Bouncing Back After a Loss

In college football, one loss keeps a team out of the National Championship. When an undefeated team loses their first game of the season, they tend to fall apart. My team lost a game this season, and followed it with 2 more losses. I’m hoping they dont extend that to a fourth straight loss this week!

When teams realize it’s too late to be perfect, they often throw in the towel.

Students tend to do the same thing. One bad score, and it becomes difficult to find motivation to keep going. Students revert to syllabus math and trying to get points instead of just playing their best game to learn the content.

Or worse, the give up completely and check out.

Two reasons people tend to give up after their first loss:

  1. The death of a goal.
  2. The validation of their insecurities.

The Death of a Goal:

When you realize that you actually can’t hit what you were aiming at, you suffer an emotional loss and enter mourning. If you get a terrible grade on the wrong assignment, it may be numerically impossible to earn an ‘A’ in the course. Ditto if you think you have no chance of earning a passing grade.

That loss hurts. You had your heart and motivation set on an accomplishment, now it is out of reach. You don’t get another chance. It’s just not going to happen for you. Your life won’t be as good as someone who made it. People slip into this mindset and mourn the loss of a life they wanted.

The Validation of Your Insecurities.

After a loss, all of the players’ insecurities seem to have been proven. A quarterback who thinks he has no “pocket presence” never gets set. A receiver who thinks he can’t catch when matched against a taller defender avoids certain routes. One interception becomes many. One dropped pass becomes many. They underperform for several games, as they begin to believe their internal critics.

Students love to say things like “I’m bad at math.” No you’re not. You just did badly on a test. “I don’t understand symbolism in literature.” Yes you do, you just didn’t have the context for this one.

Both reasons are garbage.

You lost a game. That’s all. Maybe they were better than you. Maybe you didn’t prepare properly. Maybe your personal life got in the way.

We want to believe that we can’t do things.

It gives us permission to not do them without guilt. Ability comes with obligation: if you’re capable you should do things. Inability comes with freedom: if you’re incapable you’re excused.

You’re not a bad student. You just had a setback in the arbitrary game of keeping score. Shake it off and go learn something.

Work hard regardless of the scoreboard.

The Perfect Season

How many professional football teams have achieved a perfect season (no losses)? One. The 1972 Miami Dolphins. And even that had an asterisk: they lost 3 preseason games.

Dozens of college teams have achieved perfect seasons. Dozens. I’m sure there are lots of sport-specific reasons for this (basic statistics notwithstanding, there are many more college teams than pro), but it illustrates a point:

The best team isn’t just better than everyone else. They’re perfect. At the college level, be perfect to be champ. Be perfect to get drafted. If you’re not perfect, you’re out. We’ll find someone who is.

We’ve gotten so worried about being perfect!

There are lots of reasons students don’t earn perfect scores in classes. Unfortunately, companies looking to make a hire now have such a large pool of applicants that, much like the difference between pro and college football, they can pick people with “perfect” scores.

And many are narrow-minded enough to do it.

That’s a shame, because an imperfect GPA could indicate a lot more than “slacker.”

I know students with spouses, kids, and full-time jobs who are in the 2.5-3.0 GPA range. These are the hustlers I would want on my team.

How does a student beat this?

Ask Joe Anderson, the un-drafted wide receiver who stood outside of a pro stadium with a cardboard sign which read “Will run routes 4 food.” Was he actually starving? Not for food. He did something off-beat that helped recruiters see his entire story. And he got signed to play pro football.

But he backed it up with more hustle, more hard work, and more determination than everyone around him.

You’re more than a number. Recruiters need to see you as a person, not a number. It’s up to you to help people see it. Tell your story!

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you focus on improving your marketable skills. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Is this going to be on the exam?

When a student asks me, “is this going to be on the test?” I feel a twinge of sadness. Sadness that we’ve put students in a place where they have to be so worried about grades. Sadness that students who ask this question are missing the point entirely. And so I join my fellow faculty and repeat the mantra: “focus on learning the material, not just studying to pass a test.”

Experimental Design

There’s a concept called “Experimental Design” that applies here. No, it’s not just for people who study the physical sciences. In fact, the best example can be seen by watching political elections. On the last presidential election night, the polls began reporting district results after counting as little as 5% of the votes!

No, they weren’t playing wishful thinking games. They weren’t tossing out votes to rig the election. They were employing Experimental Design: when you truly understand a system, you can determine its response to a new stimulus using surprisingly few measurements.

What does a college exam do?

