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Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419

623-334-8014; chemnitz@uswest.net





My sister-in-law asked me to write about how to study. Like most of us Boomers, she is taking classes. So I am writing this to fulfill my promise and to make life easier for students of all ages.


  1. FOOD. Most students hurt themselves badly by going to school or classes with poor nutrition. The norm in America is to get stuffed in the late evening and skip breakfast. Bad idea. Instead, we should have a high protein breakfast, a large one at the very least, and skip the late night grease or sugar fest. Then our blood sugar is more level all day. When people begin the day with a pop tart or a granola bar, two results follow. A sugar product will cause an insulin dump and then a significant drop in blood sugar. Brains run on sugar, so the brain goes stupid. A granola bar is like driving to work on a teaspoon of gas. The sputtering begins at mid-morning. Most doctors will argue for vitamins and minerals as well. Herbal supplements are gaining wide acceptance, and they help in a variety of ways.
  2. ORGANIZATION. The best way to organize time is to get something major done for each segment of the day (morning, afternoon, evening). The major task may be “time with family” or “two Excel lessons.” Students really need to keep a calendar, an easy task with Day-timer notebooks, inserts, and computer programs. I learned that Day-timer uses MS Outlook, even though Day-timer sells a fine program that can be networked.
  3. BABY STEPS. No one learns a lot at one time. We seldom remember what we learn just once. So we should look at learning a body of information in terms of many small reading assignments, repeated many times. This requires organization and food. I recently failed a quiz, but I will read the material over and over, then repeat the quiz. My friend got a 93 on the same quiz, but he used the book (allowed) on every question. My thought is that the material should be in my brain in long-term memory for the ultimate certification test and for work.
  4. LOVE TESTS. I love taking tests, even when I fail them. Those who take lots of tests will end up learning a lot while advancing, even with setbacks. I failed 3 CLU tests in one year, but I passed 10 of the two-hour tests and got a check for $3,000. No one failed as many tests or passed as many tests in the same agency. I was the Babe Ruth of insurance (since he led baseball in home runs and strike outs). The same is true of written assignments. Many people fear them and put them off. Writing is the best way to organize our thinking and imbed information.
  5. IT’S JUST A TEST. In the dark we can turn a shadow into a monster and a sound can make us jump out of our skins. The more we diminish a test (or written paper) in our minds, the better we can do. Fear tends to paralyze. Or we build up what our performance should be so that we fret about how to achieve such lofty results. One insurance agent was truly test-scared and did not take CLU tests, in spite of his MBA and superior knowledge. I said, “You only have to pass. Study for a pass, not for an A. There are no A’s in a designation.” Years later he still does not have the CLU he is required to have. And I’ll bet he has not failed three tests.
  6. PAY YOURSELF. When we fear and loathe a project, such as income taxes, we can motivate ourselves with pay. I tell myself, “I will make $XXXX today by finishing my taxes and mailing them off.” The same thing is true of education. Some people say, “Oh. I could never write a 300 page dissertation!” But at Notre Dame the saying was, “Three pages a day until you reach page 300. Then quit and submit.” It was a little more difficult than that, but many of us motivated ourselves by saying, “Today I will write three pages and I will be three pages closer to pay day. Graduation.” I now have the same situation with Cisco training. The entire package of information I need to know is frightening and ever changing. But it boils down to four courses. Each course has so many lessons with quizzes. Each quiz passed is a payday, a mile marker on the way to Network Associate.


Not long ago I was on the phone with some Canadian-German relatives. One of them said with genuine sadness, “So you are still studying, Gregg?” Most of the clan (on my wife’s side, mind you) concluded that someone who went to school after high school or college was slow. That would make me the slowest in the clan. No doubt they are happy I am related by marriage only.


I received a lot of training in insurance. Some would call that a horrible waste of time. But it enabled me to help others and to understand many financial matters facing me. For instance, what was the best way to give my mother enough money to live on the rest of her life, even if she lived to be 100? Or, how does one get insurance for a disabled person who “makes too much money” for state aid?


Cisco training and other courses have changed my perspective about the Internet and publishing. I am lucky to have my son as my academic advisor. (He hardly ever yells at me.) We have many plans for future publishing work, although I have a lot of catching up to do in computer science. When I have my Linux computer set up, he can work on my computer from Arkansas. I think that is pretty special.


Many people limit their opportunities by refusing to pay the price (in frustration) for educational advancement. What I often see at Glendale, a fine school with a friendly staff, is that students collapse at the first frustration. I could not get subnet masking the first time around. I failed the test. Then I worked on it day after day. Suddenly it made sense and reminded me of my first struggles with Greek. I did not learn the hundreds of endings of the Greek verb until I wrote down the entire list, time after time. Subnet masking is similar, a mystery at first, then suddenly obvious and easy.


Students reach the point of frustration and say, “I don’t like this feeling.” Then they quit and get a beer or play Quake for 10 hours. The people who get past the frustration the most times will end up with the certification, the degree, the advanced job with perks. Those who give up will still have frustrations. Life is full of them, especially in learning. But it is more fun to be frustrated at a higher level than yelling, “I can’t minimize” in an elementary computer class. (Two students needed constant hand holding in class because they were not making any effort. Minimizing just means clicking on the minus sign in the application.)


It is just as important to study God’s Word in the same way. Some topics are difficult and require years of study. But the years of study reward the believer with great blessings and understanding. That does not mean that every topic is so overwhelming. But we learn that greater diligence makes it possible to appreciate what the great authors of the past have said.