When in high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure, I first make sure I stop to put everything into perspective. This may mean giving myself a pep talk that “This is just temporary” or telling myself that “I’ve got this!” Or it may mean reminding myself of my main life goal of helping others to reach their goals. If that does not help, I seek outside help. I talk to loved ones whom I trust to support and guide me. I am vulnerable with them about my worries and self-doubts. They always seem to know exactly what I need and deliver it.
As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingLindsey Wander.
Lindsey Wander, Valedictorian of her high school, originally enrolled at Cal State Fresno to study Biomedical Engineering. In just four years, he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Biology, a Bachelor’s in Chemistry, and a Minor in Mathematics. Several domestic and international internships later, she discovered her passion for teaching and re-enrolled in college to earn her teaching credentials.
For several years, Lindsey taught math, biology, and STEM in the low-income neighborhoods of California, making it her mission to create a learning environment that was so engaging that it motivated her students to come to school. They explored, questioned, investigated, learned, laughed, and loved — all within her classroom walls.
However, time and financial restraints, added to endless bureaucratic red tape, prevented Lindsey from being able to dedicate the 1-on-1 time to her students who needed it. Thus, many of her “kids” fell through the cracks — and there was nothing she could do about it.
So, when Lindsey moved to Chicago at the ripe age of 29, she decided to start her own tutoring business, which later became WorldWise Tutoring. Her mission was to help students of all abilities to not only improve their grades and scores, but to also learn the skills to become confident and independent lifelong learners, and grow into competent and conscious leaders. She sought to empower our youth with the tools to succeed in school, work, and life — so that they were in the powerful position to direct their own lives.
Lindsey’s methodologies were so effective that her business quickly grew beyond what should could handle alone. So she started to “teach the teachers,” guiding tutors dedicated to her cause with her best practices. Now, years later, she has seen her kids return home from college as accomplished, self-sufficient adults who are still eager to learn more.
Lindsey found a career that she loves and that makes the world a better place. Her goal is to inspire her students to do the same.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I actually enrolled in college to pursue a career in Biomedical Engineering. I loved learning about genetics, but the labwork was so uninspiring. So I switched my emphasis to Ecology, and my “lab” moved to the streams and fields of Yosemite. I still finished my studies in Chemistry and Math, and graduated in 4 years with 2 bachelors and a minor. Unsure of which career path I should follow, I spent the next couple years in various internships across the country and all over the globe. It was an Environmental Education internship in Pennsylvania that brought my passion for teaching to light. I went back to college to attain my teaching credential, and taught middle school biology and math in low income neighborhoods for several years. I truly loved my “kids” and inspiring in them a love of learning; but when I moved to Chicago in 2011, the political red-tape and the extreme emphasis on test scores left me little room to actually teach. So I decided to tutor full time. My methodologies were so effective that I outgrew myself within a couple years and began to hire tutors. I found myself in the interesting position of “teaching the teachers,” and the success stories grew exponentially. Now I mostly manage the business and provide support for my tutors and parents, but I make sure to also work with students a few days a week — since that is where my true passion lies.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
Looking back, I realize that I had a few influential teachers right at times in my life when I desperately needed them. This is likely what leads me to become an educator, going beyond what is required of me and assuming a similar “coaching” role in my students’ lives. But, growing up, I did not personally know any entrepreneurs or business leaders (though I know many now). I think what inspired me to pursue a career as a business owner was simply that I wanted to do things the way I knew was best, and not just the way I was told to do them. As a teacher, I was often mandated by the school or state to teach a certain way utilizing specific curriculum. Even if the required approach was ineffective, politics dictated that I must stick with it. Meanwhile, I was forced to sit by and watch my students fall behind and, perhaps more devastating, hate being at school. I knew I was a great teacher who was able to read my students well and deliver the personalized instruction they needed. So I took the risk of leaving a guaranteed job with stability and benefits to use my talents to help kids excel.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Time and time again, my college friend Sarah Anderson has been a sounding board, coach, cheerleader, and idea generator for me and my business. Though she and her husband have busy Physical Therapy careers in California and three very active children, Sarah always makes time to test out my latest concept, to suggest improvements on my ventures, and to encourage me through the tough times. She and her husband actually helped me come up with my company name. Sarah was the one who encouraged me to hire tutors once my business outgrew myself by telling me, “The first one you hire will be the hardest; after that, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!” She also recently introduced me to a Virtual Assistant, whom I have hired and whom has been an amazing asset to my business’ recent growth. I am so thankful for Sarah’s continued support and guidance through the ups and downs of owning my business.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
When I first legally formed my company, it was out a necessity so that one of my student’s scholarships could pay for the tutoring I was providing her. This student’s attorney aunt offered to help me with the legal paperwork for free. As soon as we sat down, she asked me what I wanted to name my company. Naïve to the whole entrepreneurial life, I had not even thought of a company name. So we brainstormed words that started with a “T” for an alliteration with Tutoring and came up with Tertiary Tutoring. Then she asked what kind of company I wanted to form. She proposed the options of Corp, LLC, and Ltd and said it didn’t matter which I chose since they were all basically the same. So, to keep with the T-theme, I chose Ltd. Looking back now, I choose a company name that no one would pronounce and a structural designation that did not align with its actual structure. Not only that, she did not inform me that I needed to submit paperwork annually, so that company was dissolved a year later unbeknownst to me. Lesson learned: You get what you pay for!