First, the point of every class you take: to teach you a new mindset, and new big-picture that changes the way you approach the world. The goal isn’t to fill your head with trivia, or to teach you to apply these new concepts to a few specific systems or arenas.

A well-written exam is like a policitcal poll: measure 5% to determine the overall outcome. By asking the right questions, the exam can measure the degree to which you’ve mastered the big picture mindset that this course offers.

Ok, but is this this going to be on the test?

Yes. It will be on a test that matters someday. Maybe not the written exam that earns you a grade, but maybe next semester when this concept is the foundation of another question. Maybe 10 years from now when you’re in a meeting with a client who needs a response on their idea immediately.

Your job in college isn’t to get good grades on exams. It’s to learn new mindsets that enable you to add value to the world.

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you focus on improving your marketable skills. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Nobody Cares About Your Grades (but you still need to earn good ones)

What did it take to get into college? A high GPA, and high SAT score, and a few extra-curriculars thrown in for good measure. That’s the screening process. Yet, only 40-70% of students (depending on socioeconomic factors) graduate college. If the goal is to admit only the students who will succeed, then the screening process isn’t very effective.
Consider this: Colleges use the GPA/SAT to filter out which customers they will allow to come GIVE them money. That’s right. College admissions is the process by which the education business screens customers. Why not let everyone in? Because colleges can’t produce a quality product for an unlimited number of customers.
Other businesses screen customers by pricing: they set the price of the product to match the number they can produce to the number of people willing to pay. It takes more effort to produce a Ferrari, so they can’t make as many cars each year as Ford can. So how do we decide who gets to drive a Ferrari? By pricing it in a way that only the people who REALLY want one will buy.
I digress.

The GPA is used to filter College Customers.

The investment in you by the college is minimal, and so that’s all they need. If you leave school, you don’t cost the college much (any?) money. GPA and SAT, that’s the screening process for you to be allowed to spend your money at their business.
Now think about the fact that your future employer is going to invest in you!
At a minimum, you’re going to cost your employers DOUBLE what they pay you the first year. There are taxes, benefits, recruiting, and training costs. If you turn out to be a bad fit, they will lose money on you. Lots of it.
Don’t you think the screening process should be a bit more in-depth? Well, it is. That’s why there’s several rounds of interviews. That’s why they call you on the phone to talk. Then they bring you in person to their facility for a day or two. They’re trying to get to know the real you.

The point:

To get into college, you used a GPA.

It didn’t really matter if you were good at anything, they just assumed you were if you had a high GPA. But the stakes were low. No investment on the part of the school.

To get into a job, you have to actually be good at something.

You can’t hide behind that GPA this time. You can game the system through 4+ years of college and leave with a shiny GPA. But that doesn’t mean anyone will let you past their “admissions process” to land a job.
Instead of gaming the system to get good grades, invest in your future by learning to add incredible value.
The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you focus on improving your marketable skills. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

The Two Meanings of “I’ll Do Better Next Time”

“I am an Intentional Learner. I know that I will perform as I practice, and so I practice well. I am not waiting for certification. My results are my certification.”

“I’ll do better next time.”

I have an image in my head of what it looks like to do an amazing job. If I did my homework with excellence it would look a certain way. If I studied for an exam with excellence I’d be able to do certain things with the material. If I completed this class project with excellence I’d be proud of the result.

But we don’t always work with excellence. Sometimes we’re tired. Sometimes we’re lazy. Sometimes life gets in the way. And so we chase the outcome (good grade) without focusing on the process (learning something new, mastering a skill).

It turns out that you won’t do any better next time.

You can’t just visualize doing amazing things, you have to practice doing them. I can visualize dodging Floyd Mayweather’s right hook and countering with an uppercut for the knock-out… but we know what would actually happen.

If you practice mediocre, you will perform mediocre.

Meaning 1 (for wimps): “I’ll do better next time because this time I didn’t give my best effort and I knew it.”

“I’ll do better next time.”

I did everything I could to execute this job according to the image of excellence in my head. I saw this assignment as an opportunity to practice the skills related to a course, as well as to practice the art of learning. I saw this exam as an opportunity to test my skill at using the material in a new situation. I saw this project as an opportunity to create something amazing that I would tell stories about during job interviews.

But it didn’t come out as amazing as I was picturing. I know what I hoped it would be. But after giving it my best I have discovered that I need to improve my technique. I see the difference between what I made and what I hoped to make, and I can make a plan to close that gap.

Meaning 2 (for winners): “I’ll do better next time because this time my best wasn’t good enough. I will improve my best.”

Your degree doesn’t certify you.

