Bill Gates said, “Headlines, in a way, are what mislead you because bad news is a headline, and gradual improvement is not.” Whether a headline is good or bad news, Gates is right. You won’t buy a newspaper or click the link to a story about a company’s marginally noticeable process improvement, or about an athlete’s long and arduous journey in daily detail from underdog to middle of the pack.

Here are five headlines won’t generate clicks, or sell books or newspapers.

  1. How To Succeed In One Million(or More) Difficult Steps
  2. Work Up To Average, and Keep On Going: A Slowcooker’s Guide to Progress
  3. Exercise More, Eat Less & Stop Expecting a Miracle to Happen: The Realist’s Guide to Slow Weight Management Over the Long Haul
  4. Reduce Debt Over the Long Haul By Living Within Your Means and Not Buying Stuff You Can’t Afford
  5. The Zero-Guarantees Parenting Method: Even if you Parent Right, Things Can Still Go Horribly Wrong

Perseverance isn’t sexy, but it’s the only thing I’ve found that actually works (most of the time).

There is no magic pill.

work in progress signHigh school students come to OnCampus College Planning to raise their ACT scores, find the right college or write a great essay for a college application. We coach them, teach critical strategies, share information, equip them with an action plan and send them out with new skills and whatever motivation we can offer. I wish we had a magic pill that would eliminate the hard work, perseverance and commitment it will take on their part to put those insights to work.

Ultimately, though, they have to really work at it on their own, or it’s just going through the motions. There is no magic pill.

Getting better is better than just getting done.

person going up steps wearing red shoesAround here, we often say, “Getting better is better than just getting done.”

I perform my best when I’m invested in the process (and not just the product) of continual improvement. I must embrace the reality that achieving my goals is about discipline over time, not about finding the right shortcut.

I’ve done too many things in life where I’m doing it just to check off the box, but I haven’t really pushed myself to get better. When I’m tired and tempted to get into check-box mode, I try to dig down and think “What can I do right now to get me one inch closer to where I want to be?” I try to share this philosophy with our students. My hope is that the lessons we share during the college planning process are lessons students can apply in other areas of their life.

When it comes to college planning, I want students to give every little step of the process their all — not for me — for THEM. The work is not for my benefit. It’s for their benefit. Participation in sports, music, theater, clubs, academics, friendships, part-time jobs…all of these things present opportunities to build a part of you that adds up to something bigger.

Each student is on a journey.

child standing at the bottom of stepsWe as the adults who love them tend to get focused on all the individual assignments, events, games and tasks. We lose sight of how everything should and could be part of a journey…from the person they are now to the person they want to be.

I could have easily skipped the long walk I penciled in for early this morning. That one walk didn’t really change anything, but it felt good. I know if I keep at it, it will begin to add up as I do more and more. I’m not focused on crossing the finish line. I’m just focused on getting better.

Parents, too, have to focus on getting better — not just getting done.

As parents, it requires discipline to stick to this. Especially when it comes to tough lessons in life, like perseverance, patience, long-suffering or managing expectations. Especially when our child’s in pain. MOSTLY when things aren’t going according to “PLAN” — ours or theirs — and we want to “fix it”. But sometimes if we rush in to fix it or join our kids in the goal to simply “be done”, we miss the lessons of the process. As a dad, I can relate to the desire to rush my sons through tough spots, because being done with the tough stuff is way less painful and more comfortable (for them and for me) than slogging through it and accepting our current reality. Sometimes when I find the strongest urges to “just be done” is precisely the moment that if I pause and resist that urge, I’ll gain the most from working on “just getting better”. Life’s funny that way. It sucks sometimes, too. But hindsight’s taught me this is true both for me and for my kids.

please stay on the path signI’m trying to be kinder and gentler with myself as I work on getting better at things that are important to me in life. I’m trying to do the same with our two sons.

I take great joy in watching a student say, as one junior did recently, “Hey this is still hard, but it’s not as hard as it was yesterday. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better.” To me, that IS a headline.

Barack Obama once said, “If you’re walking down the right path, and you’re willing to keep on walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” Wise words from someone who knows.

If you’d like to talk about how OnCampus College Planning could help you make progress on the college planning path, schedule a free consultation online today.

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