The Pins & Needles Way of Living Successfully


A life lived without failure is not success, it’s mediocrity. – Liz Lenz

After reading a Facebook post with this quote, I started thinking about my fears of failure and how much effort I’ve spent trying to avoid failure like the plague, in some cases, not trying some new endeavor to spare myself even perceived disappointment.   And, in comparison with times when I have been less inhibited, the thrill of having tried and successfully completed my new undertaking is intoxicating.   So, I understand both Ms. Lenz’s intent in her message, as well as the complexity of steering away from mediocrity by daring failure.  The college applicants (and their parents) in the Class of 2013 are experiencing first hand the complexities of not living in mediocrity, as they wait for college admissions responses in wincing apprehension and adrenaline fueled anticipation. “I’m on pins and needles,” a Senior parent recently replied, when I inquired how she’s doing

The excitement and any dread about college admissions responses are the tell-tale signs of being alive, daring success to step forward and grab you.  And, at the same time, who wouldn’t be a little worried about the proposition of asking some stranger–the college admissions officer–to judge what is a lifetime of effort?  The worries can cause parents and students to whisper about so-and-so’s niece’s, friend’s cousin who got into such-and-such college, conducting armchair college admissions officers’ speculation, to try and forecast the student’s (or offspring’s) chances for a similar admissions outcome and spend more sleepless nights wondering about or sometimes dreading the potential denial letter “sure to come.” I’d be asking parents to take their kids or themselves to a doctor, if they weren’t feeling a little jittery about the prospect of a denial letter coming from the college admissions office. No matter what happens in the next few weeks, the attempt to even try to be admitted to college IS the success.

I’m not saying that to be contrite.  Ponder the following questions: Have Seniors spent hours on homework and AP summer reading and extra SAT exam preparation c;lasses, plus running hundreds of miles on a soccer field or basketball court in heat and cold, and organizing dozens of dances and lunchtime rallies, in addition to serving the homeless and senior citizens, while walking SPCA doge, only to stop short and not apply to college?  And, have parents driven thousands of miles around multiple states and given up countless weekends for tournaments and meets and science fairs, plus chaperoned dances their kids didn’t want them to attend, listening to hours upon hours of Justin Bieber and similar Boy Band pop music, while balancing a 50 hour work week and daily carpool and waking up hibernating teenagers before dawn for the past four years, to cut bait and not help offspring apply to college as Seniors?  I don’t think so.  But, the tradeoff is the nervousness and the excitement of not knowing–accepted or denied?

While the anxiety about possibly being denied admissions to the colleges of choice is totally expected and normal, it’s also a sign of embracing life.  Furthermore, each person will be defined in her/his ability to survive the anxiety and in how s/he reacts once the admissions decisions return.  After all, as Ben Affleck recently stated in his Oscar acceptance speech, “You have to work harder than you think you possibly can. You can’t hold grudges — it’s hard, but you can’t hold grudges. And it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life; that’s going happen. All that matters is you’ve got to get up.”  Take that from a man, who’s very publicly, like People Magazine publicly, fallen down more than once and gotten back up.

Photo Credit: Creative Marbles Consultancy, 2012

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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