The Secret to Success in DECA and Beyond

Apr 1, 2024

DECA ICDC is right around the corner. So, we wanted to share a story about a former ICDC competitor (and Youthfully student) that will inspire DECA students everywhere. Plus, it teaches you a skill that will help lead to success at DECA, university admissions and beyond.

Before we jump in, we’re hosting a free Problem-Solving training for DECA students on April 18th at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET. Register now (limited spots).

Anyway, back to the story.

Varin was known around school for his natural charisma. His friends even called him “Va-rizz”. But he quickly found that his charm could only take him so far. During an early university admissions interview, he encountered a problem-solving question and struggled with it. Varin realized he had to master his problem-solving skills.

Trust the Process

Varin joined DECA and Youthfully, a rigorous program that helps students reach their admissions, extracurricular, career and academic goals through elite-level 1:1 coaching. We introduced Varin to our DARTS method—a systematic approach to problem-solving.

“Every skill, including problem-solving, is a process. It’s like learning how to swim—it’s a process. Repetition and refinement turn it into a skill.” Varin’s coach told him.

As people, we’re constantly solving daily problems: school assignments, admissions essays, athletic pursuits and extracurriculars. Learning how to actually solve problems can change everything, including your DECA performance. So, let's dive in!

The DARTS Method

At Youthfully, we equip students like Varin with a simple yet powerful framework for problem-solving: DARTS. You can use this method to solve any problem.

Step 1: Define (the Problem)

Albert Einstein once said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”

Clarifying the problem we’re solving is, by far, the most important step.

For example, consider the problem, “How can we attract more high-paying customers?” The way it’s worded can be interpreted in many different ways:

  • What does “high-paying” mean?
  • Are customers new or existing?

This lack of specificity leads to us solving very different problems.

A more precisely defined problem might be: “How can we increase new customers who pay more than $100 per order using our existing marketing budget?”.

Step 2: Analyze (Component Parts)

Now it's time to dissect the problem into its “component parts” or “buckets”.

For example, the marketing problem we covered earlier could be broken down in several different ways. One might be marketing channels: social media ads, email marketing campaigns, influencer partnerships and search engine optimization (SEO). Another might be geography (e.g. West, South, Northeast, Midwest) or by age (10-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 50+).

Step 3: Research (the Opportunity)

With the problem broken down into its component parts, the next step is to identify the most impactful opportunity. We can use something called the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule), which suggests that roughly 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes. In our case, it means determining which bucket contributes the most to the problem. This identification helps prioritize where to focus our efforts for maximum impact.

For instance, let's continue with our marketing problem. Maybe we find that the majority of high-paying customers come from influencer partnerships. That indicates that exploring more influencer partnerships could be the key to addressing the problem effectively.

Step 4: Test (Your Hypothesis)

Before fully committing to a solution, it's crucial to test our hypothesis to ensure its validity. While we may have a strong belief in our approach, testing allows us to gather concrete evidence of its effectiveness.

For instance, instead of launching a full-scale influencer campaign, consider a quicker way to determine if this strategy will have an impact (e.g. partnering with a micro-influencer). This allows us to gather concrete evidence without significant investment.

Step 5: Synthesize (the Findings)

The final step is to synthesize our findings and translate them into actionable recommendations.  

For example, what’s the impact of an influencer campaign on acquiring new high-paying customers? We might be able to conclude that, "Every dollar of our marketing budget allocated into an influencer marketing campaign is projected to generate 5x more new high-paying customers than any other marketing channel."

Voila! Problem solved, and now you can bask in the results of your recommendations.

Join Youthfully’s Workshop

So how’s Varin doing? Well, he embraced the DARTS method wholeheartedly and saw pretty remarkable results:

  • He excelled in DECA, eventually competing at ICDC.
  • He grew his YouTube channel to over 100k subscribers.
  • He received offers to all his top universities.
  • Even his basketball 3-point shot improved.
"Working 1-on-1 with Youthfully was the best decision I could've made," he said.

So, if you’d like to master your problem solving skills like Varin, Youthfully is hosting a free virtual workshop, exclusively for DECA members.

The focus: teaching you the DARTS problem solving method.

Whether you’re prepping for ICDC or just looking to grow as a student, you won’t want to miss it. Join us April 18th at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET. Register now.


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Discussion Questions

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    How might the DARTS method change the way you approach problems in school and DECA?
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