Breaking Out of a Broken System Review: Part 2

Recap: The book is split in half – the first half on black paper/white text from Seth’s perspective and the second half on white paper/black text from Chandler’s perspective. I reviewed Seth’s half here.

 

PROS:

Considering the long break between my reading the first half and the second half, diving into Chandler’s section was like a breath of fresh air. It’s always exciting to see ideas I consider to be “Praxian” out in the real world. Chandler begins by talking about the scarcity mindset versus the abundance mindset and how winners adapt the abundance mindset. Plus, life is just more enjoyable when you don’t live life believing the pie is fixed and you have to fight for your piece.

I also appreciate his chapter on “unlocking your inner five-year-old” talking about how children can often accomplish great things because they haven’t yet learned that they aren’t “supposed to” be able to do that. It reminded me a lot of running cross country my freshman year of high school before I became a super competitive stalker of my competition. I would just go run races and do pretty well and be happy about it. The ignorance was blissful, and it became much harder to race when I started looking up the times other girls were running and finding who I “should” and “shouldn’t” be able to keep up with. (Luckily, I learned to use my research for good and haven’t been a complete headcase since then.)

The biggest difference between the two half is that Chandler invites the reader to interact with the book and had questions with space for answers in each section. Full disclosure, I did not participate or write in the book, but I think it could be really helpful, especially to a reader who is encountering these ideas for the first time.

I found myself agreeing and zipping through the second half of the book. Chandler writes about the same lessons as Seth but with his own personal touch, so it felt very familiar without being too repetitive. Chandler is also a proponent of starting your own business and offers similar advice regarding the tax advantages as Seth does without disparaging work if it’s “for someone else.” Some other highlights include:

  • Having the strongest work ethic (but really, not just saying you do)
  • Having a good attitude about your work
  • Being efficient to work smart (basically doubling your work ethic)
  • Setting SMART goals
  • Having a proactive mindset instead of a reactive mindset (like this post!)
  • Not being complacent after meeting a goal – set a new one!
  • Learning “the rules” about money

 

CONS:

Similar to Seth’s half, I wished there was more information on Chandler’s story and how he got to where he is today. He mentions having a lawncare business while in high school and then working for Student Painters and having a lot of success through that, but I found myself wanting more details.

Timing is also an issue since Breaking out of a Broken System was published in 2014. Chandler started his business Self-Publishing School that same year (not sure which came first) and has published 6 books to date. These are things I found myself wanting to know more about when reading his chapters until I checked the publication date on the book. I’m sure I can find the story in one of his five other books, though.

Finally, Chandler has a Yahoo email address. This is mainly a joke since at Praxis we strongly suggest Gmail addresses to our participants. Our CEO says Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, etc. all send the message, “old, outdated, and behind the times,” so seeing the Yahoo address made me laugh.

 

Overall I would definitely recommend the book. Any of the cons about the book are either me wanting more details or something that I disagree with but is written with good/pure intentions. I also recommend the band NEEDTOBREATHE if you want to hear Seth play the bass! 🙂

 

Just Google It: Panel Graphs in Excel

I got a data task last week. I love my data. At my last job I once got lost writing a report on our evaluation data and didn’t look up from my computer until my stomach growled and I realized I stayed an hour later than I usually go home.

Anyway, I had the task of plotting some pretty disparate numbers. Things like website traffic (maximum at tens of thousands) per week as well as acceptances (maximum under 10) per week…plus some numbers in between. I thought this would be easily solvable with a secondary Y axis but after plotting the data that way, I realized it wasn’t the best solution. I either needed to blow up the graph to billboard size or have a third or fourth Y axis to make it work.

Then I tried taking out website traffic as a whole since it was the outlier, but then my next biggest variable became a problem since it was an outlier compared to the rest of my data. My next solution was to plot all of the variables separtely. Since the data is all plotted by week, I just had to stack them on top of each other, and the trends (spikes and dips) would still show even though it wouldn’t be as visually appealing. I made all 5 graphs before realizing that was a dumb idea. Frustrated, I told myself that there are entire professions based around data analysis and visualization, and there has to be a way to display these numbers in the same graph.

I then turned to my best friend, Google. I can remember taking a computer applications class in middle school where we learned the “proper” way to search – using keywords, plus signs, etc. That is never the way I search, though. I’m a fan of typing full sentences or phrases of my stream of consciousness. In the pre-Shazam or Siri days, I found many a song title and artist by typing in the lyrics of songs I heard on the radio.