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Do not be swayed by others from what feels right. In high school, I was told to just choose a career that “makes you money, since everyone ends up hating their job anyways.” When I changed a potential career as a biomedical engineer to that of a teacher, I was told I was “wasting my intelligence.” When I left my stable job as a teacher to become a full-time tutor, I was told I was “making a huge mistake.” Yet, each time I knew that I was doing what was right for ME. So I ignored their “advice,” and I followed my intuition. Now I wake up each day excited to work and, perhaps more importantly, I am inspiring others to do the same. Your job is a huge part of your life. If you are unhappy at work, you will be unhappy in life. Choosing what makes you happy can also make you financially secure if you are willing to put the work in — and it is worth all that work to be able to do something you love.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
My first teacher mentor gave me a book titled “Teach Like a Champion.” Even many years later, through all my travels and cross-country moves, this is the one education resource I have held on to — it sits within arm reach on the bookshelf in my office to this day. I credit this book with amplifying my natural abilities to help me become an extremely efficient and engaging instructor. As a teacher, I was always evaluated as having exceptional classroom management skills, many of which I learned from this book. I was able to facilitate student-centered learning that was successful and fun using the 49 techniques this book suggested.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Benjamin Franklin’s quote “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” has been my driving force as an educator for the past 15+ years. It reminds me that students need to be involved in their learning every step of the way in order for it to be effective. As adults, we tend to underestimate kids, thinking we know better. But not a day goes by without one of my students impressing me with his/her deep understanding, perceptiveness, creativity, or empathy. Kids are wiser than we may think. They usually just need the proper support to lead them down their own path of discovery and growth.
I also recently heard “small changes are big changes.” Some of these suggested reforms can seem daunting, and they are. But even changing the language we use when speaking to kids and the opportunities we expose them to makes a huge difference in what they see themselves as capable of.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Remote learning in the spring was a failure for most. To avoid that in the fall, I am helping families with children of similar ages to form tight-knit Learning Pods. I will give these groups of up to seven children an instructor to provide in-person academic coaching and enrichment lessons for 3–5 hours a day, 3–5 days a week. The instructor will maintain a safe environment and will help with e-learning while also providing valuable lessons in metacognition, executive functions, and interpersonal skills. While this is a new project, it is really taking education back to its origins with smaller family-style learning. I am looking forward to providing students with individualized attention from highly qualified instructors, so that they can come out of this with new skills, interests, and a love for learning.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
When in high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure, I first make sure I stop to put everything into perspective. This may mean giving myself a pep talk that “This is just temporary” or telling myself that “I’ve got this!” Or it may mean reminding myself of my main life goal of helping others to reach their goals. If that does not help, I seek outside help. I talk to loved ones whom I trust to support and guide me. I am vulnerable with them about my worries and self-doubts. They always seem to know exactly what I need and deliver it. I am very fortunate to have such a supportive network in my life. Alternatively, I may simply take a break. Even though high stress situations may seem like the worst time to step away, taking a breather always helps me return to the situation with a clearer mind.
