ForCollegeForLife Ep. 23: Fast 15 with Jessica Gendron Williams – Overachievers


Casey J. Cornelius (00:06):

Hey everyone. And welcome to the latest edition of the ForCollegeForLife podcast. My name is Casey Cornelius. I’m the founder and president of ForCollegeForLife. And I get the distinct pleasure and opportunity to interview our speakers and consultants. The people who make us who we are, this is part of our new fast 15 series. We’re talking about a big idea in 15 minutes or less. I’m not gonna give today’s guest the full biotreatment. The link to her full interview podcast is going to be in the show notes wherever you found this podcast. But I will tell you that this person is really experienced on the topic that we’re going to be talking about today. So without any further ado, Jessica Gendron, let’s imagine for a second, the students who are listening to this podcast are the super achievers. The overachievers, the people who have 86 things on their email signature, every position that they hold, they are the ultra leader. We love them. They’re also seeking the all elusive concept of balance. What would you say to ’em?

Jessica Gendron Williams (01:14):

I would say balance and, and, and overachieving. Don’t always coexist, like I think there’s this misnomer that you can have it all and make it look effortless. And that’s a epic lie. It’s like Instagram, influ influencers making you pretend their life is perfect when it’s really just not. So, you know when you’re in college and you wanna be a leader and you wanna be involved and you wanna do so much stuff, I feel like there’s this tendency to just say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. And all of a sudden, all these things start to pile on top of you and you feel really overwhelmed, really stressed. You feel like you have no time for fun. You have no time to hang out with a significant other or even date for that matter. You have no time to do, to devote to your schoolwork or an internship or all these other things that you wanna do.

            And they just pile up and pile up and pile up. And all of a sudden, you, you look around and you think this isn’t what I wanted for my college experience or this isn’t fun anymore. Mm. And I think that that is the crux of what a lot of overachievers get into. You know, we really wanna do everything and prove that we can do it all. And the truth of the matter is that you can’t do everything all at once really well. And, and I think if you really wanna achieve balance in college, you’ve gotta edit. And that’s, I think the big picture of, of how we find balance as, as overachievers is to take a look at everything that we have on our plates right now, and start to edit the stuff that maybe isn’t as important to us. And to really focus on the things that we really love, that give us joy that are gonna create the college experience that we look back on and cherish for years to come.

            And some of that other stuff, it can be a someday kind of dream is what I call it. Mm. Or maybe it’s just not stuff that’s important. What I find is when I get really stressed out, I know you have a question, but I’m not gonna let you ask again. That’s okay. Go ahead. What I find is when I get really stressed out, I get really stressed out and overwhelmed when I’m saying yes to things that aren’t a priority to me, I’ve said yes to other people’s priorities. I’ve allowed other people to hijack my time, which is my most valuable resource. Our time is the most valuable resource that we possess and we should treat it like it is the most valuable resource we possess. And when I feel overwhelmed and stressed out and frustrated and angry and edgy it’s because I’ve made other people’s priorities my own. And I don’t actually care about them that much.

Casey J. Cornelius (04:07):

I love that. I love that. I was only gonna jump in just to, to tell you how much I, I hear and appreciate what you’re saying. I, I can imagine that there are student leaders who are listening to this right now, and they’re like, no way I can’t give up anything. If, if they’re president of four organizations and vice president of three and student center, like how would you encourage someone to determine how to prioritize all of those titles? Is it get rid of the titles that are less than say president? Or is it something else?

Jessica Gendron Williams (04:40):

Yeah. So I think you have to, can, I think you have to look at it as the things that are important to you, the things that give you joy, the things that are, are help you get to the goals that you have. So there’s a couple of pieces that you have to evaluate. That doesn’t mean you can’t do other stuff, but that means that you have to fill your bucket with the biggest pieces first. So there’s this parable of a professor who has this big empty jar. And on the first day of class, he takes these big rocks and he puts them in the jar one by one. And, you know, they’re so big. Imagine like a Jimmy John’s pickle jar you know, the ones that sit up on the shelf and Jimmy John’s, and you’re not actually sure if they’re real pickles inside, imagine a Jimmy John’s pickle jar, and imagine Rock’s big enough to barely fit through the hole of that pickle jar.

            And the professor plunks jar after rock, after rock into the jar, until he can’t put any more of those big rocks in the jar. And he looks at the class and he says, class is this jar full? And the class is like, yeah, sort of. So then he pulls out a bag of pebbles, you know, maybe the size of quarters. And he starts to build the jar around the big rocks with those pebbles. And he shakes the jar and pours more pebbles and shakes the jar. And he looks at the class and he says, is the jar full now? And the class is like, yeah, it’s pretty full. And then he smirks and he pulls out a bag of sand and he starts to pour the sand into the jar. He shakes the jar, pours more sand shakes, the jar pours more sand. And he says, class is this jar full?

            And the class is like, yeah, it’s full. And then he smirks again and pulls out a picture of water and starts to pour the water into the jar until the water takes up every other available piece of space. And he says, class was this char full. And they say, yes, it’s full. And he looks at the class and he says, what’s the point? And some kid in the back goes, there’s always room for more stuff. <Laugh> and he says, that’s not the point, but good, good, good point there. He says, the point is, if we don’t put the big rocks in the jar first, there would’ve been no room. If I would’ve started with the pebbles or started with the sand or started with the water, there would’ve been no room for anything else. The big rocks represent the things in our lives that are most important to us.