This is what I typed in, and I felt it like destiny that someone else had used the same phrase that I had. The forum led me here which is where I found my answer.

The feeling of fate continued as I read the post. The writer laid out all of the ways people attempt to display data like this, which mirrored the attempts I had just made.

  • You can plot everything on the same graph with one Y axis, but that leads to everything but your outlier looking like a flat line.
  • You can plot a second Y axis, but then you have to remember which lines go with which axis (and still wasn’t enough in my case)
  • You can plot all of the data on separate charts and try to line up the X axis

Or you can make a panel graph! I copied the format of the data and the formulas in the step by step instructions (accounting for the fact that I needed 5 panels rather than 3). Since the example data is so small compared to mine, I had to write down a list of conversions (example E9 = my G44) to get the formulas right after quite a few mistakes that had my graph looking wonky. But then I had it! Five variables worth of data aligned along the same X axis each with its own Y axis for scale.

The point of all of this is that it’s very unlikely that the problem you’re experiencing is something only you will encounter. The internet is a wonderful place that can help you with many problems from fixing your blender (boil the blade kit to get it unstuck) or helping you make a panel graph for the first time.

 

Breaking Out of a Broken System Review: Part 1

I learned about the band NEEDTOBREATHE my first summer working at Strong Rock Camp when my co-counselor would play their music to wake our girls up in the morning. I had the opportunity to see them play live at a Braves game this summer which led me to Googling the different band members after the concert to learn their story.

I found that the bassist Seth Bolt opened a recording studio at age 16 and wrote a book with his brother Chandler (who also was a young entrepreneur) called Breaking Out of a Broken System. It sounded interesting, so I got a copy.

The book is split in half – the first half on black paper/white text from Seth’s perspective and the second half on white paper/black text from Chandler’s perspective. I finished Seth’s half and wanted to share my thoughts so far.

 

PROS:

The way they wrote the book is impressive. Since they have such busy schedules, they planned to write the entire book over a 7-day period. They use timers to strictly finish a chapter within 2 hours: 10 minute brainstorm/10 minute outline/90 minutes of writing/10 minute break. Repeat. There’s a whole chapter on how perfectionism is the enemy of getting stuff done and how to avoid analysis paralysis.

I appreciated the purpose of work near the beginning of the book. Seth talks about how God gave Adam the task of caring for the garden and the animals, so humans working and having a purpose existed before the fall. Many people think of work as punishment for sin, but it’s not! And it is certainly easier to think about work being purposeful than a penalty.

The “you do you” chapter was great as well. That’s not what it’s called, but I like that umbrella term for it It’s a combination of forging your own path and not needing to “keep up with the Joneses.” I especially liked when Seth talked about how it is important for children to see their parents pursuing dreams rather than giving up everything to focus on their children. While I don’t have my own children, I did grow up with parents who provided everything I needed while also not allowing my sister or me think we were the center of their universe.

The end of Seth’s half is the best part. He talks about saving his allowance and construction money to buy his first guitar and continuing to save up until he had enough recording equipment to launch his studio business at 16. I really wish this section were more detailed because I would have loved to hear how he got those first clients and any struggles he encountered as a young entrepreneur.

He’s a huge proponent of owning your own business and talks about plowing the money you make back into your business to grow it, thereby making it a deduction on your taxes rather than taxable profit. It made me laugh that he even included the disclaimer “this is legal.” Not only does he explain the rules of the tax code, he also provides a list of the paperwork you need to fill out to start a business. It’s a quick action plan that leaves no room for excuses, especially paired with the previous chapters.

Overall I really like the book. I found a lot of similarities between the lessons my parents taught me growing up and the lessons their parents taught them. I think the lessons will be especially valuable to someone who is hearing it for the first time. I also loved the old family photos and stick figure drawings throughout the chapters.

CONS:

I almost lost my mind over Chapter 8. Seth talks about how companies should make benevolence and philanthropy a main focus and not be so concerned with profits. It’s a very typical misunderstanding of business – thinking that profit is bad and charity is good. What this black and white stance misses is the value created from that profit. People willingly give their money to companies for goods and services that make their lives better. Profits don’t come from scamming customers or ripping them off; they come benefiting customers.

