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The Carrot, the Egg, and the Coffee Bean

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling.

Her mother took her to the kitchen and sat her down at the table. She filled three pots with water. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the third she placed ground coffee beans.

She turned on the burners and let them sit over the open flames. The entire time, she remained silent. After about twenty minutes had passed, she turned off the burners. First, she fished out the carrots and placed them in a bowl. Then, she pulled out the eggs and placed them in a bowl. Finally, she ladled the coffee into a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the daughter replied.

“What else?”

The mother brought her closer to the bowls and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noticed that they had become soft and mushy. The mother then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed that the contents of the egg would not run. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.

The daughter smiled as she tasted its deep flavor and inhaled its rich aroma. Then, the daughter asked, “What’s the point, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity – boiling water – but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it became weak. The egg had gone in fragile. Its thin, outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The coffee beans were different. The beans themselves were unchanged. In fact, they had changed the water!

“Which are you?” the mother asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

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Academic anxiety often affects the way that students handle difficult situations. We teach planning and confidence-building strategies that leave the student in control. Instead of being affected by obstacles, our students turn them into opportunities.

That’s what confidence can do.