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
I find that I feel less stressed the more prepared I am. If I am going to be interviewed for a popular podcast, I like to listen to a couple episodes first so I know what it coming and can better plan for it. If I will be speaking in front of a large group of people, I like to practice in front of smaller groups first to work out all the kinks. I also find that physical activity is essential to my mental health. When I have an upcoming high-pressure situation, I make sure to incorporate a workout to let off some steam and calm my nerves. Even so, later, as I am entering the stressful situation, my heart rate inevitably begins to pick up speed again. So I tap into my biology knowledge and support my cardiovascular system with deep nourishing breaths. This works like a charm to slow my pulse and ease my shakiness so that I can optimize my performance.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
Though I live in a big city now, I grew up in the mountains. My experiences in nature, combined with my world travels and my diverse friend group, have developed me into a very spiritual person. Thus I am open-minded about utilizing various “non-traditional” methodologies to improve the state of my mind. If time allows, physical activity outdoors always provides me with an instant boost of positivity. If that is not possible, even a mindful stretch can work wonders. I regularly use meditative tools, such a sound therapy with binaural beats and subliminal messaging while I sleep, to ease my thoughts and improve my focus. I also incorporate essential oils, crystals, and a plant-based diet in my routine as often as I can.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
I have a high-quality speaker from which I play music that helps me concentrate. The sounds of classical music, jazz music, or alpha binaural waves helps to drown out the sounds of living in a highrise in downtown Chicago, allowing me to better focus on that task at hand.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
As organized as I am, I have developed the skill of being flexible over my years of working with kids. Thus, I do not have many habits that I strictly adhere to. Nevertheless, there are some habits that I most often incorporate. For instance, I prefer for my first meal to be a green smoothie because I find that it provides me with much needed energy. I make sure to include physical exercise of some sort in my day. I write tasks in lists and prioritizing them. I also like to end each day with a list of prioritized tasks for the next day.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
I think experimentation with different techniques is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance. What works for one person may not work for the next. So give advised methods a solid effort and see if they help; if they don’t, try something else. In terms of ceasing bad habits, the first step is to recognize them, which requires self-awareness and vulnerability. Once you have identified the bad habits, work to gradually reduce them day-by-day. Remember to give yourself grace: you are a work in progress.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
For me, Flow comes easiest when I am doing something I enjoy. For instance, developing curriculum and teaching students are the times when I most often find myself in a state of Flow. So, to achieve a state of Flow, I recommend pursuing a career you are passionate about. Even if you have obtained your dream job, there are likely some aspects of the work that are not as fun or engaging as others. To activate Flow during those times, try to focus on what you do enjoy about the activity. For example, payroll is not my favorite part of my job, but I make it more enjoyable knowing I am sending money to my deserving staff so that they can enjoy their lives without as much worry about finances. This helps to make payroll days “flow” better.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would encourage people to invest in the meaningful education of our youth. By this I mean not just teaching them math equations and grammar rules, but truly investing in the development of engaging curriculum and the training of dedicated instructors to teach students valuable life skills such as self-assessment, planning and prioritizing, defining goals, empathy, and advocacy. But providing our children with the tools to become successful contributing members of society, we are laying the foundation for the happiness and progress of our society as a whole. We must truly evaluate our current education system — beyond the politics — and remind ourselves of what we want our children to learn and who we want them to become. Then we need to re-imagine the learning opportunities we provide to students, because what we are currently doing is not working. Education should be more student-centered with a focus on the development of relevant knowledge and life skills.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would be honored to meet with Freeman Hrabowski, who is President of the University of Maryland. Since he took over as head of the college, it has been transformed into one of the nation’s top institutions for graduating students of color in STEM subjects. The ripple effects of this are monumental to our society’s social and economic progress, to our citizen’s universal accessibility to high quality health and technological services, and to eradicating cycles of poor education and poverty among minorities. I would love to speak with Mr. Hrabowski about his methodologies to achieve such a feat and to hear about his next endevours.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
- Facebook — business: https://www.facebook.com/WorldWiseTutoring/
- Facebook — group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WorldWiseTutoring.LifelongLearners/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/WorldWiseTutoring/?hl=en
- LinkedIn — business: https://www.linkedin.com/in/worldwisetutoring/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/worldwisetutor?lang=en
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/WorldWiseTutoring/
- YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzmHvAEv6InRTM-h5e8L5bw
- Blog — https://www.worldwisetutoring.com/blog/
- Student Handbook — https://www.worldwisetutoring.com/handbook/
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.