Then he uses TOMS shoes as his example of a company who is doing things the right way. In my mind, TOMS is the absolute worst offender of “good intentions, terrible results.” I’m going to spare you my rant because all you need to do is type “TOMS shoes are the worst” into Google, and you’ll get plenty of reading material. For a fuller picture, you should watch the documentary Poverty, Inc. It’s on Netflix. You’re welcome.

The beginning of Chapter 15 reminded me of so many articles I find on the internet that are “Praxis-adjacent” as I like to call them. The author realizes that something is broken – college tuition is way too expensive, and college grads aren’t getting jobs – but then ends up concluding that using the broken system is still needed. Seth even goes as far to say, “The public education system was designed during the industrial revolution to produce loyal, faithful workers. It was designed to serve industrialism.” But then follows a few pages later with, “The system’s motto is ‘Go to school, get a job.’ You need to think: ‘Go to school, create a job.’” It’s just funny to me that he includes school in his category of a broken system and then still has it as a pre-requisite for creating the life you want for yourself.

The end of Chapter 15 just made me sad. It is full of Pros (above), but positioning working for someone else (anything other than owning your own business) as “exchanging time for money” is so wrong. Companies don’t pay you for your time, and if you view your work that way, it sounds like you are a clock-watcher, and I’m sorry you hate your job so much. The work you do should be creating value for the company you work for and its customers, and you are paid in exchange for creating that value. Your time in and of itself is not what your employer pays you for – it’s what you do with that time.

Overall I thought Seth’s advice skimmed the surface of a lot of great points and missed the opportunity to really flesh out the ideas and give them some depth. I think this has a lot to do with my exposure to Praxis and its content which, in my opinion, is much better. 😉 I think the time constraints (2 hours per chapter, finished manuscript in 7 days) had a lot to do with the lack of depth and am still very impressed with the book as a whole.

 

Looking forward to part 2 and hearing from Seth’s younger brother Chandler about his entrepreneurial endeavors!

Decide, Commit, Step Forward: How to Break Free from FOMO and Organize your Ambition

When I first started at Praxis, I learned that it is something I’ll always have to explain to people. The follow up question is usually about our participants who I like to describe as “exhaustingly inspiring.” Our community is constantly pinging with notifications about new websites, new blog posts, new projects, new group discussions, podcast, reading groups, etc. It’s overwhelming in the best sense of the word.

But that feeling of being overwhelmed can also be detrimental. It can cause analysis paralysis and make you not know where to start or spark 1 million half-baked ideas that you never put into action because you don’t want to give up on thinking of 1 million more ideas. We see this when people are afraid to commit to a single project idea because they don’t know if it’s the “right” one. You can experience, fear, anxiety, regret, and FOMO (fear of missing out) when you’re negatively overwhelmed, and I’m going to address how to overcome that.

First, I want to start with a little economics. Economics was my first love from when my dad was my econ teacher in high school and that led me to pick econ as my major in college and then to FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) for my first 5 years out of school. I sincerely think that economics is the single most useful subject to know and understand to function successfully in the world. One of the taglines we used when marketing FEE programs was “see the world more clearly” because looking at events through an economic lens gives you understanding and clarity.

One of the basics of economics is opportunity cost. This is a concept most people understand even if they don’t know the formal name for it. Opportunity cost is defined as the value of your next best alternative. Textbook examples usually include something like, “Sally can go to the movies with her friends or go to the baseball game with her family. Whichever thing she doesn’t choose is her opportunity cost.”

Easy, right? Everyone gets that you can only do one thing at a time, but the actual cost of what you’re giving up can sometimes be overestimated. Since you can only do one thing at a time, opportunity cost is only the value of your next best alternative, not the sum of all of the values of literally every other thing you could be doing. Choosing option A doesn’t mean your cost is B and C and D and E (and…etc); the cost is just B (assuming it’s your next best choice) because if you choose B, that precludes you from choosing the others as well.

I explain all of that to emphasize the importance of knowing the true cost of your decisions. Thinking in the flawed way of, “I’m losing out on every single other thing!” rather than only giving up the next best choice can cause major analysis paralysis. It can put more pressure than is needed on making the “right” choice because you believe the stakes are higher than they really are.

Acknowledge the opportunity cost of your decisions, and use that information to help you make the best choice.

