Watch out for fear of failure. It can stop your teen in his tracks.
It happened to my youngest just recently, and boy am I glad I recognized the signs and, with the help of his older brother, got him going again.
Jordan hasn’t had many failures in his life. Oh, maybe some track meet losses and a bombed basketball game or two. And I’m not so sure he ever really mastered riding a bike.
But in academics, I gotta say the boy has been a winner. It’s his thing. He works as hard at it as his brother does at being well-liked, and as his mother does at keeping a roof over his head and food in the fridge.
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Ever since the kid was in fifth or sixth grade he’s talked about attending an elite college. He took the ACT and SAT three times, shooting for perfect scores — and came close. He’s going to community college at the same time as high school to earn an associate’s degree by graduation. By the end of his junior year he’d heard from every Ivy League and top-notch public and private school in the country asking him to apply for admission.
But in Jordan’s eyes, the school of schools, the one the light shines on and for which the angels sing, is Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has said many times that if he gets into MIT, all the other schools will have to step back. “It’s my number one, forsaking all others,” he said.
MIT gets roughly 19,000 applicants a year and accepts only about 1,550. Getting selected is like finding a needle in the application haystack. Most every applicant is really smart and special.
And the thought of rejection is terrifying.
I noticed a blank stare every time I asked if he’d completed the MIT application and the five essays that go with it. In a low, dejected voice I hadn’t heard before, he said no. I asked every day. I couldn’t understand why the thing he wanted most was the thing he hadn’t done.
Then it dawned on me: He’s afraid. No, frozen with fear that he won’t get in.
So, blunt girl that I am, I asked: Are you afraid you won’t be accepted? Bingo!
I told him he certainly would not be accepted if he did not apply.
“And, if you don’t apply, I’m sure you will feel as though you’ve let yourself down,” I said. “But if you do the best application you can, one you can be proud of and still you don’t get in, at least you will know you didn’t chicken out.”
His brother told him: If you don’t get in it won’t be because you are not awesome, or because you’re a failure. But it will mean you’ll have to look a little closer at Harvard, Yale, Washington University, Colorado School of Mines and Vanderbilt — the next schools on his list.
He told him to step up to the plate and swing. Even the best ballplayers in the world miss some. And they are still great.