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Ruckmann-by Kubota!With so many “weighty” headlines in the world, to borrow a Quaker term, I’ve needed a little more discipline than usual to keep myself centered.

A good friend once gave me this advice during times of too much or too little noise: complete one task, celebrate, complete another. Soon, the checklist will be calming. I love the simplicity and wisdom of her words!

Yesterday, when I was making those checkmarks and thinking about my young daughter and how she finds peace when she needs to, I remembered another technique that has helped me in life in surprising ways: getting a bit ahead of the game.

I wanted to graduate early from college because I couldn’t wait to work full-time! I also wanted to save money. I took a few extra classes each semester. When summer came around, I took a few courses while holding a job. In that way, when the official fall semester began, I felt like I was starting ahead. I graduated in three years.

A year into the working world, I realized I loved it but also wanted to go to graduate school — and live in Europe! I applied for many scholarships. Instead of letting the applications pile up, I tried to fill them out the day I received them. For one, I needed letters of recommendation from college professors. Whom should I ask? I took a day trip to my alma mater, visited a few professors, and asked if they could kindly write a few paragraphs. Fortunately, they said yes, so the money I spent on a round-trip train ticket was worth it even though for this particular scholarship I felt I had no chance!

But I also had a sense of relief when I finished the application a few weeks ahead of the deadline, fully expecting many more application deadlines in the next several months.

Guess what? I received a Fulbright scholarship. It changed my life forever. In direct and in indirect ways, it brought me to Hawaii many years later.

All because at the time, barely 20 years old, I wanted to feel I was ahead of the game.

I still like to have that sense, to achieve it costs very little, and years later the benefits can still be palpable! It’s wisdom most of you, Dear Readers, have probably realized long ago but I wanted to share.

Until my next post this coming weekend. Maybe I’ll write it ahead of time!