Another note on decisions: everything is a choice. Even refusing to make a decision is a decision in and of itself. You won’t get the time back you spent deliberating or agonizing over a choice, so keep opportunity cost in mind when it comes to how much time you spend making a decision. Not every decision needs a well-constructed argument or research to back it up. For instance, I spent a few hours researching, comparing models, reading reviews, and even going to a store to look at the sizes/feel the weights when I was picking out a new laptop last year. It was a larger purchase and important purchase, so I wanted to make a good decision. I wouldn’t spend that amount of time on buying a new toaster or waffle maker. It’s just not worth my time!

That’s a simplified example, but as someone who is prone to getting sucked into reading Amazon reviews, it’s important to take a clarifying moment to judge the priority of a decision. I’m not trying to encourage rash decision making, but not every decision needs a pro-con list. Some things aren’t worth it. In fact, most aren’t.

Ranking the priority of your decisions is important because decision fatigue is a real thing. People who make more decisions throughout the day struggle with self-control and will power at the end of the day, more so than those who make fewer decisions. Interestingly, it’s also shown that judges make “less favorable” decisions later in the day than they do in the morning. (Something to keep in mind if you’re ever in court and able to pick the time of your appointment.) Another example is Mark Zuckerberg, who has been quoted as saying that’s why he wears jeans and a grey Tshirt every day. He doesn’t want to waste the mental capacity on deciding what to wear when he could use that capacity to further take over the world with Facebook.

That’s why I named the first part of this post decide. It’s important to know how to make a decision. And after you make it – commit to it. There are no time machines. So – when you make a decision, commit to it and only look forward. Thinking about what you “woulda coulda shoulda” done is a waste of your time, and regret is not a productive emotion.

I loved the Forward Tilt episode “Living with Integrity.” I excitedly slacked Isaac the morning it came out telling him it had so much in common with what I wanted to talk about at Praxis Weekend. My favorite (hypothetical) example is when he talks about his wife asking him to attend a social event that he doesn’t necessarily want to go to. He says the option that shows integrity isn’t so much about whether he decides to go or not but about his commitment to that decision. A lack of integrity would be agreeing to go to the party and then acting pouty and passive aggressive about being there, possibly ruining the outing for his wife. If you decide to go – go and be just as a pleasant human being as you would have if you stayed home.  You can’t keep one foot in your decision – it requires both feet.

I want to clarify this doesn’t mean you never change your mind or pivot away from an original decision or goal. You absolutely should do that in some cases. How you decide to do that involves thinking about how that new decision changes your next step. Another economic concept that’s important to understand is sunk cost. A sunk cost is one you’ve already paid – either with time or money or resources. My favorite example is all you can eat buffets.

If you go to a buffet and pay $25 at the door, you can’t get that money back no matter how much or how little you eat. Eating more to “get your money’s worth” is an illogical argument, and you should only base your decision to get another plate of food on if you think it will make you feel happier (do it!) or sick (don’t do it).

So yes, past information is helpful when making current decisions, but you base your decision on how it will affect your future – looking forward. When I was coming up with the outline for this post, I pictured it as describing life as a choose your own adventure book. At the end of each chapter, you have to pick which way to go, commit to that decision by turning to the correct page, and then step forward by starting your new chapter. Then repeat.

Continuing with that example, some chapters are longer than others. Praxis curriculum is built around 30-day PDPs (personal development projects), and you have the freedom to learn a different skill every month or spend 3, 6, etc months building on a single skill. Devoting a month to something is a great, low-risk way to test if you want to pursue it further. If you dedicate a month to learning guitar and find that music isn’t your thing, it’s not a big deal! You learned something about yourself and can adjust accordingly for your future goals and learning.

It’s up to you to determine which activities and goals to pursue further and which to give up through honest self-assessment. Grinding through something you don’t always like or doesn’t “feel” fulfilling is important if it moves you toward bigger goals, but grinding for the sake of grinding is not and is a waste of your time.

Now that we’ve discussed the proper framework for good decision making, here are my tips for “organizing your ambition.” I will use my favorite example from my own life – running.

  1. Pick a goal

Here I’m talking about your long-term goals, not something you want to accomplish in 30 days. This should be something difficult that you might spend years of your life inching toward. SMART goals are important, so make sure you strike a balance between challenging and realistic. For instance, my goal doesn’t have to do with running at the Olympic level because that is hilariously unrealistic.

