The Super Student is competitively minded. As much as we love to work in teams and collaborate with those who need our help, times will come when we’ll have to prove ourselves as more efficient, more diligent and more creative than others.
All those long hours you spent on your project (sometimes for years) work up to big moments or milestones, such as a conference, science fair, contest or similar. You get the chance to shine!
Ambition, as stated in The Super Student Roadmap, is the hallmark of the Super Student’s mindset. So, it’s reasonable to want to win the competitive events you attend. And if someone tells otherwise, well… (always trust the man with the beard)
Don’t let yourself be fooled by the common assumption that “participating is good enough”. It’s not. Don’t get me wrong, though, failure is never permanent and seldom a disaster. But the mind of every winner is focused on winning. Do you think Michael Phelps dives the Olympic pool thinking that coming second is good enough?
Secrets of Victorious Super Students
- Know your team and your project. Master the ins and outs of your project, including statistics, figures and details, as unimportant as they may appear. Value your virtues as a team, but recognize your faults too. Self-awareness gives you an edge, since it lets you choose the better men or women for each task, know the project’s weaknesses and answer any question by teachers or judges.
- Know your competition. Who are you matched up against? The answer will dictate your communication strategy, specifically in regards to what you have that others don’t. It will also give you an idea about the feasibility of winning.
Know thyself and know thy enemy. A thousand battles. A thousand victories. – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
- Find out who won last year and why. Go through the records or ask around to find out who won in previous editions of contests and competitions. If judges don’t share their criteria in the official rules, you can reverse engineer them by analyzing the winners characteristics. Compare them with the runner-ups and find out who was better than who and why.
- Master communication. I’ve seen Super Students win not because they were the best, but because they made everyone believe they were. You can work on the best project in the world, but if your communication strategy is not in check, people won’t understand what it’s about, its uniqueness and quality and, more importantly, why it should win.
- Winning starts at day 1. Analyzing the competition beforehand allows you to design a winning project from day 1. If you know that a certain characteristic is specially valued, plan your project around it. In some contests it might be scientific accuracy, in others creativity impresses judges the most. Too many times did I realize that I should have steered our project another way when it was too late.
- Look for mentors. People who’ve been there and done that add a lot of value to your endeavors. They can be teachers who formerly guided winning teams or those students themselves. Their advice is invaluable: the competition’s structure, culture, what judges valued the most, what were their mistakes and so on. Their experience may also help you designing a poster or organizing the presentation.
- Be one-of-a-kind. Cultivate uniqueness in your projects. From my experience, the #1 characteristic a project can have is standing apart from the crowd. Whether it’s the scientific quality or just the overall flair, being unique sets you in the path to greatness. Think carefully about what unique value do you offer. What no one else has. People will remember you and that will influence their final decision (even at an unconscious level).
We can’t always win, but don’t be afraid of making decisions. Fight for it and if you don’t win, learn from it, change and move on. There will always be new opportunities.
Too many people lose and blame others (or themselves) for their failure. Instead, look at your project from the judges perspectives or, better yet, ask for their feedback. What made you lose points? Was it any scientific mistakes? Did they enjoy the presentation? Were the others just better?
Besides, a great way to win something is the be everywhere principle. Search tirelessly for contests and ways to compete and apply to all of them. The more you try, the more will your project evolve, increasing your chances of winning substantially.
At the end of the day, you strength to win will come from your struggles.