Plan For The Drama…Part Two

In the last post we talked about planning for the drama that seems to arrive when you are on your way to becoming a successful student. But how do you handle drama that comes without any warning? How do you deal with the drama that arrives when you do not have a plan? Here is what you want to do:

#1. Identify The Type of Drama: What kind of drama is it? Is it marital, car trouble, in-laws, grades in a class, health related, boyfriend/girlfriend, job related–what kind of drama is it? If you don’t identify it, then it will take on an identity of its own. It can become something bigger or smaller than what it needs to be because you have not named it for what it really is.

#2. Categorize It’s Solution Level: There are only two categories for every problem in your life. Your problem is either one that can be solved by you or one that can be solved by someone else. A flat tire is not someone else’s problem–it is MY problem and I can fix it so that moves it immediately to the next step. World hunger is not a problem that I can solve on my own right now–it is a problem that will require me and everyone else to work together towards a solution. That will have to wait. What do I look like running off to solve world hunger while my car sits in the middle lane of the interstate? So if it is a problem that only others can help you solve then find those people and submit your problem. If it is something that YOU must solve, then go to step three.

#3. Identify Your Resources and Ask Questions: This is usually where people fail. They expect to speak with one person and resolve the issue. Sometimes, the issue requires multiple phone calls, office visits, paperwork, documentation, emails, misinformation, etc. People don’t want to go through any of that these days so they simply quit. Please realize that when you get to stage three, this is when you become Sherlock Holmes and Batman. You become a detective and you piece together the clues to determine who you need to talk to. This will require you to ask questions. Questions are your greatest weapon because every question can lead you to an answer. the only way that you do not gain the most effective answer is to stop asking effective questions. Write down your questions before you ask them and keep track of the answers. Ask the same questions in different ways and watch how much new information you will receive. Most people do not ask questions out of fear of rejection. They feel that when they ask questions that they are no longer in control–but you ARE in control when it is the other persons responsibility to answer questions 🙂

#4. Realize That You Are Not The First: This is the one step that is the most difficult to fulfill. When you take this step out must release some of your bragging rights and rights to cry and complain in order to pull this step off. You are not the first to go to school during a divorce, you are not the first to lose a child, you are not the first to fail a class, and you are not the first to be taken advantage of. There is a process for fixing your problem and there are people who are willing to help. And if they are not willing, it’s at least their job to try and help.

I had some issues with my car one day. It required a new seal for an oil gasket and the guys wanted to charge $500 for the job. I simply did not have that and I needed a way to get to work. So, I asked 2 or 3 mechanics (step 1) to help me identify the problem. Sure enough, it was the seal. Then I asked them if this was something that I could fix (step 2) alone and they said yes. That is when I took to the internet to find online mechanics who labelled the process for putting one on step by step (step 3) because I knew that I was not the first one to ever have to do this alone (step 4). If you go into your school year with these four steps in your pocket, it can truly turn the tide of life issues by turning your drama into moments of growth.

Plan For The Drama

I realized this week that there is one item on my office supply list that I am running very low on: tissue. I have seen a lot of tears this semester, and it has not been pretty. The faucets have not been running over trivial things either–people are going through some serious and tough times. If you don’t believe me, just look at St. Louis, Philadelphia and Chicago. There is a major story of epic proportion that is happening in the home and hearts of people in each one of those places right now. The most difficult thing to deal with is that life must go on in the midst of the drama, and this usually includes school. Here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with the drama of life while in school:

1. Expect The Drama: I’m sorry, but I think that there is some mandate In the universe that says “If you are trying to become something better then the forces of the universe must work against you in sort of way”. I have NEVER obtained great things without opposition, so I have come to expect it. I do not dwell on the arrival of drama, I simply plan for its arrival.

2. Plan For Its Arrival: I have car insurance. I don’t necessarily like my insurance agent, the company or the logo. I have insurance company because people can be idiots and on a bad day, so could I. So I have an insurance policy that covers all types of things that could go wrong. However, I take it a step further: I actually READ my policy and ask questions. I compare the policy to others and request for things in writing. I educate myself on the details of my plan and how it will be executed.

3. Educate Yourself On Your Plan: I feel bad for some students when they choose to finally read their syllabus after the semester is over and they want to contest a grade. I once met a student who was right and the instructor was totally wrong. As I spoke with the student about the issue I asked her “What took you so long to get this settled?” She then dropped her head and replied “I never read my syllabus.” It was two semesters after the actual class when she and I were having the conversation–and she had been waiting that long to graduate all because of one incorrect grade that was actually in her favor.