But my goal is challenging. It’s to break 18 minutes for 5k. I’ve been working on getting faster technically since I was 12 but seriously toward this goal since I was 19 or 20. I’d like to accomplish it before I have kids, so I have roughly a 10-year deadline.

  1. Document your progress

This is so important in your professional career! If you have a portfolio of projects that demonstrate the value you can create, you immediately set yourself apart from a crowd. You won’t be in the stack of 1,000 other resumes, and you’ll have credibility with an interviewer. Think of the difference between saying, “I build websites and proficient in X coding languages” and saying that plus having examples of the websites and client testimonials.

Having documentation also allows you to see the progress you make toward your goal. I’ve kept an online running log since 2007, so I have over 10 years of data to look back on. The documentation is also helpful for when I need an expert’s advice, which leads to my next point.

  1. Get a coach

Remember decision fatigue from earlier? It will be much more taxing both mentally and physically if you’re having to teach yourself the basics AND research the best resources AND try to put it all into practice AND get feedback on how you’re doing.

I “coached” myself for about a year out of college. I use the word coached very loosely because I had no idea what I was doing. I mainly looked at my running log from college and would randomly pick workouts and do them. It was hard to know what paces to aim for, and I can remember the pressure of trying to decide what I was going to do the next morning before I went to bed.

I finally asked one of my teammates from college who was coaching if he would take me on, and he did. Not only did my decision fatigue decrease, but there’s also something really helpful about having someone else challenge you and believe in you. You get an extra bump from the external motivation because your coach isn’t going to purposely set you up to fail. If you have a hard workout assigned, you get the boost of confidence from knowing, “He thinks I can do this.”

Sometimes you need the kick in the butt form of external motivation as well. This story isn’t my own, it’s from a runner friend who posted it on Facebook. She went to see a PT who asked her if she had been doing her exercises and stretches and foam rolling. Her answer was some form of “not as much as I should.” His answer sticks with me today.

“Oh I’m sorry. I thought you wanted to be fast.”

It sounds really harsh, but it has motivated me countless times since I heard it. You see, running is the easy part of training. The hard parts of training are lifting weights, stretching, eating right, turning off Netflix to get 8+ hours of sleep, etc. If I’m ever lacking motivation, I sassily say to myself, “Oh, sorry, I thought you wanted to run under 18,” and that helps get me going.

Find a coach. Find someone (or a handful of people) who will be fitness trainers for your goals and career and who will give you the kick in the butt when you need it and who will celebrate with you when you meet your goal.

  1. Be unapologetic about your goals.

I love this tweet. I have no idea who this guy is, but this tweet stood out enough in my memory for me to scroll through 2 years of my twitter page to find it. I ended up Googling him and found out he’s a baseball player, so the athlete analogies continue.

If you’re a highly-motivated doer, you already know you’re weird. People don’t always understand why you’re so driven or how you get so much done. Sometimes this inability to understand comes out as their own insecurity, so they make fun of you. To that I say, SHAKE OFF THE HATERS. Recognize their negative attention for what it really is – their defensiveness and insecurity about pursuing mediocrity.

I’m definitely not saying to go around having an elitist attitude toward everyone. Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that you’re pursing your goal for YOU and because YOU’RE interested in it. It doesn’t matter what other people think.

  1. Don’t be a martyr.

Another way to be unapologetic about your goals is the more literal sense – don’t apologize. And definitely don’t be a martyr. I’ve been more careful about my language ever since someone pointed out to me that I say “I have to run” rather than “I’m going to run.” There’s a huge difference!

“Having” to do something implies an obligation that wasn’t made by you and is something out of your control. Using that language also allows you to play the martyr card. Instead of being unapologetic and unashamed of your goal, you treat it like a burden.

“Oh sorry – I can’t stay out. I have to get up at 6am to run.”

What you’re really saying is, “please give me sympathy for this choice that is 100% mine and I normally don’t complain about.”

Don’t be that person.

  1. Get a community

You have likely heard that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with and that your external environment shapes you. If you want to achieve a goal, especially a tough goal, you need to surround yourself with positive people who believe you can do it and, most importantly, who have goals of their own.

To use a phrase from the Bible, don’t be around those who are stumbling blocks to you, those who impede your progress or sabotage your work.

This is what is so great about the Praxis Community and why its members are “exhaustingly inspiring.” It is a group of 200+ people who are all talented and creating/doing/learning every day. No, they aren’t all supernatural geniuses who never succumb to resistance or doubt themselves, but they are definitely a biased sample size of humanity.

