Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Guest Column: How Do You Solve a Problem Like “Whatever?” (Chad Houston)

How Do You Solve a Problem Like “Whatever?”

I am a new ASPer; I joined Valparaiso Law School just a few months ago. I was nervous about getting started in a new field.  My nerves were not related to lower bass passage numbers; I have faith  those numbers will improve in time. I was nervous because I knew I was going to have to wage war with a self-defeating mindset that is too common among current law students.

That particular mindset is summed up in one word: “whatever.” Oftentimes that word is used in the phrase, “whatever happens, happens.”  It is a simple phrase with a loaded message. Yes, I agree, whatever happens does indeed happen; very few would people challenge that assertion for its truth. However, “whatever happens, happens” is a terrible mindset during law school, and especially during your bar exam preparation period.

It is clear that many students are entering law school and bar prep already prepared for the possibility of failing.  The “whatever” that happens just might be failure, especially if a student is underprepared and lacking basic study skills. As an ASP professional, I push for students to disallow that possibility. I explain to students that I locked myself in my parent’s garage during bar prep and studied to a point that probably would have even made the formidable Paula Franzese unhappy.

I am not saying that we should preach to students, but we should encourage a different mindset. We can’t allow students to think, “whatever happens, happens,” anymore. We have to motivate our students to adopt a mindset to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

As an ASP professional, I meet with students every day who have joined the “whatever happens” mindset, students who are preparing for the negative, whether it is exam failure or bar failure. I am pushing them to embrace the “whatever it takes” mindset. It is easy to just do “whatever.” It requires bravery and discipline to do whatever it takes (to succeed!)

The motivational solution is not to accept “whatever happens, happens,” but to force your desired outcome by doing absolutely whatever it takes to make it happen. Unfortunately, it is not easy to make this concept stick or to present it in a way that is truly memorable.

However, I always like to remind students of the three distinct types of people taking exams. First, is the person who gives it a try, and when they fail, they can say, “Hey, at least I tried.” Second, is the person who gives it their best shot, and when they fail, they can say, “Hey, at least I gave it my best shot.”

Chad Houston, Valparaiso Law ASP

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