These are three things that you can do when you have time to plan. They get far more detailed as things progress. Now your plan will not work to its full potential without the teacher being on your side. So try these things BEFORE you require the use of your plan:

*Learn your teacher’s schedule and know when they are in their office. Stop by on the first week of school to say hello for the sake of saying hello. It will remove the cloud of awkwardness and allow you to stop in when you really have something serious to talk to them about.

*Watch what seems to annoy your teacher. If they get annoyed with tardy students then don’t show up late. If they get annoyed with talking during class then shut up. Teachers are people and they have pet peeves like people.

*Compliment and thank your teacher if they teach about something that you liked or if you learned something that day. Say simple things like “Hello Dr. Gray” when you see them in the halls. Speaking to them BEFORE you need something builds trust, but speaking to them BECAUSE you need something builds tension.

*Ask questions that are directly related to the material covered in class. It shows that you actually care about the class and the material.

*Stay awake in class. Some students are afraid to speak to their teachers because they have this bad habit.

Now, these activities will allow your teacher to become more trusting of you so that if/when you must activate your plan that they will become advocates of your plan instead of enemies to your plan. REMEMBER: do these things BEFORE your plan is needed and not AFTER. Doing these things after you implement the plan can cause even more drama than what actually led to the activation of the plan in the first place.

But what about drama that you cannot prepare for??? Well, let’s talk about that in the next post…

Why I Barely Passed Chemistry

When I took Chemistry 101 in college my Freshman year I was confused over my grades in the class–and so was my professor. I had an “A” average on the homework, a “B” average in the lab and a “D” average on the lecture tests.

The professor was confused because he claimed that all of the material was the same, and that the lab work was supposedly harder than the lecture. It wasn’t for another two years of this struggle that I learned about my issue. Because the homework was done in a computer lab I felt comfortable taking my time working out each problem and looking up online advice–so making an “A” was easy to me. Doing the lab work was fun because it was hands-on and I could see my results. Lecture made no sense to me, because I could not visualize what he was saying and he was cramming in a chapter and a half of material into 50 minutes–a chapter and a half of material that I did not understand reading earlier anyway.

So I had to improvise: take what was written and turn it into something visual. If I used note cards, I almost always drew something on them. And if I didn’t draw, I simply Googled the image, printed it out, cut it out, and taped it to the back of  the card. I also wrote two different definitions on my note cards: one was the textbook definition and the other was one that I made up–something that only I was going to remember. It wasn’t anything worthy of a Nobel, but it started bumping up my grades quite a bit.

No Time Like Later

I have a B.S. in Animal/Veterinary Sciences, a M.S. in Animal and Food Industries and a Ph.D in Do-It-Tomorrow. I have been procrastinating about this post for quite some time and I have no real reason for why I did it–except that I was waiting for the “best time” to do it. Too often we find ourselves failing to accomplish what we set out to do because we are waiting for the perfect conditions. We don’t set sail because the winds are not perfect. We don’t travel outside of the country because we’ve never gone farther than the county line. And we don’t post a blog because we can’t sit with our laptop in our favorite spot at the exact time that we feel like it…ouch….

You will procrastinate when your primary concern is comfort. You will “wait” before you “activate” as long as you are an advocate for temporary satisfaction. There are several ways to defeat procrastination ( as I outline in my book “Make It Plain: Vol. 1 ) but one of the quickest ways is to deal with it is to monitor your comfort zone.

A comfort zone is created in order to avoid conflict with surrounding issues. Often times we procrastinate to avoid the conflict–kind of like pausing before jumping out of a plane. The pause isn’t the problem, because we all pause at some time (some people don’t pause and they really, really should). The problem is that we pause and we never return. If you run into classes, tests, projects and course work that scares you, a sudden desire to pause will appear. These are things that you should think about:

Make sure that you apply a time limit to your pause.

Maintain due dates and keep them in front of you.

Join a learning community so that you are not going into things alone.

Make sure that you comprehend the course schedule.

Make sure that you comprehend your personal life schedule.

Get organized–both for class and studying for your class.

Remember: these things won’t do the work for you. You will still have to put in some sweat equity. However, these tips will give you the privilege of making the first strike–and I have watched several fights end just as quickly as they have began with just that type of punch.


“What’s The Phone Number For 911?” Part 2

The second reason for not asking questions at times is that we confuse the process of asking for help with admitting defeat. “Help” and “Quit” do not sound the same, are not spelled the same, and are not even located on the same page in a dictionary. Much of this is developed from childhood. I cannot think of one award that is handed out in kindergarten for a team–only awards for individuals. You are encouraged to gain awards based on your individual achievements throughout your academic career, only to find that the world revolves around leadership and teamwork.

