Real answers take time

I used to worry I was bad at exams

This one mental shift made me stop

Real answers take time.


Keanu Reeves takes long pauses when he is interviewed. He is an actor made famous by The Matrix.

Keanu’s silences (sometime over a minute) give him time to reflect on his answer. And people are prepared to wait for it. They are prepared to wait because there is gold at the end of it. Interestingly, unlike many actors who worry about being pigeonholed by a film genre he considers himself a custodian of it.

Silence is strength

This excerpt from Tim Denning’s article “Be Aware of the Quiet Ones like Keanu Reeves — They Are the Ones That Actually Make You Think” demonstrate the impact we can have on people if we just give some time and space to questions.

When he does choose to speak, he drops short sentence bombs like this interview with Steven Colbert:

Stephen: “What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?”

Keanu: I know that the ones who love us will miss us.

In eleven words, Keanu summed up the entire meaning of life. It was a moment of sheer brilliance.

Thinking is the hardest thing there is - Henry Ford

Real answers take time

If the real answers to life’s toughest questions take time to answer, why then do we ask our most creative minds, our kids, to answer questions under time constraints in exams?

If we want children to think critically, to be considered, why do we rush learning into short 1hour periods once a week?

In 2000, a study led by Dr Christopher Peterson, and Dr Martin Seligman found we all possess 24 character strengths – those qualities that come most naturally us.

One of our character strengths is Judgement.

In fact it is in my top three.As soon as I discovered this a lot of things seemed to fit into place, including why I thought I was bad at exams.

They define Judgment as – “thinking things through and examining them from all sides; not jumping to conclusions; being able to change one’s mind in light of evidence; weighing all evidence fairly.”

It wasn’t until days later I had a better answer

I was recently teaching year seven students’ creativity in the classroom. Part of the sessions over the six weeks was getting them to do their character strengths. It is an interesting way for them to think about what they are naturally good at, which is important for creativity.

Each week I asked them to draw a specific word in abstract in black and white. I asked them to reflect on their character strengths when drawing it.

When asked, one student said his top strength was ‘humility’.

I wanted to encourage the importance of that in a way that would be relevant to him. Instead, at the time my encouraging response felt vanilla.

It was only upon reflection, days later, that I had an answer for him that I think would have been much more valuable. One where he could understand the purpose of that strength and why he should lean into it.

My reflection on exam questions were the same. Disappointed days later that I had not thought about the answer in that way.

The truth is I always need time to think things through and probably why I was always stronger at assignments.

So was the result of the exam a true reflection of my ability to think and learn or merely my ability to memorise without any real context?

The most overlooked and underappreciated growth strategy is patience. – James Clear

In Summary

It was only with time that I had clarity of thought.

When we have clarity, we can bring about change.

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