No. 2 Pencil

What memories get conjured up for you when you hear the phrase,

“You must use a Number 2 pencil and darken in only one oval per question.”

Yesterday I proctored for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Administering the test is exact and rigid. The participants arrive carrying a clear plastic bag which is inspected upon arrival to be sure it contains no contraband like cell phones, digital watches, or even click pencils. In the testing room, the process continues with a two-step verification of identity and assignment of seating. Throughout the testing process, the strict instructions are roboticly read by the room supervisor to insure there is no deviation of procedure. Testing materials are distributed, collected and counted in a prescribed and precise manner. The narrow road to law school goes only through one gate – an adequate score on the LSAT. The rigidity of procedure for the LSAT and many tests like it provides consistency and fairness to all participants but most of the protocol is designed for one purpose. There appears to be a shortcut into law school, one that does require some creativity but does not require the hours of effort in preparation. That shortcut is cheating.


There is no honor in gaining entrance into law school through dishonesty. Who wants a lawyer who isn’t equipped to pass the bar exam let alone the law school admissions test? But our brains are hard wired to make and take shortcuts. Most of the time it serves us very well. Imagine if every time you dove a car you had to consciously think about every move as if it were the first time you did it. The shortcuts we develop save time. This is especially true in the way we think.

The LSAT is a series of five 35-minute exams followed by one 35-minute written portion. The required tasks for a proctor don’t take more than a grand total of 5 minutes. The other 205 minutes are spent in total silence. The proctor stands, sits, or walks about the room to prevent cheating. The only escape from the silence comes when a participant has to use the restroom. Since even restroom breaks are monitored, a proctor stands in the hallway when a participant has to go.

This was my second time proctoring. Even if I did have a phone, it wouldn’t have been allowed in the room. You can’t bring a book to read. There is no writing allowed. No grocery lists. No to-do lists. No tic-tac-toe or crossword puzzles and certainly no screen. A couple of hours after writing about A.N.T.s – Automatic Negative Thoughts, I had 200+ minutes of facing my own thoughts and napping was not permitted. I will readily admit much of the time was boring as hell, but I chose to use the opportunity to challenge my thinking. It was uncanny how my thoughts repeatedly gravitated toward negativity or utter nonsense. It took a tremendous amount of intention to calibrate my thought compass to a level of possibility thinking especially since I think best in the early morning.
However, I persisted and there was a payoff. After several rounds of advancing and retreating, this verse came to my mind.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

I began to mentally list the “lovely” things in my life. Somehow this led to the birth of an idea for a completely new offering from Leaders Fuel. (Stay tuned for the unveiling and evolution of this offering.)

As a coach and life strategist, the greatest value I add to others is as a thinking partner.
Henry Ford said,

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, that is why so few people partake in it.”

Along with any other title I carry, I am a business owner and a new business owner at that. As a new business owner, I am currently crossing the threshold from product development (Life Leaders GPS) to business building. The reason why yesterday was so important for me is that life (and business) is an inside out job. It cost money to start a business – a lot of money. Hiring a coach is the wisest investment because it is hard to see the picture when you are in the frame. There is nothing that effects the results a business owner gets than the quality of thinking of the owner.

As one of my mentors, Christian Simpson put it,


If information, knowledge and “ninja” tactics were “where it’s at” in terms of driving up profits, significantly increasing personal income and wealth with less hassle, less headaches and more freedom for the business owner – the percentages of the “have’s” and “have nots” in entrepreneurial life would be reversed.


Still, despite the observable realities, huge swathes of well-intentioned people continue to focus their attention on the “mechanics”. And so their frustration, mediocrity and misery continues.

A coaching partnership is a designed alliance between the coach and the participant in which both parties bring their energy to the goals of the participant. The coach, however, is not inside the frame and, therefore, is not attached to the outcome. I cannot measure the value of the coaches in my life. I know my thinking must be continually challenged because my business will only be as good as the thinking I bring to it. The same is true for each of us.

I’m not sure you need 200 minutes to begin to uncover your own thinking patterns, but why not take 15 minutes and see what you discover. When you, or anyone you know, is looking for a thinking partner, be aware that I am now taking on coaching clients.


Rick Burris


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.