“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
The hardest thing for me is to be number two. As a kid, I would intentionally misspell a word to disqualify myself from the annual spelling bee because I was afraid of what would happen if I made it to the next round, and the next, and the next. I told myself I'd rather give up at the beginning than try really hard and only come close. I was terrified of getting my hopes up and failing—defined narrowly as not being the very best, number one. So for many years I pushed hard only for those things where my success was ensured. At the very least, I'd rationalize my failure by telling myself I hadn't actually tried my hardest. At HBS we're taught to play to our strengths. But in my life I've found humor in being a horrible skier (ask my friends!), a lesson in my failed bid for a promotion, and peace in being unable to make that certain relationship work. Every once in a while I need to admit that I tried really hard for something and yet was unable to achieve the success I'd hoped for. I will live my life by always striving for first place, without a fear of second place. Or third or fourth.

— Joan Cheng