The lowest point of my career
And the case for trying again
“I feel like … a failure,” I mumble.
I was sitting at the kitchen table with my Dad. I was at the lowest point of my career — worried about the impending death of my own startup — my two co-founders left, I had lay-offs to do, and last but not least, I was running out of money.
“You’re only 27! You are so young, how can you be a failure?” Dad goes.
“Well, I don’t feel so young.” I mumble.
“Do you know what I was doing at 27?” he asks.
“I haven’t even gone to college yet.” He goes.
“Seriously?” I was surprised.
“Yeah. My education was disrupted by the Cultural Revolution in China. When I was 16, the revolution started. Universities got shut down. I was sent to southern China to work at a machine shop. There, I melted metal for the next 10 years of my life.
When the cultural revolution ended, I was 26 and I hadn’t been to college. That year, universities in Beijing re-opened for admission. To get into university, students had to take an entrance exam at the school on a particular day. But since all universities were shut down for the past 10 years, there were 10 years worth of uneducated kids trying to get in that year.
When I went to the university to take their exam, so many other kids showed up to take the exam that we couldn’t even fit into the school. We ended up sprawling all over the fields outside the school to take our exam. I was 27 years told. I was surrounded by 17 year old kids, who in their own right was trying to get into college too. They were 10 years younger than me. I felt envious of their youth.”
I was shocked.
“So you started college at 27?” I ask
“Nope, I didn’t make the cut. My exam score wasn’t good enough. The competition was tough. I was beat by those 17 year olds.
A twinge of embarrassment flashes across his face.
“So I tried again. The following year, I was 28 years old and I took my exam next to kids who were 11 years younger than me.”
He pauses, and then exclaim:
“And I got in that year!”
His face lit up with excitement, at the memory of getting into college at 28.
“See? I was older than you and I was just starting college. You already finished college.” Dad goes.
“That’s true, I’m 27 and I’ve even went to grad school.” I go.
“Yeah! So you’re way more advanced than I was. I was a late bloomer, and so are you, because you have my genes.”
“So I don’t know what you’re worried about. For late bloomers, life always gets better with time. ”
“Yeah. I don’t know what I was worried about.” I echo