Find your tribe.

  1. There is no Secret

This, like opportunity cost, is something that people often say they believe but don’t live like they believe it. I love illustrating this through a quote from the book Once a Runner. The backstory is that there’s an Olympic gold medalist in the 5000 who lives in town. Various people join his training group, but only on rare occasion does anyone stick with it for longer than a few weeks. They’re drawn to him because they want to know The Secret, as if they can pick up on it just from being around him.

What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.

The secret is there is no secret. There’s no magic pill to make you smarter, more athletic, or better looking. There’s no secret subject line that will make your video go viral. It’s about hard work. It’s about grinding. It’s about your commitment being so strong that you can’t be deterred by distractions or haters. It’s about aligning your incentives, your habits, and your schedule around your work so that a weird day or a lack of motivation is just a blip on the radar rather than a tidal wave that throws you off balance. It’s about doing all of the behind the scenes work that you don’t get any glory for.

It’s about doing at least one small thing to work toward your goal every.damn.day.

You’ve probably seen this picture of success before. Pursuing your goals might be relatively straightforward, or it might be a twisty-turny choose your own adventure novel. The important part is that you trust the decisions you make enough to commit to them and keep stepping forward.

Customer Service is Important

We’ve all heard the adage, “Be kind. You never know what someone is going through.” The profession that likely deals with this the most is customer service. The best CS reps (God bless them) internalize the adage and treat each customer with patience and care to help them with their problem. I encountered one such woman today.

I had a prescription for pickup at the pharmacy and decided to go get it after lunch today. I was already meeting a friend for lunch near the CVS, so it worked out nicely. There was terrible traffic to get to the pharmacy. I eventually pulled into a parking lot and walked the rest of the way there. I’m not sure if I would have even made it to the next traffic light by the time I was walking in the door. There was a long line, as there tends to be at any typical errands-type stop during the lunch hour. When it was finally my turn, I gave the woman my information, and she got my bag ready to give to the pharmacist. It’s a face cream that has to be mixed at the time of pickup, so it’s your usual grab and go situation.

“Oh – are you aware of the price? It’s [muffled] 46 dollars.”

“I’m sorry, what?” I asked her, slightly panicking because I thought I heard her say it was $346.

“It’s $246. Let me see if it’s running through your insurance.” She clicked a few buttons and then came back. “Yeah – it is. That’s the price with your insurance. Do you still want it?”

I could feel my heart rate rising. I really wanted my face cream, but not for $246. I’m used to the $20 copay I had with my old insurance.

“Umm…I don’t know. I might come back for it,” I stumbled through telling her this before briskly walking toward the door.

As I was walking, I could feel my throat tightening and my eyes watering. I just wanted to get to my car and call Josh and ask why his insurance was so expensive for prescriptions. When I got into the parking lot, I realized that I needed to walk a couple of blocks back to my car, and another wave of “I might lose it” hit me.

Disclaimer: I cry easily. None of this was a big deal, and I knew it. Sometimes I just react with tears. It’s definitely not my favorite thing about myself, but if I can catch it and control it before I actually cry, it’s not so bad.

I settled on texting Josh since that allowed me to continue calming myself down. He told me what I already knew – that I needed to call the insurance company.

I settled into my car, found my insurance card, took a few deep breaths and dialed the number. After going through a few prompts, I got to talk to a real person, and she was great at her job.

It turns out the policy is set up to use a mail order pharmacy instead of a retail store. We pay full price at a retail store but typical copay amounts if we use the mail order. She looked up the prices of both of my prescriptions and offered to walk me through requesting them online if I was at a computer. I told her I was sitting in my car, so she did everything for me on the phone. She sent the request to my doctor to have the prescription filled via mail order. She updated my address since we recently moved. She set up my credit card to be on file for future orders, and she gave me the call in number for the doctor in case I wanted to follow up with him about where to call in the refills from now on.

In addition to all of that, she answered my questions thoroughly. Not just the short snippets of what I needed to know and not condescendingly by overexplaining like I was an idiot. She had a perfect balance of full information and a kind tone that had me completely calm by the end of our call. I thanked her and told her how helpful she was before hanging up.

She had no idea I was having a mini-freak out just moments prior to calling her, but I have no doubt she knows she helped me. She just doesn’t realize it was in more than one way. It’s true that everyone is going through something you likely don’t know about. Be kind and be helpful. You might just be the one who turns around a low moment for them.