Your results do. And results don’t happen overnight. You don’t go to bed mediocre one day and wake up excellent the next. Go practice! Go get results!

If you practice with excellence, you will perform with excellence.

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you focus on improving your practice. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Opening Doors

“I am an Intentional Learner. I may not know my dream yet, but I know where my current path leads. I am not burying my head in the sand, hoping that if I follow the herd good things will happen. I embrace the future I see for myself, but I hold it loosely. I am in the business of opening doors.”

The pressure to find and pursue a dream has gotten out of hand. Everyone loves to remind students about their “amazing opportunities.” We love to tell students “they can be anything,” and that “they shouldn’t squander their chances.”

Great points, and true. But it’s pretty hard to identify a dream worth going all-in on. Right now, can you name a thing you hope to do for the rest of your career? I can’t, and I am (statistically) a quarter of the way through mine.

The wrong response:

Throwing up your hands at the pressure to decide and just picking something based on what “they” say. “They” say that it’s hard to make a living as a math major. “They” say that engineering pays great and that an MBA will make you a success. “They” say that studying film is risky.

We live in unconventional times.

So stop following conventional wisdom. It’s pretty easy to pick a major actually. Open up a search engine and find out what people who have these degrees are up to 5 and 10 years after graduation. Can you see yourself doing that?

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. You’re not deciding the rest of your life. Just the next part of it.

I always had a plan.

It never worked out. Every time, something much better came along. What I realize, looking back, is that my plans were what led to my success. Working towards something inevitably opened the doors I ultimately walked through.

So. Open lots of doors.

Try things. Make a plan, and work hard towards it. When you make a decision, do some research about where it COULD take you, but realize that “could” and “will” aren’t the same. Most importantly, be open to changing your plan in a heartbeat.

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you take action and open as many doors as possible. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Punching the Clock

“I am an Intentional Learner. I affirm that my ability to breathe does not entitle me to an income. My ability to create something that changes a person’s life leads to payment proportional to the impact. I am not paid by the hour, I am paid by the outcome.”

One of the greatest inventions of all time is the assembly line. Prior to its invention, products were made by skilled craftsmen and artisans. Every product was custom. Every product was (relatively) expensive.

The industrial revolution brought about a new paradigm that trained people in one process, one step in producing a product. A person can do a repetitive task quickly, with much lower error rates. The result is that things became less expensive to produce. While people remain skilled, few know the entire process. The goal is replaceable parts in a system: no product relies on a single person showing up today.

You’ve worked in a factory

Ever have a job that involved clocking in and doing the same few tasks over and over? Ever have a job that, after a few weeks of training, you knew what to do in most situations? Maybe you worked as a bag boy in s grocery store, or a cashier in a book store, or changing oil at a service station, or in the kitchen of the dining hall, or in an actual factory (all jobs I’ve had). All jobs that, once you learn the basics, required no further instructions and no real decision making on your part.

Did they go out of business when you left?

Of course not. You were a cog. An easily trained and easily replaced part of a big machine that was rigorously designed to eliminate waste and produce a product as efficiently as possible.

The problem is the lesson you learned.

In a job like that, you learn to do as your told. Follow the standard work procedure. Stay in your lane. Clock in, check the list, clock out.

Our world is changing.

We’re finding ourselves in need of artisans again. There is room now for you to work without instructions, to create something that impacts.

But you can’t do it with the “clock-puncher” mindset. And so the cry of the Intentional Learner: “My goal is to learn to add value, to create impact, and to expect payment in response. I don’t get paid for showing up, I get paid for delivering.”

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you rethink your approach to work. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

The Market Will Judge You

“I am an Intentional Learner. I learn to add incredible value, not to make grades. I add value by meeting people’s needs. My grades are a reflection of my performance, not the reason for it.”

The problem with judging someone based on measurements is that no measurement completely describes someone. What does your high school GPA say about your ability to run a business? Is your SAT score indicative of the lives you’ll change as an art teacher?

We all have limited time (read my post from last Friday for details). Recruiters have limited time to screen applicants and select those who will be interviewed.

The problem isn’t new, but it’s getting worse

The internet gives recruiters the ability to pull a much larger list of applicants. That’s a good thing because when the best person is hired for any job, the entire world inproves. That’s how economics work.

The reason that the recruiting problem is getting worse is that when a job is posted online the pool of applicants grows. If a recruiter reviews 10,000 applications, she isn’t getting very deep into each resume. And so they filter first by numbers: GPA.

From a student’s perspective, the GPA becomes the most important thing.

It’s a source of pride, or guilt. Motivation or resignation. It’s placed on a pedestal as the goal: great grades equal a future of unlimited opportunity.

