I’m a pessimist, readers. There. I said it – and I mean it.
To be fair, I come by it honestly. My dad is the kind of person who will disavow his pessimistic traits (the ones he so generously passed to me) by saying he’s “a realist,” but we all know that realists are just dyed in the wool pessimists who want to put a lighter spin on things, don’t we? (That’s my take on it anyway.)
As for myself, I’m completely comfortable telling you that I am one hundred percent pessimistic – and it makes me very, very good at my job:
You see, readers, I live in full expectation that disaster could occur at any moment. I’m not talking natural disasters, mind you – I live in Michigan where we’re fortunate to avoid the really horrible catastrophes of fire, mudslides, hurricanes and the like – we get tornadoes and floods, of course, but being in the Midwest and buffered by the Great Lakes shields us from a lot of the really icky stuff. So when I say “disasters,” I’m talking life disasters – you know, horse disasters, SAT disasters, college admission disasters. To be even more blunt, I live at all times in the expectation of my students failing their high school classes, falling off their horses repeatedly, and not getting admitted to any of the schools on their carefully chosen (and not-too-reach-filled) lists. I make back up plans for back up plans and on top of those, I also consistently maintain what I affectionately refer to as a “punting plan” in the event that the back up plans prove useless.
(I’m not a big football fan, but as the daughter of a former gym teacher, I know enough about a punting plan to recognize that it’s the one you never want to go to, the desperate play you hope will resurrect a game that’s quickly going south. So while I recognize its utility, I also recognize its less desirable qualities as well.)
Okay, Randi – we’re waiting. How exactly does this negativity help you do your job well?
It’s very simple, readers: I worry about disaster so that my students don’t have to.
When we assemble clients’ school lists, there are always top choices (the “I. Must. Go. THERE!” schools they love with all their hearts), but there are also a plethora (by application standards) of excellent schools that my students are firmly in “like” with. (You know how it is – you love your horse and he or she is always your first pick to ride in a lesson, but if your trainer offers up his or her horse so you can jump bigger fences or work on a different skill, you think, “I like riding that one too.” He or she isn’t your go-to ride, but you know you’ll have fun and learn a lot.) What’s more, I make sure the “like” schools are those that accept at least (at least) 50 (preferably 60-70) percent of their applicants each year so the chances of the student being accepted are as high as we can possibly make them in the shifting, uncertain world of college admissions.
It’s not enough to just pick schools that students love and like for school lists, however. (Remember – I make back up plans for back up plans – there’s a method to the madness, people.) I also work with my students to plan for the (often inevitable) time in life when their interests shift completely on their axes; thus, when the student who once so enthusiastically planned to go pre-vet suddenly discovers a surprising interest in anthropology and decides to pursue study of the ancient nomadic horsemen of the Eurasian steppe, he or she is covered. No need to change schools, no loss of credit hours already logged, no need to get acquainted with a new riding coach and program; the back up plan covers these possibilities pre-emptively and makes allowances for their occurrence.
Is this a perfect system? No. I’ll be the first one to admit that it isn’t. (Remember, I’m a rampant pessimist.) Life as a general rule is uncertain and college admissions much more so, which means that there’s always room for the unexpected to occur. Case in point? It isn’t admissions-related, but when I purchased my weanling colt Kashmir, I planned for three weeks (!) to make sure that every eventuality was considered for his introduction to my home horse herd, which consists of my oft-written-of FEI gelding Rico and my retired Paint mare, Magic. Rico’s the herd boss and Magic (who’s been with me 24 of her 25 years) has always been at the bottom of the pecking order. Yet which horse loathed Kashmir at first sight? Not Rico, who apparently has always wanted a baby brother and thinks Kash is all kinds of wonderful, but Magic, who spent the first few days attempting to convince him that she’s an alpha female. (For the record, no one believed her – least of all the baby – but it was still the one circumstance that caught me completely by surprise.)
In the end, though, having multiple back up and punting plans in place assured that I was covered – and so was Kashmir! So I’ll stick with my pessimistic ways moving forward, readers, because they seem to serve me just fine in both my business and personal dealings.