3 Reasons Being a Camp Counselor is Better than an Internship

I spent my college summers as a counselor at Strong Rock Camp, and I automatically think highly of someone if they have experience working at a camp on their resume. For anyone who thinks working at summer camp is just making friendship bracelets and eating smores, you couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, have you ever tried to teach a six-year-old how to make a craft? It requires patience, care, and the ability to communicate clearly.

Here are some other reasons being a camp counselor is a strong addition to your resume.

You have an incredible amount of responsibility. When parents drop their children off at your cabin, they are entrusting you with the lives of their most precious things. If that’s not heavy enough, camp life is not full of pillows and bubble wrap. There are shooting classes like riflery and archery; there are athletic classes like soccer and tumbling; and there are camp-wide games like capture the flag (we called it Sock War) that include romping through the woods.

Of course there is a nurse onsite as well as camp directors and full time staff, and counselors go through training and lesson planning for the activity classes, but everything doesn’t always go according to plan (when does it ever when there are humans involved?). Counselors have to make decisions on the fly and improvise. I can remember being a lifeguard and having to entertain the campers with a game when they had to exit the lake due to thunder (Ships and Sailors for the win).

You learn how to work with others. At camp you work with your co-counselor in your cabin and with various other counselors during classes. Communication is key! If you and your co-counselor agree on cabin rules and then you decide to be the “cool one” who lets the campers run wild well past lights out, you’ve thrown them under the bus. If you both talked about it and agree, it’s fair game. 😉

Teaching classes with other counselors with varying personalities and skill sets is also a great learning experience. You learn how to tailor your teaching style depending on who you are teaching with, what you are teaching, and who is in your class.

You learn a lot about yourself. Working at camp is not easy. You’re on call 24/7. If a camper wets the bed at 3am, you’ll need to get up and help them change their sheets. You’re likely sleep deprived, and how you respond to being tired and teaching the same classes week over week matters. The staff stays the same for the whole summer, but the campers are new every week or two. It might be your 5th time building a model rocket, but it’s the first time for a camper. Do you have the same level of patience and enthusiasm in teaching? Do you care enough about the campers’ experience and the reputation of the camp as a business to push through your fatigue? How you perform when you’re low on energy says a great deal about your character, and learning to push through to deliver your best work is a learning experience that will stick with you.

If those reasons aren’t enough, keep in mind that you’ll learn other marketable traits like learning to work a cookie down from your forehead to your mouth using only your face muscles and soda chugging. And if you’re like me, you might just meet your other half as well. 🙂

Finally, I’m not dissing internships in general. Some internship programs provide valuable work experience, including the one I ran at my previous job. But if you compare a stereotypical internship – sitting in an air conditioned office every day filing papers, fetching coffee, and waiting for 5pm – to working at a camp, being a counselor will teach you far more.

Anticipation

In both of my jobs I’ve had the ability to interview hundreds of college students and young professionals. What makes the best of the best and those I end up hiring stand out can be summed up in one word – anticipation.

If you know the name of your interviewer – Google them. Find them on the company’s staff page, read their bio, find them on LinkedIn, etc. Knowing your interviewer gives you a mental edge and can help you remain calm. It also gives you great information to ask questions at the end of your interview (and yes – you should always ask questions).

It should go without saying, but know as much as you can about the company or organization you’re interviewing with. I used to interview intern candidates who didn’t know what city our office was in! You should also know the names of the major players in the company. Our founder was on Fox News last month which generated a ton of interest in Praxis. When I talk to applicants who don’t remember his name or don’t remember the name of a staff member they had an informational call with, I’m not impressed.

If you do all your research and get the job, don’t stop anticipating! During training for my summer interns, I liked to read them the following quote:

I would tell them to only come to me with a problem if they had already thought of (and hopefully found) a solution. My favorite story of an intern exemplifying this mindset came at the very first event of summer 2015. The event was only a couple of hours away, so we all drove ourselves with a plan to arrive by noon. My photographer called me a little before then.

He explained that his car wouldn’t start that morning, so he Ubered to a car rental company and picked up a car for the weekend. He was going to be a little late due to the time it took to get the new car.

He didn’t call me when his car wouldn’t start asking what to do. He only called after he had solved the problem.

Anticipate problems. Find solutions. Solve them.