I went to a medical school interview a couple of months ago and the interviewer asked me something I really wasn’t prepared for.
“When was the last time you failed, and how did you respond to adversity?”
I thought for a long time; I wanted to give a genuine answer, not the typical pre-med complaint of “I got a B in Orgo.” One silent minute passed. Still no answer. The interviewer was looking at me staring off into the distance.
“It can be anything, don’t worry!”
Another minute passed. I asked if I could move on to the next question. She was nice enough to continue with the interview, skipping that question. The failure question still in the back of my mind, I noticed the interview was just about over. We exchanged business cards and were already saying our final goodbyes.
“Almost forgot! I have to write something down for these responses; When was the last time you failed at something and how did you respond?”
“Uhhh, well there was this one time… I responded by asking to move on to the next question in an interview.” She laughed it off. According to her, other students had the same problem on this question or came up with boring answers like ‘failing’ grades (otherwise known as a B+ for those she interviewed).
It was a nostalgic 20 minute metro ride back to the undergraduate campus while I tried to think of a time when I had failed. I had made it to the Miami-Dade spelling bee finals in fifth grade and ended up choking on the first word… maybe that counts?
Who even cares how you spell “botany”?
I recently read an article that discussed the competitive college process.
“So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error.” – William Deresiewicz
If you cannot be sure of succeeding, then at least you can try to protect a sense of dignity by avoiding failure. I know I’ve had my fair share of these experiences, from not trying out for the varsity basketball team in high school to not trying on my AP Literature exam.
I guess it’s time I try and change to a fall down 7 times, stand up 8 D Wade mentality. After all, even Michael Jordan remembers the 26 game-winning shots he was trusted with and missed.
Over and out.