In The Straight A Handbook: The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom, Dr. Chuback shares the skills, techniques, and philosophies which are the key to success in school, work, and life. Drawing from his unusually lengthy and rigorous academic experience, which led to a challenging, but equally rewarding career, Dr. Chuback brings a rare expertise to the subject of academic excellence and the inner growth of the individual.
Almost everything taught in these pages are ideas and lessons which arose from real life experiences which he encountered on his journey to becoming a successful surgeon, entrepreneur, and inventor. The essential message is that these are proven and reproducible steps that will help anyone ascend great heights. It is Dr. Chuback’s belief that if one were to master even 10 of the 50 skills outlined in this book, a student’s success would not only be extremely likely, but practically inevitable. Chuback has used these techniques with his 3 children; two of whom are currently working to receive a law degree and one of whom graduates from high school this May.
Read on for an interview with Dr. Chuback and an excerpt from his book, The Straight A Handbook.
Q: What inspired you to write The Straight A Handbook?
A: I was inspired to write this book because I personally had an extraordinary educational experience in my life. I began school at age 3 and finished my cardiovascular surgical training at age 33. I did not take any years off from school in that period of time. This lengthy academic journey opened my eyes to many wonderful philosophies, ideas and perspectives about education and life in general. Many of the same ideas I learned to become successful in school I have also applied to my personal and professional life. I simply wish to share what I have learned with others who may be in pursuit of excellence in one area of their life or another. The ideas shared here are certainly not confined to the classroom. In fact, these concepts can help an individual grow in any area of their life.
Q: What do you hope readers learn from your book?
A: The one thing I hope everyone will take away from this book is that they have enormously deep reservoirs of personally greatness and ability within them. Everyone should know that they have an extraordinary mind with which they have been blessed. If they can appreciate this truth and tap into it’s essentially limitless power, they can achieve even the most outrageous goals for themselves.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give someone going to college in the Fall?
A: The most valuable piece of advice, which I discuss in the book, is that the student should NEVER fall behind in the early part of the Fall semester. Playing catch-up is a much more difficult game than staying in front and holding a lead.
Q: What are some of the essential skills that students need to be successful?
A: Essential skills in success include goal setting, focus, discipline, sacrifice, consistency, persistence, and courage. These words hold incredible power when deeply understood and adopted as a part of one’s personal philosophy toward life and achievement.
Q: What is your favorite piece of advice from your dad?
A: I think that the most valuable belief that my father ever instilled in me was the idea that “no one is better than me and that no one is smarter than me.” This gave me the confidence to know that I could achieve great things in my life and do exceptional things to serve others.
Q: Any advice that you regularly share with your children?
A: Plenty! Perhaps one of my favorites is that “nothing hard is ever easy.” Somehow I feel that there has been the propagation of a false belief that life should be easy when things are in their natural order. In fact, I personally believe this to be a major fallacy. As a trained biologist, when I look at nature in general and the struggle that all living things endure to survive and thrive, it is obvious to me that even under the best circumstances life is an enormous challenge and that nothing is easy – especially when one sets lofty goals. If we adopt the false belief that success will be easy, I believe it is nearly impossible to achieve anything beyond average results inside or outside of the classroom. Tremendous energy and effort must be expended on the arduous climb toward high achievement.
Q: Why is it important to treat every day like a school day?
A: If you don’t treat each day like a school day, you are very unlikely to learn anything new. Without the acquisition of new knowledge, the potential for personal growth is badly repressed. Through learning, the mind is sculpted, the behavior is altered and the results are dramatically improved.
One of my favorite questions is “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is simple… “One bite at a time.” This is one of the most important concepts for the student to grasp. For example, if the student desires to learn a foreign language, like it or not, it’s a big job and it cannot be accomplished over night. A new language is big—actually it’s huge—like an elephant. One must be patient and disciplined. But where should one begin? Well, in fact one usually begins with the basics, right? Perhaps a few simple phrases like “hello,” “goodbye,” “How are you?,” “My name is John,” etc. Maybe we start at an even more rudimentary level like learning each individual letter of the alphabet…A, B, C, D, etc. Wow, that’s a daunting task! How on Earth will I ever be able to truly express my feelings and opinions in a completely foreign tongue? It seems an almost impossible task. But the reality is that you can’t swallow an elephant whole and you can’t swallow French or German or calculus or physics or chemistry whole either. Those are just the facts. The sooner you accept the facts for what they are, the sooner you can begin the long ascent to the top of the academic ladder.
Being a great student requires patience and perseverance. Each day we read a few more pages of a given subject; we attend another lecture; we practice a handful of problems, etc. This is how it is done, one bite at a time. It takes years of hard work and study to become a learned individual. Anyone who tries to sell you a book on tips, tricks, gimmicks, and shortcuts for being a great student is either trying to put one over on you or doesn’t know what they are talking about. Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that being a great learner is difficult, because it’s not. All of us can read, and if you can do that, you can learn anything. You just have to set aside the time every day to do your work, do your reading, and finish your assignments. If you don’t quit and you stick with that process every day, year after year, with time you’ll be speaking that second language at a business meeting on the other side of the world. It all begins with the first big bite!
Purchase your copy of The Straight A Handbook here.
John A. Chuback, M.D., is board certified in General Surgery and Cardiovascular Surgery. He received his M.D. from Rutgers University and has been in private practice in New Jersey for 18 years.