My daughter had just taken her school final maths exam – and was shell-shocked!
Dazed and upset, she described her struggle to complete a paper that probably was 45 minutes too lengthy – and that left many of her classmates literally in tears. Some high-drama then played out across the country over this issue.
- Parents launched a petition to demand a re-test – or more lenient valuation.
- Students lamented the irreparable damage to their academic future.
- Even Parliamentarians asked for a review of the examination process.
The premise underlying all the angst and agitation seems to be…
This Was Too Tough – And That’s Not Fair!
No. It isn’t. But then…
Life isn’t easy. Or fair.
As adults, we’re intimately (if uncomfortably) familiar with this reality.
What will you do when Life sucker-punches your little angel in the gut?
Or smashes its ham-handed fist right into his smiling face?
Will you always be around, to kiss the place and make it well?
Can you even make it well at all?
Listen, you and I know the chance of being smacked upside down by Fate and circumstance is higher than not. We’ve all had it happen to us over the years. And found ways to cope, overcome, and carry on.
One deeply upset young man in her class described the debacle on WhatsApp as: “Life and death!”
It’s like being told you have terminal cancer – and will die in 3 months.
Or like a psychopath holding a gun at your head – and waiting to have it blown off.
I get it.
“Life and death.”
Give me a break!
How about getting some perspective here?
So, a paper is tough. You get fewer marks. Your dreams of a course or career go up in smoke. Sure, that’s terrible. But not “life and death”, right?
To look at some of the melodrama playing out on online forums and the media, you’d think a new form of bio-terrorism had been unleashed on the populace, or that news just broke of a cataclysmic catastrophe that will destroy the planet.
As parents, adults, elders, we have some questions to ask ourselves.
- About how we react to these situations…
- How we deal with them…
- How we help our youngsters address setbacks…
- How we comfort, encourage and energize them to keep going…
Are we doing our children a favor by reacting instinctively?
By not being wise, sober and cool-headed adults they can trust and learn from?
Isn’t being over-protective and defensive, or becoming strident activists for (what we call) “fairness”, actually giving those we love a handicap in the long game of Life?
Looking back on almost five decades, I can’t recall a period when nothing was “tough” or “went wrong”. Yet the most satisfying and fulfilling accomplishments came while overcoming the odds, facing up to challenges, pitting wits and talents against obstacles and hurdles.
In a sense, that’s what it’s all about.
Surviving. Overcoming. Winning.
That’s why I believe we, as parents and well-wishers, mentors and advisors, role models and guides, would do better to give our loved ones a powerful pick-up message like Sylvester Stallone does in the movie, Rocky Balboa. (Watch the 46 second clip below)
Speaking of pick-up messages, you might like my book… it has some powerful lessons to share.
I’m reading “The Millionaire Mind” by Thomas J.Stanley. In a section on tenacity and leadership ability, he says this:
“The large majority (of millionaires) report that at some point or points in their lives they were labeled inferior, average, or mediocre, but they did not allow critics to forecast their future achievements, and they overcame their label of so-called inferiority.”
I’m reminded of many such points along my career.
1. As a medical student, I expressed an interest to become a surgeon. My mom, an anesthesiologist, pointed to my faint tremor, saying it would limit my capacity. (It was a side-effect of medication which I once took for asthma!)
2. During postgraduate training in general surgery, my anesthesia colleague would needle me by contrasting my surgical speed with co-registrars in other units. Forty minutes into an operation, he’d say: “Y’know, R does appendectomies in just 20 minutes.” I’d respond with: “Maybe she wants to get away from you quickly!”
(Once, just to show him up, I had the appendix out and the wound closed in 12 minutes flat!)
3. After graduating, I spent some time in a cardiac surgery department, where one junior consultant gave his scathing feedback after watching me cut sutures: “Your scissoring technique is poor!” Ouch! That stung for a while.
4. Then, I got accepted into a residency program at one of the country’s top institutions. In my first week there, I had just finished closing the wound after a vein harvest for CABG, when the consultant looked down at my work and said: “This isn’t a hernia repair. Remove the stitches and do it over again!”
5. And then, the very next week, well past midnight, I was wearily finishing up after an emergency re-operation for postoperative bleeding. Half-asleep, my fingers were mechanically placing sutures – when suddenly I felt a sharp pain. It was a few seconds before I realized that the scrub nurse had rapped me on the knuckles with an instrument!
“That’s not how you hold a needle, doctor,” she scolded.
Yet, five years from then, I was operating on tiny babies with complex birth defects of the heart.
Because, as Dr.Stanley goes on to state:
“Life is not one short race – it is a marathon of marathons. Labels come and go.
If you believe that you can succeed in life in spite of degrading labels that predict your failure, you are likely to win most of the marathon.”
Speaking of criticism, my book hasn’t had much of it – yet. But if it did, I’d overcome that!
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