I think the most difficult year of schooling is the 11th grade. I remember being stressed out with it back in 1980. I watched my son toil through it four years ago. Then, just last week, I saw it again my 16-year-old.
She came home late on Tuesday night, having spent two hours in an ACT prep class. I could tell she was stressed by the way she looked when she walked in the door. She didn’t say much as she headed to her bedroom. I asked if she was ok and her answer confirmed she wasn’t.
Then she slammed her bedroom door.
I’ve learned over time to just give her some space when she gets to this stage. About 15 minutes later she reemerged. She told me how stressful her life was. The ACT exam. Picking a college. Taking tests. AND (tell me if you’ve heard this one before) it seemed that each teacher loaded her down with assignments as if THEIR class was the only one she had.
The kicker was a one-page essay for her AP English class assigned that morning and due by midnight.
When I finally calmed her down, I told her about an article I read that day written by a Navy SEAL. In order to successfully pass the initial phase of SEAL training known as BUDS, trainees are taught to break insurmountable problems into small management steps. Then, just tackle them one small step at a time. If you look at the whole problem, you might quit…or die. If you just solve one, then move the next and the next, you navigate your way out.
I told her to forget everything else right now and focus on that essay. She was brain dead on a topic so I suggested one base on a current event (fortunately, she’s a news junkie like her dad!) and 20 minutes later she proudly read me a perfect essay. Breaking the massive problems down into small steps gave her some momentum.
My concern for my daughter is a bit deeper. She aspires to take over my company, Munro Worldwide when I choose to step down. We’ve mapped out her career path (which doubles as my succession plan) and she needs to understand that running a business presents very similar overwhelming challenges. Maybe for her, a college-prep high school is her version of BUDS. Success in the face of adversity now will translate to success later when she takes over this business.. and I spend my last days perfecting my BBQ skills.
This week, why not try this process for yourself? Identify those seemingly insurmountable problems and break them down in to a series of small steps. Then, just solve one at a time. Look at the small challenge in front of you. Don’t look up, forward, or back. When you solve it, move on to the next one. It’s worked for me. It worked for my daughter, and I know it will work for you.