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A lesson from a 5th-grade problem solver

22 Aug 2019

I’ll never forget the day in 5th grade when a boy in my class, let’s call him…Jim, found a love letter I wrote to my girlfriend. I remember Jim terrorizing me every day with the threat of reading my love letter out loud to everyone in class. For weeks he’d take my lunch money, and make me do dumb stuff like carry his backpack around for him. 

I remember going home one day and realizing that I had two choices: 

  1. Let Jim read my letter to the class and become the laughing stock of the whole school – I used words like “my heart aches longingly for your touch” 
  2. Continue to be Jim’s whipping boy 

After a sleepless night, I chose “1.” 

I went to school the next morning ready for my fate. I remember walking up to Jim, and before he could say anything – I said, I’m not going to do what you ask me anymore, I’m done. You can read the letter to everyone, I don’t care. 

Guess what happened? Nothing. Jim just stared at me not knowing how to react and walked away. He never read my love letter to the class.

I still think about those few agonizing weeks, because it taught me a lesson in problem-solving. 

When faced with seemingly impossible decisions, visualize the worst-case scenario, and pick the lesser of the two evils. Just make a decision. 

I’ve learned that not making a decision is far more costly than making the wrong one. Because at least with the wrong decision you can learn from your mistake and move on, but indecision just sits there in your subconscious terrorizing you. More often than not, after you make your decision, you’ll realize it wasn’t that bad after all. And most of your worst fears are just like Jim, all bark and no bite.

Your 5th grader all grown up,

Ronnie Coleman