As I listened to a recent interview with a deep-sea explorer who descends into underground rivers, icebergs, and caves submerged beneath the earth’s surface, I thought: she has so much to teach teens as they confront important milestones like standardized tests, music or athletic competitions, giving a speech in front of a class, or being interviewed for an internship – to name a few of the challenges teens face.

Jill Heinerth is a brave and fascinating person. She’s gone where no humans have gone before, like diving inside an iceberg in Antarctica the size of Jamaica (and getting out just hours before seeing it crack and dissolve from her boat!). She’s also observed life forms hidden from the light of day – animals that have no eyes and no pigment but incredible sensory capacity, a blind albino crayfish that can live for 200 years inside a cave (compared to the crayfish we know, which lives only two years).

Jill Heinerth says she and fellow divers are “barely beginning to document new species” and that these animals “may be able to teach us an awful lot about evolution, about survival, maybe even about new chemical and drug compounds that are of use to humanity.” What a fascinating job! Well, it also comes with its risks….

So how does she prepare herself for the challenge of a dive?

“I work through a list in my head of all the horrible things that could happen, but I envision myself solving each one of those. Sometimes I’m actually moving my hands and reaching for a valve or a button or whatever to solve each of those issues, so that when I get in the water my mind is really free. And then if something horrible happens, I’ve just rehearsed it a few minutes ago. I do that eyes-closed ritual before every dive.”

By her own admission, Jill Heinerth is not fearless. She, too, gets that pit-in-the-stomach feeling before doing something hard, and she thinks it’s important to be scared. Being fearless often leads to being reckless, while facing one’s fears can yield concrete plans for going forward.

When students prepare for an upcoming exam or competition, they generally focus on what they know – on their mastery. But I’m now thinking it would be a really good exercise for students to direct their attention on what they might not see coming so they can mentally prepare for pitfalls in advance.

How do chess or Go players succeed? They envision what could go wrong and solve problems in their head before proceeding. Give it a try!

If you’d like to learn more about Jill Heinerth’s life and professional adventures, you can listen here.

At Blue Stars, our work with students in many ways distills down to teaching them the art of preparation. Whether it’s an application, an interview, or starting an organization, we engage in discussions of process, mission, and goals before diving into action (pun intended :)). Through these foundations, our students build resilience. They become more capable explorers and leaders.

If you’d like assistance for your child in navigating the challenges of the college planning path, we’d love to meet you!