Written by Jim Thompson
The month before I started Stanford Graduate School of Business I took a pre-enrollment math class. My assigned 2nd year mentor told me that it was worthless and he hadn’t used a single thing from it during his first year. But I had already enrolled and couldn’t quite believe him that it had no practical value, so I stayed in.
My mentor was correct and incorrect. I didn’t use a single thing I learned in the math class during my two years at Stanford = correct. But it was extremely valuable = thus incorrect.
The big lesson I took away was how much work there was to do for the pre-enrollment class. I rarely had trouble keeping up with the workload in any class I had taken in high school or college, but this was something different, much bigger than anything I had experienced. If this was what the workload at biz school was like then it was good to know that ahead of time to get emotionally ready.
And then business school classes started. What had seemed like a huge workload from the pre-enrollment class now seemed like an absolute vacation! I found myself behind after the first 2 days of regular class!
I barely made it through my first quarter — I got one P- grade (roughly equivalent to a D in a regular grading system), which would normally have meant I needed to retake the class, but I managed to get one P+ (similar to a B) to offset it. Had I not taken the pre-enrollment class, I truly think I might not have made it through business school.
What is the point, you may be asking. Here’s my takeaway after talking with people about how much cabin fever they are having or how frustrated they are dealing with wrong zoom links or the discomfort of wearing masks that cloud up one’s glasses and, in my case, disrupt my hearing aids.
The pre-enrollment “get-ready period” helped me prepare emotionally for the much more difficult regular classes. If we look at the coronavirus as a get-ready period for the much more horrific climate crisis that is looming right behind (and at least partially responsible for) Covid-19, we can maybe gain an advantage from it.
The sacrifices we are going to have to make, the inconveniences we will experience, and the true hardship we will face as the climate crisis comes to threaten everything we care about, may make us look back almost fondly on this time of shelter-in-place. (Please don’t misunderstand me. For millions of people, the coronavirus is not an inconvenience — it is life or death, often death, and I do not ever want to make light of that.)
Climate change is a threat multiplier that makes virtually every problem worse:
- Wild fires? More, more destructive, more areas susceptible to them, more deaths.
- Floods? More, more water rendering more farmland non-arable, more impact on food supply, more deaths.
- Diseases? More, more people breathing bad air more susceptible to “normal” illnesses, more potential additional viruses coming from reduced habitat and closer contact with animals to which we have no resistance or antidotes, more deaths.
- Shortages? More, more crucial things in short supply, more deaths.
I want to use this as a get-ready time to prepare myself to better deal with the huge problems coming our way. Here are some of the things I vow to use this time to work on.
- Be a Shrugger: Shrug off minor aggravations. Once when I dribbled some chip dip on my silk tie and got furious, a friend told me, “Don’t sweat the little things. That’s a little thing.” I’m going to try to see all the little things for how small they truly are.
- Be a Noticer: Notice the helpful, positive things that people are doing to make things better and comment on them. I want to be constantly thinking about how I can elevate a situation and try to do that.
- Be a FUD user. Embrace my FUDs (fear, uncertainty, doubt) and convert the plentiful negative energy surrounding them to work positively to fight climate change.
- Be as kind to others as I can be for as long as I can.