From my professed philosophy, you might expect the answer to be something like, consistency or getting good habits.
Yes, they are definitely important, but I would say not the most important.
The most important factor for someone new to economics, or in fact, new to anything is that they enjoy the initial experience.
If you want to get to an elite level that is…
All professionals and masters at their crafts go through similar experiences. World-class pianists often don’t start out with master teachers or coaches. When they recount their early experiences with the piano, it is often about how pleasant it was and how it was fun to play and how their teacher was very nice to them and it made them feel good. We all have to go through that early phase of having fun with a new activity and exploring it. The middle phase and later phase can be all about skill development, knowledge acquisition, intense self-observation and focus etc. but to really get good at something, we need to have that initial spark of interest.
It’s more important that we enjoy our early experiences with a new endeavour than we practice hard at it or set-up good routines and habits with it. Following this line of thinking, it’s then clearly an error on my part to jumpstart economics education with a focus on consistency and routine. These things are important, but they are also boring and mundane to most. Sure, someone with a world-class work ethic might find them interesting, but that someone sure isn’t me nor most of us.
Looking back, I have had a great time early on with economics. My teacher did not focus so much on the notes or the syllabus. Instead, he just told us stories and shared his opinions about economic issues. It wasn’t very helpful, to say the least, for the exams, but it certainly cultivated that sense of interest and curiosity I had for the subject. But then again, I don’t think I make for a very good sample data point because I am hyper-competitive by nature in things I am interested in.
Nevertheless, going ahead, as I enter into the teaching role, I will definitely spend more time thinking about how I can make the initial experience students have with economics a pleasant one. Some may then fall for the subject, many wouldn’t, but at least it provides a good foundation for intrinsic motivation to arise.
One last thing
Do not focus too much on the short-term results. They don’t mean anything. Focus on getting better everyday. This is true for almost anything in life. I say this knowing that exams are around the corner for most of you. Don’t over-value that grade. Let it reflect where you are at currently with the subject, but don’t mistake it for your self worth. Take the information you get from the grades and comments objectively and ask, “What can I do today to become better tomorrow?”
Good luck and till next time, dream economics.