My Dad’s Advice on Potential Failure

I had never studied.  Not really.

I loved High school, but it wasn’t exactly academically challenging.  I can still hear in my head my 11th grade English teacher saying, “Okay babies.  For the next two months we are going to be work’in on writin recipes.  I want you to bring in your Mama’s best recipe and we will learn how to write it down properly.”  There were a few classes here and there that were tough (Mr. Bryant suggested we memorize the Prince by Machiavelli for example…that’s right…memorize the whole book) but over all High school was smooth sailing for me. 

My Freshmen year of college also hadn’t forced me to buckle down and hit the books.  I was a music major that didn’t take music seriously…so I played a lot of basketball. 

Sophomore year I had a painful awakening.  I became Pre-med and was introduced to a whole new world.  I remember my roommate Zach, after hearing me whine about how much homework I had in the first week of class, taking me by the hand and walking me to a huge building in the center of campus.  “Jeff, meet the Library” he declared sarcastically as we entered the lobby, “this is your new home.”

Unfortunately, simply declaring a difficult major does not mean one will magically succeed in said major or develop the study habits said major requires.  I didn’t know that.  Like Michael Scott walking into the office and yelling the word, “BANKRUPTCY!” then thinking he was finished with his financial troubles, I still didn’t start studying.   I skimmed the reading assignments.  I took fantastic notes in class and never looked at them again.  I even started hanging out with other pre-med peeps.  Together we would bemoan how hard everything was.  But I still didn’t honestly study.

Then came finals.  I was amazed to learn the university gave us a whole three days off before finals.  Not understanding that I would need those three days to prepare, I figured the university wanted me to rest and enjoy all the new friends I had made before I went home for break.  It was like the last three days of summer camp.  “A three-day nap.  Yeah!” 

I had a biology final (at 10am) and an analytical chemistry final (at noon) on the first day of testing.  The night before the big day two of my friends, Mac and Angelina, gathered around my kitchen table to study for the bio test.  I struggled to keep up.  The session was clearly more a refresher for them.  They came with flash cards, stacks of re-copied notes, and multi-colored well used highlighters.  Their text-books looked like rainbows.  I brought chips and caso…and a pencil…I think I brought a pencil.

The bio cram session went from 8pm to midnight.  At the end of it I was definitely ready for the test.  As my friends got up to leave around 12:30am one of them asked me, “So what else you got this week?  When is your chem final?” 

“Tomorrow at noon.”  I said.

“Are you ready for it?”  Mac asked me with a look of fear on his face.

“Ummm…I don’t think so.  I’m going to try to cram for it now and a little in the morning after I review the bio stuff.”

A look of sad horror came over Mac’s face and he simply said, “Dude, you’re screwed.”

Defiant, I refused to accept his prognosis.  Having learned what real studying looks like from the bio cram session, I said good-bye to my friends, drank two cans of Surge, and went to work on chemistry.   I busted my butt for an hour; but my head was too full.  I was too exhausted.  It was too late.  Broken and embarrassed I went into my closet and shut the door.  I couldn’t let my roommates see me cry. 

You have to understand.  I had never failed anything.  Ever. 


Seriously, never.

I sat on the floor of closet bawling my eyes out.  I had no idea what to do.  So I did what I always used to do when I had run out of answers.  I called my dad. 

“Hello?”  he said groggy and confused.  I knew Dad would answer the phone.  He was a world famous OB/GYN surgeon so he was always on call. 

“Dad?” I managed to get out between sobs.

“Jeff?  Do you know what time it is?”  There was a pause as he looked for the alarm clock.  “It’s 2am son.  What’s going on?”

“Dad,  I’m in trouble.”  I was still sobbing uncontrollably.  I could feel the worried tension coming through the line.  “I have two finals tomorrow.  (sob, sniffle)  And I only studied for one.  (more sobbing)  I didn’t study for Chemistry Dad.  (more sniffling)  I don’t know what to do.”

There was a long pause. 

Finally Dad said, “Son, it’s 2am.  Go to bed.”

“But what about the test Dad?”

“In the morning, go to class.  Suck it up.  And fail like a man.  Good night.”

My Dad’s Advice on Potential Failure

5 thoughts on “My Dad’s Advice on Potential Failure

  1. jeffandwendy says:

    I had to take the class again the next semester. If I remember right I could answer 2 of 50 questions with no problem and I tried to fake it on another 10 or so. I do remember writing at the bottom of my test, “See you next semester.”

  2. John Elkins says:

    I remember that night… Dad told me I should pray for you the next morning and I asked why and he said you had two hard tests and he was worried. I remember you telling that story later on in life and I made the connection in my brain. It was awesome! I laughed at you for an hour, then I realized how incredible my brother and dad really were (still are). as a result, I don’t think I have ever feared failure.

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