most likely have behaved differently. And since performance is a product of conduct, your results might not have been any better.

The only time when your claim and boast could have been right is if and only if after being trained and conditioned in a more demanding environment (like maybe after you finish your first degree in the ‘tougher’ school), you move to the relatively less demanding school, you could then with the superior culture and conduct that your previous environment had accustomed you to, act superiorly and differently to produce different and superior performance.

The highly contemporary the message translation of the bible reads Roms12:2 as “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking ……” because it is just how we naturally tend to be. Humans are generally adapters and conformers and as such act like thermometers which respond to the temperature of its surrounding rather than being thermostats that dictate and regulate the temperature of its surrounding.

And so the bible in that same verse advised that “Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out”. This implies a subscription to God’s own culture, system and training. Only then can you act differently and as such produce outstanding results. Therefore, it is clear that if you with a higher culture move to a lesser environment, you would most likely perform better because you have being shaped by a different environment.

Without stretching things any further, a 2:1 student in Harvard I believe is not an automatic 1st class anywhere else because if you had been in any of those less rated schools from the start, you would have been like one of them. They are not all dunces and perhaps truly, schools like OAU in Nigeria can boast of having better brains than most other schools in the country, but the truth I believe remains that If some of those brains have been conditioned in the any of those other schools, because of that environment and its easiness, you might not have given any better or reached your deepest potentials and so you might not have performed any better.

Performance is a product of conduct and conduct is usually influenced by environment. The only time when environment or external influence doesn’t affect conduct is when there is a strong internal conviction, culture or force that is strong enough to wade off the external influence. (This doesn’t justify you’re the claims and excuses I have thus far tried to disproves because if indeed you have that strong internal strength in the first place, it would have made you a first class student even in the seemingly ‘tougher’ school).



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