            And so if we wanna have balance, it starts by filling our time, our most valuable resource with the things that are our big rocks and use those as our true north. When we’re trying to decide what we say yes, to what we say no to where we spend our time, because those are the things that are most important to us. Maybe that’s your family. Maybe that’s a significant other. Maybe that’s an organization. You’re a leader of, maybe that’s having fun with your friends. Maybe that’s you know, an internship that you’ve got, whatever those rocks are. You have to decide for yourself and fill your jar with those things. First, those things look differently for everybody, but we have to identify what those things are anywhere from two rocks to five at maximum. And, and I think that those are the things that we have to write on a write on our wall, put it on a sticky note on our mirror, put it on the front of our journal as a way to keep reminding ourselves of these are the things that are most important to me.

            And I will always say yes to these opportunities, to these experiences and things that take time related to this stuff. The pebbles are stuff that we fill in. As we have space. Sand is stuff that we do for other people. Water is this extra stuff. That’s just for funsies that pops up now and then, but the big rocks have to go in the jar first. Otherwise there’s no time for our priorities. And what happens. I think a lot of college leaders is we put one big rock in the jar, maybe two, and then we start to fill it with pebbles and sand. And then we realize, oh, I have other things that are bigger priority for me. And there’s no space for that other big rock. And the only way to make space for that other big rock is to take some pebbles and sand out of the jar.

Casey J. Cornelius (08:57):

If you’re listening to Jessica, describe this, please know that you can read some more about her signature program. You can’t have it all real balance in college at, for college, for Jess, let me ask you this question, cuz I’m gonna imagine that there some student leaders who, who even hearing the last few minutes of, of your, of your description of, you know, how to prioritize these things might push back with this. I think you’ve probably heard this a couple of times into your career, but who’s going to do it better than me or another way of saying it. If I don’t do this, nobody will. What’s your advice to them?

Jessica Gendron Williams (09:37):

<Laugh> probably not the advice that they wanna hear. <Laugh> I, I think that, you know, part of, part of life, part of being a good leader is one building people behind you that can do it just as good as you, if not better. And also letting go of control. I, I see you level five type a control freaks. I am a level five type, a control freak. So I’m here with you, I’m on your team. But the thing that, the thing that you have to ask yourself is, is it about the process to get there? Or is it about getting there? And I think so many times us level five overachiever type, a control freaks, get so focused on how we get there, that we forget that the point isn’t how we get there. The point is that we get there. And so if we give it to somebody else, they may not do it exactly the way that we would do it, but they still get there.

            And that’s ultimately what’s important. You know? So we’ve got to, as leaders build people up to be able to take stuff away from us that maybe isn’t as important to us, but also not get so married to doing it the way we wanna do it and be more focused on outcomes unless the process is critical. And in very few instances and student leadership is the process critical. I mean, we’re not, we’re not manufacturing things that are really important. We’re not, you know, making medicine, we’re not doing things yet. You know, baking is, is probably the only thing where you have to follow the process. Exactly.

Casey J. Cornelius (11:34):


Jessica Gendron Williams (11:35):

But everything else there, if there’s a little bit of leeway. And so I think we’ve gotta let go of the process a little bit. The thing I always like to say is we, a lot of times when we give up stuff, when we say no, when we delegate it away, when we hand it over to somebody else, we, we look at that like loss. And we think about what we miss and what we what we lost by doing that. And I like to reframe and and ask like, what do you gain by, by handing that to somebody else? You know, what do you, you gain more time? So what are, where can you put that time? What do you gain by saying no to joining that club or going to that meeting that you don’t actually need to be at? And the answer’s always time but time. For what time? For the things that are your big rocks time for pebbles that are more important to you, whatever those things are. And I think we’ve gotta look at when we hand stuff off. When we say no to things, we actually gain stuff as much as we might think we lose stuff too.

Casey J. Cornelius (12:43):

There’s so much more we can go into on this topic.

Jessica Gendron Williams (12:45):

Oh my gosh. So many things.

Casey J. Cornelius (12:46):

I love it. This is a fast 15. If you wanna learn more about Jessica’s perspective on this again ForCollegeForLife/jessica, Jess where’s the best place for people to connect with you? Is it Instagram still?

Jessica Gendron Williams (13:00):

Yeah. Slide into my DMS, everybody.

Casey J. Cornelius (13:03):

That’s right. And if, and if you don’t know that reference, make sure you listen to Jessica’s full podcast interview, which is going to be linked in the comments. It’s Jgendronwilliams You can find Jessica jgendronwilliams on Instagram. Jessica, thank you so much for doing this. I, I appreciate your insights and your advice to the overachieving student leader. Thank you. Okay.

Jessica Gendron Williams (13:27):

Thanks. Good luck over achievers.

Casey J. Cornelius (13:29):

Good luck over achieving. I think that’s a good place to, to leave this until next time, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. Please make sure you like and share and subscribe and do all the stuff that you’re supposed to do with these podcasts. And if there are any topics that you’d like to hear us talk about in a fast 15 format, please let us know until then be safe be well. And we look forward to the next time.

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