Setbacks In Education

If you remember from my earlier article Quest for Knowledge I shared the story line of my efforts to become as knowledgeable as possible in my industry. To do that I am enrolled in a program that will culminate with an opportunity to earn my CFP designation. That article was published right before I attempted my first exam of seven. I realized recently that I haven’t updated you with the results and the progress since.

I gained enough mastery of material from the first book to pass the exam on my first attempt. After the grade posted I was allowed access to the second course and received the study material in the mail shortly thereafter. The second book was all about insurance and it was huge. The book was 3x longer than the first. It was daunting at first glance. To make the studying manageable I printed out a calendar, then I broke up each chapter into a smaller portion and scheduled my study time for each day. I had to do a little each day and stay disciplined if I was going to have any chance of staying on schedule.

The strategy worked. I was able to get through the book and pass the exam on the first attempt. It was about at this time that my counselor sent me a brand new study calendar. I had already made one for myself, but now I had a program approved version that was much better than my creation. The new calendar broke down each book into the important details. The study period, the exam week, and the week off. The general flow of events is 6 weeks of studying, a week to take the exam, then a week break. Then the rotation begins again. I get 1 year to get through all 7 sections and it culminates with the final exam in March 2018.

As I took a deeper look into the newly provided schedule I noticed that I was not on pace. I thought about why and realized the schedule began the first week of January but I didn’t receive online access or my first book until the middle of the month. I was behind before I started. So, I made a plan to catch up. I was going to eliminate my week off and start studying as soon as I was done with the exam. I wanted to make up 1 week per book, which would get me back on track by exam week of book 3.

I did catch up. I studied hard and gained a week back while working on book 2 and the same for book 3. Book 3 was all about income tax. It was much harder than the first two, but, I kept up my schedule and took my exam on time.

I didn’t pass.

So what was I suppose to do now? I thought back to my first conversations I had with the administrator and my advisor. They had told me this program is an accelerated version of their standard CFP course. It crams a 2-year program into 1. When I heard this I thought it was great. I could get done in half the time and not worry about it dragging out for 2 years. I had been to college, twice, I was sure I could do it.

When I found out I failed the exam it was on a Friday. I was soooo happy to think about that all weekend. It would be Monday before I could take some steps to get back on track. When I finally got back into the office I messaged my advisor and told him I didn’t pass. He reiterated something that he had mentioned in those initial conversations, that a failed attempt was not the end of the world. I would be able to get a new testing date and try again without any negative consequences except for spending extra time.

There was one more piece of information that my advisor shared with me that I didn’t take heed of at the time, which may have been the reason I failed the exam. He told me that of all 7 sections the insurance and tax ones were by far the hardest. Because of that, they intentionally built in those off weeks into the schedule. If students need, they can spend more than the regular 6 weeks per book on the harder sections. They can take some extra time to learn the harder material. I tried to gain time instead of taking more time. I didn’t take him at his word that it would be a more difficult.

While I can’t know what the outcome would have been, but I may have passed on my first try if I had committed to a few more weeks of studying instead of trying to rush it.

To sum up my situation, here is where I am at now.

  1. Started the program 2 weeks behind.
  2. Passed section 1 on the first attempt.
  3. Passed section 2 on the first attempt and caught up 1 week.
  4. Attempted section 3 and caught up 1 more week.
  5. Failed the exam.
  6. Continued studying for my next attempt of section 3.

Now we can discuss the lessons I am learning and my mindset through all of this.

The first thought I had was disappointment. I was hoping to pass all of the sections on the first attempt. I thought I would have no problems. Maybe I had some over-confidence and arrogance. Not great qualities to have when you are striving to be successful. Arrogance is in direct opposition to having an open mind and learning. When you believe that you know it all you inevitability will be proven wrong. Most likely sooner rather than later. That lesson will come at the most inopportune time and could cost you a great deal in terms of money, friendship, or opportunities.

So, with this first insight, I learned I need to be more mindful and humble. These qualities will move me towards my goals much more effectively than over-confidence and arrogance.

The next thought I had was about the time I am wasting and how far I am falling behind. I badly wanted to stay on schedule and was I happy that I had caught up on those 2 weeks. But it seems more clear now that I have taken 2 steps backward when I was trying to take 1 giant step forward. Trying to rush through the material left me unprepared for the exam and will cost me more time overall than if I had just spent the time upfront. The good news is, I know this was the hardest section and it should theoretically get marginally easier from here.

The lesson I have learned with this issue is perspective and patience. It is hard to keep my eye on the prize when the whole process of acquiring my CFP is a 15-month process. However, I understand the value of keeping the vision long term. I understand it is a marathon and not a sprint. But understanding the concepts and excuting on the concepts in the real world are two very different things. I did not keep my perspective in check properly and it brought me anxiety regarding the timing and flow of the program. I must consciously remind myself that I am playing the long game. I will get to the finish line if I just keep taking steps forward even when I get pushed back along the path sometimes.

I will keep these lessons more readily in my mind moving forward. I will keep marching to my final exam next spring and not stop until I accomplish the goal. If I can keep my ego in check, and not think that I know it all, the journey will be much more enjoyable and a lot less stressful.

I will keep you posted about how the retake of the tax exam goes and updates on the subsequent exams thereafter. I hope they go well, and I am sure I can pass them no problem…. riiight, that ego thing….



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