SOLUTION: Teamwork happens when a group of people admit that they need help from one another and that they can give help to one another. You need to make your academic success a team effort. You must search for others who share your desire for success–and desire to share with you so that you can become successful. Student success centers are beginning to pop up all over the country, and students are finding that these places provide the collaborations needed in order to be a successful student. If you are having trouble with your classes. ask yourself this question: “Who is in my fellowship of the ring?” In otherwords, who do you communicate and collaborate with for your success? Just like a successful business, you need partnerships: tutors, academic success coaches, study groups, focus groups, college skills classes, peer mentors, guidance counselors, academic advisors, faculty advisors, librarians, clubs, organizations, mentors, etc.–just to name a few. Don’t do it alone, because the journey is simply far too long…


“What’s The Phone Number For 911?”

I’ve actually heard those words come out of someones mouth before, during an emergency situation. Before you start throwing rocks (and after your laughter dies down) you should know that when you don’t ask for help when you really need it, you’re no better than the person who makes this colorful statement (OUCH).

Sometimes fear is just a four letter roadblock between you and doing the impossible.

Sometimes fear is just a four letter roadblock between you and doing the impossible.

Not asking for help‘ was one of my greatest downfalls as a student. I have a couple of reasons why…along with solutions to each. I will give the first one this week, and second one next week:

(1) “I Am Scared Of What Everyone Will Think/Say”: This is the number one reason why people usually do not ask questions in class, email questions to the teacher, or post questions on the discussion boards. It isn’t really that you are afraid of what they will say–it’s deeper than that. I was afraid of being vulnerable. When I say “Why does NaCl dissociate in water–and what does “dissociate” mean?” I am exposing my ignorance on a topic to the public. It really doesn’t help your cause when the people engaged in conversation seem to know exactly what is going on and you don’t.

SOLUTION: The first thing that you need to understand is that ignorance and stupidity are two totally different things. Ignorance is simply a lack of knowledge. We’re ALL ignorant of SOMETHING, so don’t focus on the fact that you ‘don’t know’–THAT’S why you should be asking questions. Stupidity is actually when you know that you do not have the knowledge of a thing, you have the opportunities for obtaining that knowledge,  but ignore that knowledge and that opportunity, and make decisions that should/could be made only with that knowledge. People who don’t know the equation for measuring the distance of a star in a neighboring galaxy are not stupid–they are just ignorant of that equation. People who are stupid are folks who think that 500 hours of playing Call of Duty equals 500 hours of real-life combat zone experience–they assumed that, even though their friends spent months training at Ranger School, that there was no need to even ask their friends what that training was like because they made themselves self-proclaimed experts. It is okay “Not to know”–that’s why you are asking the question. Questions are simply ways of communicating about things that we do not know. There is almost always someone else in the crowd with the same question that you have–and there are always two or three more who wish that they had asked your question first! One of the best ways to overcome this fear of being vulnerable is to write your question out before or after class–but research the correct terminology to use. Instead of using the word “thingy”, use your textbook to find out what the chemical is actually called. Find words that relate to the topic that is being discussed and pick words that you are comfortable saying. And if you are not comfortable saying them–PRACTICE. None of this will work if you NEVER say the words out loud. Your goal is to replace your fear with CONFIDENCE, not KNOWLEDGE. You are asking questions to gain the knowledge that you do not know, but you require confidence to raise your hand 🙂

The second one is coming soon, so stay tuned…

Make The Time To Make The Grade

Happy New Year!!! If your life is like mine, then you are already busier than most. I am writing this blog post while scrambling to get an outfit ready for a business meeting. I had this nagging thought that I wanted to share with you, and so here it is: no matter what you do this year, make sure that you make time.

What I mean is that if there is something that you hope to achieve this year that you did not achieve last year, it will require the very finite resource known as time. Time management is nothing more than time accounting, time auditing, and time banking. Think of your time like money–oh, and by the way…if you are bad with money, then you are probably bad with time too.

Just like you seek to get the most for every dollar that you spend, you should work hard to obtain the most for every minute that you spend. Every successful student requires time to become successful. Heck, even students who cheat require time to be successful in cheating. I once met a student who created an extremely unique method of cheating. When she was caught I was shocked at how much time she had to dedicate in order to pull it off. It was just as much time that would have been required to have studied for the same test and passed it.

Begin doing an assessment of your time–don’t just admit that you ‘you don’t have any’, but actually fill out a daily schedule to see where your time is going. Some successes come from small alterations. For example: look at what you do for the last 15 minutes before you go to bed…look at the last 15 minutes before you go to class…what do you do for the first hour after you arrive home from work…These are important periods of time and what you do with them directly influence the other hours of your day. In 2014, stop looking at the large amounts of millionaire time that you don’t have and start looking at the pocket change time that you are dismissing and throwing away. Now, where did I put that tie…