Overshoot Towards Your Extraordinary

There is this persistent thought in my head that if I don’t aim to live an extraordinary life that I would be disappointing both myself, prior generations, and future ones too. This insane level of responsibility has served me well at times and not so much too. All of them involved one of my obsessions: wanting to be like Benjamin Franklin. Odd, right? As a five-foot tall Latina with super curly hair where did my admiration come from? It started with a science project in grade school.

As a kid, I never learned how to manage my time and my mom was not keeping score either so time and time again I would leave all major projects to the last minute including my Benjamin Franklin assignment. This assignment was the one that bit me in the ass because I had to get it done without any help. As a daughter to divorced parents, I’d spend every other weekend with my dad. This assignment was due when I was with him and the idea of asking my dad for help was not happening. So that weekend, I mustered the courage to work on that assignment and put out my own work which turned into getting a B or B- for the first time on my own. I was so proud of that grade. So so proud that something inside of me came out of me — confidence and a curiosity about Ben.

Ben had a lot going on back in the revolutionary days including having founded the University of Pennsylvania. I had not visited the school before nor until years later yet at the time I was a little obsessed about getting into Penn. I was ignorantly obsessed and clueless about the level of effort and difficulty it would be to get into this ivy league. My naïveté translated into a very minimal and impractical level of effort. I thought that back then I could use my Penn graduate dentist as a reference and write 250-words to capture why I belonged in Penn. Blatantly, I ignore the acceptance stats and SAT ranges too. Ignorance was on full bliss back then and my quick rejection proved this all. But I didn’t stop there…

I wanted to become a lawyer years ago and so I applied to Penn Law School yet again. I met with Penn grads. My LSATS were much better than my SATs had been and this was the year that everyone was applying to law school which made acceptance rates dismal. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t factor in this “it was really hard that year” to get into law school concept however rumors were that getting into Fordham Law School would be akin to getting into Harvard a few years back. All of this to say that I got my second Penn rejection. I imagine others would be turned off by Penn but there was this thing in me that compelled me to think about getting into Penn as the ultimate vindication.

So here we go again. It was time to apply to business school. To be clear, I went to Fordham yet quit during the first semester because I hated everything about law school — — the classes, the future, you name it. So years later, I decided to go to business school instead and what school was on my list yet again — Penn. So knowing that doing the same thing over and over results in the same outcome, I took this round very seriously. I hired a former admissions officer and paid thousands of dollars for help. Meanwhile, I found more help from alumni who I latched onto for essay feedback and it was in that attempt that something switched on inside of me. The funny bit is that my paid coach didn’t unlock “it.” It was a free helper who helped me expect more of myself than ever before. She would read my sentences and push me to give more of me. It’s like I had to meet her high expectations or I felt as if I was wasting her time and that pushed me. I went into beast mode.

The challenge was that my beast mode was behind a computer writing words not numbers. I used Penn as my guiding post. I set my eyes on Penn which is the number one finance school in the galaxy. I found my angel who wasn’t my coach and helped me write the best set of essays on the universe to head to Penn. And here’s what transpired. I got an interview at Penn. A mother freakin interview at Penn. This was the furthest I had ever gone. I put my blood, sweat, and tears in getting into Penn. I was all in yet I got a third rejection from Penn. This could have broken me. Yet, it just didn’t. I knew what I was up against. I saw how competitive it was to land an opportunity there and I gave it my all. Thankfully, my all landed me a full-ride to Tuck.

So where am I going with this? To me being extraordinary is about stretching your ordinary and not letting rejections get in your way. I did not enjoy the process, not any part of it. What it did do was bring to mind for me questions such as: what was I trying to prove? who was I trying to be in that moment? As a testament for trying to get into a top academic institution taught me was this…there’s always been this underdog in me. I enjoy being that underdog. I rather be an underdog then the obvious choice and for me my path to success has been pursuing an extraordinary goal rather than something practical or something that I had seen before. I hadn’t seen this before in my circles. I was following Ben. So who are you following and who will follow you?




I coach executives on how to dissect & deliver a perfect #jobinterview @TuckSchool melissa@melissallarena.com Author of №1 #HR interview @Forbes @LinkedIn #mom

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa Llarena

I coach executives on how to dissect & deliver a perfect #jobinterview @TuckSchool melissa@melissallarena.com Author of №1 #HR interview @Forbes @LinkedIn #mom

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