Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
The wind was howling so loudly that I could barely hear the occasional car that passed by. It was raining very heavily. Muddy water clung to my pants as I made each step. "I have to go on!" I said to myself.
As I reached school at 8.05am, I noticed that the hall was almost empty. Only four of us were present.The rain was petering out and the sky brightening, but I felt a shadow enveloping me. By 8.30am, two more members had arrived but we were still missing 29 members.
My head started to ache and I could almost feel rage and frustration churning in my stomach. It had been my four-year dream to form and lead the school choral speaking team. However, now that I had formed a team, it did not seem as if I was doing a good job of leading them. "What kind of leader is unable to get even a third of his team to attend a practice session?" I thought to myself. I had failed as a leader.
By 8.35am, I could take no more. I told the others that they could go home and left without another word. On my way home, I could think of nothing but of how I had failed to gather my team for the session. At first, I blamed my teammates for choosing to ignore our practice schedule.
By the time I reached home, I was blaming myself and considering resigning from my position as team leader and conductor. However, luck was on my side because, just as I was about to get myself a glass of water, I noticed a bookmark sticking out of a book on the dining table. "Superior form of leadership: to inspire and not to force," it said.
Reading this quote made me realise something: I had forced my teammates to come for practice. Although I may have not done it in the literal sense, I had not given them a reason to come to practice. All I had done was to arrange an official practice session. In short, I did not inspire them.
I was never exceptional at speeches. So, I knew that to inspire my teammates; I had to gain their trust. The next day was a school day. I seized this opportunity and made an announcement requesting all my teammates to gather at the canteen during recess. It was to their surprise that I did not plan on actually practising choral speaking. Instead, I said, "Let's have lunch together!" While everyone was eating, I did my best to make friends with as many members as possible. I made this a routine for the next five days. Towards the end of the fourth day, I could see that the team had begun to bond.
On the fifth day, I decided that we should practise. I was frankly surprised to see that most of the members had really strong voices. At the end of the half-hour practice, I thought that it was about time I addressed the whole team. While I have forgotten most of what I said that day, I vividly remember the last sentence: "Give me your commitment and in return I promise that I will lead us to be one of the top three teams in the district!" I also informed them that we would be having another practice session the coming Saturday. On Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only was the entire team present but everyone was also very enthusiastic.
Looking back, I am actually thankful that my teammates did not turn up for practice on the 6th of July 2012. It was that failure that taught me what it truly meant to be a leader. Since then, I have always held to the principle that a leader should not force rather inspire. Oh, and did I mention that we got into the top 3?
Read the top 148 college essays that worked at Common App and more. Learn more.Buy Now
Keep reading more Common App admissions essays — you can't be too prepared!
Tip: Use the ← → keys to navigate!