by Michael Holland    

I, like many of you out there, leveraged more than one all-nighter while in college in order to cram for a big project or test. Procrastination, underestimation of the work involved, and overconfidence in my capability to work well under pressure all were at work in rationalizing the all-nighters.   The success that followed created a sense of bravado, and the feeling that I could always push through on my own accord. This isn’t necessarily a bad trait… but it is an overused one.

I’m intrigued and horrified by men who believe they can carry the all-nighter concept into their home life.  Take for example these 4 unfortunate all-nighters:

  1. The “vacation makes up for missed dinners with the family” all-nighter.  You believe that cramming tons of one-on-one time in on a week vacation with your son somehow equals the same level of engagement your son would have with you if you were home every night to share dinner.  Your son does love your attention during the vacation… but he needs you much more in consistent doses each week.
  2. The “20 minute intense car ride coaching session before the game” all-nighter.  You haven’t had the time all week – all season? – to go out in the yard and kick the soccer ball around with your son, but that’s ok.  You think you can leverage the 20 minute car ride to the game for an intensive “pep talk” on how he should and shouldn’t play the game, what skills to use when and how he needs to give 100% in the game.  Somehow this drinking from the fire hose coaching session will cram your deep knowledge of the sport into your son.
  3. The “get your crap together with school after 3rd quarter grades come out” all-nighter.  It’s spring, and your daughter has been in school since September – or August, for you southern folk.  Your conversations about school with your daughter have been about as in-depth as those you have with the cashier at Dunkin Donuts.  The grades she’s getting aren’t what your daughter is capable of, so you now invest a hearty 30 minutes to go deep into a lecture on how critical her education is.  Oh yeah, and it’s her junior year, so now that whole ideal college dream of yours is in jeopardy.
  4. The “this drive to college is the perfect time for making healthy decisions conversation” all-nighter.  Somehow time has flown by at warp speed, and you set off in the fully-packed car to drop off your son at college.  This is the last window of time you have available to impart your wisdom to him; to impress on him the importance of making good decisions as he embarks on his journey to freedom.  You eloquently weave together stories of the questionable decisions you made while in college (complete with Tony Robbins-esque motivational quotes).  Unfortunately, your son could have used hundreds of these types of conversations, starting in 7th grade when he began to face really tough decisions in the vat of social Darwinism we call middle and high school. Now, though… it’s a little too late.

The impacts of all-nighters for grades or projects don’t change people’s lives.  If you have to, you can just take the class a second time.  But you don’t get a second chance with your son or daughter.

We can intend to do well or we can do well.  It’s really that simple.