One of our nephews is off to college now up in Tyler, Texas, where he’s hoping to do well in his chosen physical trainer program.

Before he took off, we spent a little time a couple of weeks back and I helped him with some of the mental “prepping” for school that most people don’t put enough emphasis on.

Having been a post-secondary college director, I totally grok the whole “readiness to engage” that is talked about endlessly. Bu,t what doesn’t get conveyed to today’s young people are some of the “blocking and tackling” concepts that WILL make a difference as life unfolds – whether you end up at the top of the food chain, or at the bottom.

If you know a young person going to college this year, here’s our  “shopping list” for college success.

Secrets to Education Success

Doing well in school does not require a lot of effort.  It does require that you learn to think differently.  I went from a “never opened a book” 2.7 GPA in high school, to a 3.85 undergad and a 4.0 in grad school by mastering some simple concepts.

Get the Body Ready to Learn

There is a whole science of “optimizing your life” that schools are not covering.  In my view, it should be a degree-length program.  People, companies, even governments need it.  If you’re going to succeed in school, you need to be at least somewhat physically optimized.  Which means?

  • You need adequate rest.  If you ever feel unprepared to totally ace a test, there’s only one person to blame:  the idiot in the mirror.  Hold them accountable.
  • Focus on Core Nutrition.  You need AT LEAST the R.D.A. vitamins.  But, you will find some vitamins will improve how you feel a lot.  For me?  Huperzine-A is almost like the pill in the TV show Limitless.  NZT, anyone?
  • Carbs and Brains Don’t Mix:  Experiment with yourself a bit, but in general, the Ure Family prescription for high-performance testing involves 8-hours of sound sleep, steak and eggs for breakfast and one solid cup of coffee – with no sugar.  Carbs – the toast, the eggs, the fruits…all that stuff raises the blood sugar to serotonin level.  You want to be mentally hungry and a cream cheese Danish or ANY sugar of high fructose corn syrup will screw up “lean and mean” thinking.
  • Exercise.  You need to push the body into delivering those wonder ‘morphins’ by getting on a treadmill or walking a mile or more per day.  That gliding feeling you get when walking after being on a treadmill for 20 minutes is magical at the body-chemistry level.
  • Limit Alcohol/Drugs:  Sure, you will be exposed to both.  A toke or two – when the studying is done, not before – may not impact, except in a dorm in a state school where de ganj is illegal.  Then, it can get you kicked out of school.  Danger with booze, too:  Two beers, two drinks, two glasses of one – any of the three.  Don’t mix grain and grape or drink anything with high sugar content.  That – and certain congeners in booze is like sending out for a hangover.

Train Your Brain to Learn

Here’s just a few highlights of what I laid in detail in my book “The Millennial’s Missing Manual: What School Didn’t Teach and What Old People Didn’t Explain…”

  • Everything is a Process:  Humans are creatures of “trial and error.”  When we do something – and it works – we codify it as a workable behavior and that’s the basis of all knowledge.  Want to be a doctor?  There’s a process others have walked to get there.  Want to be a lawyer?  There’s a process – and part of the process is a course of study to pass a bar exam.  Airline pilot?  Again, processes…lots and lots of processes.  Process to preflight and airplane.  Process to work the radios.  Process to “get coordinated at the controls” – Process for slow flight, process for landing gear, process for prop and engine leaning at altitude…gobs and gobs of processes…It seems overwhelming but it’s MANAGEABLE.
  • Checklists and Recipes:  If you get nothing else from this article:  There’s a checklist or “recipe” to everything in life!   Want to date a cheer-leader?  There’s a process.  Want to have teacher’s love anything you do?  There’s a process.  Want to be valedictorian?  There’s a process….  process, process, process – beat that into your head for life and you win.  Without it, you’re just another sheep.
  • Give Yourself Permission to be Great:  Most people going to college today have an uphill fighting going against them.  No one has mentioned that “Oh, yeah, everything is about recipes and checklists…”  So the education you pay top dollar for may be poorly organized.  It is not going to be put toether in simple:  “There are XX checklists – skills – to flying an airplane.  Here’s the list of things and how it fits…”  Instead, you’ll get an unholy mishmash of crap designed to fill up clock-hours and keep butts in chairs for 50-minute “clock-hours.”
  • Most Checklists and Recipes can be Learned in 5-minutes.  I don’t care if it’s celestial navigation or figuring the ballistics of a 1800 FPS 110 grain FMJ bullet with an xxx grain load of ABC brand powder at 100-yards… there’s a damn recipe and it doesn’t take an 50-minutes to do!  Hit Google, find calculators, get answers and move on.  Recipes, recipes!
  • But You Have to Play-the-Game:  Teachers need to be “worked.”  A short course on NLP (neu7ro-linguistic programming) can be useful.  But, more than anything, look the part of the good student – NOT the BAD one – and you will be working the “grade curve” to your advantage.
  • Look Like What You’re Training For:  If you want to work with the public?  Look like someone who is “ready to go to work right now.”  If you’re not sure how such people dress?  Go to the professional setting where you might be employed and look at people who have your job title today.  How are they dressed?  How dp they act?  How is their hair?  What’s their demeanor?  What are the “signs of the trade?”

I had this conversation with my son, who’s about to go back into the workforce after getting through his 700th jump as a commercial skydiver.  “Dad, I am so ‘patient-ready’ it’s ridiculous…”  Scrubs, stethoscope, latest iPhone…yep, looks like a medical geek of some kind – and now the low-end one.

The Big Secrets No One Tells

Clea up your social profiles.  Don’t have “casual friends” on LinkedIn – keep that pure work-related.  Scrub Facebook so everyone in your parent’s Church would read it all and not blush.

Why?  Teachers read the social on students and that forms an opinion bias that that don’t want to have to overcome.  Get pre-emptive.  Lead, don’t follow.  No doobie pictures, no dressed up in an inflatable alligator suit drunk…got the picture?

We have a saying in management that “We achieve our goals through the efforts of others.

I was a senior manager for decades.  I never asked anyone to do something I couldn’t do myself.  BUT – and this is key – I didn’t have the time to do it ALL.  So I had to depend on others to carry out plans and actions.


You need to start “collecting people” – right now – first year of college.

Set up Outlook or whatever *(I like the Microsoft PST files because they will likely be around and because they are a standard for Contacts, they will likely migrate to newer technologies as we move into the future.

PUT EVERYONE WORTHWHILE in your Outlook Contacts.

Back Up Everything

There are plenty of online backup systems.  Use one – religiously and daily.  Use a USB thumb-drive if you can, as well…double-redundancy.

There is never an excuse for “losing contacts” -and so, if you asked me, yes I can produce that email from 6-years ago or the contacts from 10-years ago.

You have a whole lifetime ahead.  Collect people.  Think of yourself as the curator in your own Zoo.  Because that’s what life will be like during your life – and the more worker-bees you can arrange when young, the more honey you’ll have when you get older.

Last, but not least, schedule every day.  Listen to motivational tape, run by a calendar, and set an early alarm clock.

Life is either going to happen ON YOU or you can bend things around so Life happens FOR YOU.

Which is why coming up on 70, the first half hour of every day is still figuring out what the key “deal points of the day” are.

I just wish I’d figured it all out 20-years earlier…but you?  You have no excuse now.

Write when you get rich, which can be sooner if you work at it…