Three solutions to every dilemma

Students have the power to make huge impacts on their campuses, especially if they take their student leadership challenges seriously.

“There is no need to wait for ‘someday’ when it comes to leadership,” Pete said. “They are living leadership right now.”

Pete authored the book The Student Leader’s Field Guide while a student at the University of Illinois. In it, Pete provided principles and tactics to enhance organizational performance and crack student leaders’ most frustrating challenges.

Advice from Pete

People often ask me for random life advice, expecting this speaker/author to say something fresh and insightful—uniquely tailored to their distinctive situation. Ooops! Unfortunately for them, most of the advice I’ve given since high school can be summarized in three words: Think, Ask, Tell.

Yes, that’s oversimplification (please continue hiring me to deliver fresh content!)…but if you strip away all the noise and unique situational factors, much advice boils down to these three tidbits.

When the pathway forward is genuinely unclear, it’s usually because you (or organizations) don’t truly know what you really want. It’s ideal to take some initial time clarifying the big picture, with questions like:

  • What’s the overall objective? (Think globally! Example: Maximize profits. Be happy. Marry the optimal spouse. Become a saint. Retire. Win.)
  • Of potentially conflicting objectives, what’s most important? What really takes priority?
  • What’s the best possible resolution to advance the overall objective?
  • (If stuck): What missing information is needed…and how will you get it?
  • What will it really take for that resolution to happen?
  • Given all this, what do you need to know or do?
  • What’s the very next physical action required to make progress on that?

Going through the process of clarifying what’s important and what isn’t reinforces core values that will expedite future dilemma resolutions as well. Now all that remains is asking and/or telling.

Once there’s internal clarity on what you really want…it’s often just a matter of summoning the humility to ask. Ask for wisdom, expertise, help, human resources, financial resources—whatever you need. Ask Google, the librarian, all your Facebook friends, your boss, your doctor, your mentor, your lover, your rich uncle, your technologically-gifted friends, even total strangers (it works). Whoever’s got what you need—or might know the guy who’s got what you need—ask them. People like to be asked! Ideally, you’ll do it with a little style…but just be sure to do it.

With internal clarity and external resources in hand, all that remains is communicating your conclusion. If people get stuck at this stage, it’s usually just a matter of being courageous enough to power through potential conflict. Whether you’re making an impassioned stand against your boss or just telling a friend no, it can be tough to speak up. The conversations many call “awkward” can also be called scary. So just say it! Silence is usually worse, speaking hurts less than you imagine, and peeps will respect your candor.

So, imaginary advice-seeker, that’s my generic wisdom to you all. The rest is technique.

Pete is making a chapter from his book The Student Leader’s Field Guide available for students and customers to download and to garner additional tips for successful student leadership. Chapter 3 of his book, entitled “Commitment”, details how students can honor their contributions to organizations through more effective time and energy management.