Partially true: the grades get you past the first round of the selection process.

But it doesn’t end there.

Once you’re hired, you need to actually DO SOMETHING. The reason they hired you isn’t because you got good grades in school. They don’t care about your grades. They hired you to do a job.

Can You?

Do your grades reflect your ability to make a difference? Or are you so focused on gaming the system into giving you the points you want that the course material is secondary?

ANYONE can refer to a solution manual and get 100% on their physics homework. ANYONE can build a formula sheet and plug the numbers into it on a test. That’s one way to get good grades. But it doesn’t mean you know anything about the material.

The mindset of an Intentional Learner is to focus on learning to add value by mastering the course content. Let your grades be a reflection of your capability, rather than your ultimate goal.

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you rethink your approach to learning. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

36,500 Days and $2 million

“I am an Intentional Learner. I own my time and my money. I realize that both are finite and I decide how I spend them. I do not allow either to limit my future.”

Time and money feel infinite. When we misuse them, it’s easy to say things like “there’s always tomorrow to get that done,” or “there’s always next week’s paycheck.” Time and money feel like rivers we can dip into when we need more. Which is only partly true.

“You’re going to die.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Money is finite. Spend it wisely.

Let’s work an example. Pretend you earn the national average income over your career. That’s $50,000 per year. The average working lifetime is about 40 years which means your job will produce a total of $2 million. You get to spend $2 million over your life and then you’re out.

Except for interest.

You can turn that $2 million into more if you invest it. Great. Maybe you’ll even reach a point where the interest from your investments replaces the $50,000 (you’d need about $800,000 invested at 6%). Sweet place to be, your money now works harder than you do!

But $800,000 is a sizable portion of your total lifetime income. So is sending your kid to college and paying off your student loans and buying a house. Are you SURE you want to pay interest on that $40,000 sports car loan?

It’s not about the numbers. You could always increase your income, but you’d find ways to scale the outflow as well.

Time is even more finite.

There is no investment that earns interest to buy you more time. If you live to be 100 years old, you’ll have 36,500 days. 5,200 weekends. 100 Thanksgiving Holidays.

What are you doing today? 36,499. How about tomorrow? 36,498.

Is every day going to be the best day of your life? Hardly. But if most days aren’t good, what are you waiting for? Change!

  • If you’re in school, enjoy the fact that these are the only 1,460 days where it’s OK to not know everything. Find something to be curious about and study it because you want to, not because you’re required to earn a grade.
  • If you’re working, spend those precious days doing what matters to you. Take care of providing for your family. Invest, but also play.

I can’t tell you what matters. That’s for you to decide. But don’t spend your precious time and money reacting to everyone else’s agenda. Spend them on things that matter.

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re asking questions that will guide you to finding what matters and achieving it. We’re sharing tactics that will buy you more freedom to spend your time and money the way that you feel is most important. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Participation Trophy

“I am an Intentional Learner. I believe that my life is my fault. I may have started from a different point than everyone else. My path may be easier or harder than everyone else’s. But I will not let my past dictate my future. I have the power to act and succeed, or to do nothing and fail.”

We’re obsessed with “fair.” And we should be. Any system that disproportionately favors one group over another is doomed to strife.


“Fair” doesn’t mean “same.” We wish it did, because “same” is easy. Everyone gets the same trophy, regardless of whether they win or not. That’s “same.” But is it fair? What if one team sits at home eating potato chips and playing video games while the other is eating veggies and putting in hours of exercise and practice? Do they deserve the same reward?

“Fair” is insisting that both teams follow the same rules, and then giving the winners the trophy. “Same” isn’t “fair.”

That’s just a game.

In real life, we try to give everyone the same opportunity. We feel a sense of injustice when the current rules, or the results of past rules now defunct, make it harder for some to succeed than others.

I’m very thankful for the statesmen who are trying to figure this out.

But it won’t do much for you.

Your life is happening. Right now. You can look at the deck that’s stacked against you and complain that your starting point is different than everyone else’s. You can mistake “same” for “fair.” And you’ll end up fighting that battle your entire life. You can sit on your hands, doing nothing and fighting for “fairness.”


You can take charge. You can realize that in some room on Earth, YOU are the privileged one with the advantage. You can decide that even if it’s harder for you, you’re going to reach out and grab your dream.

And when you reach it, and you stand among others who made it, you’ll know the score. You’ll have the power to make the path easier for those who follow in your footsteps.

The Intentional Academy is here to help you overcome the odds. We’re posting content daily to guide your growth. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!