Adopting an American mindset: “no” means try harder (or is it just luck?)

Hello Readers!

During the Winter break, I’ve had a chance to visit New York and spend time with friends in Burlington, Vermont (A bit of trivial here: Burlington is the birthplace of John Dewey, the influential philosopher on education! You can visit the home in which he grew up)


I’m now taking a short course in January as a cross-registered student titled “The Arts of Communication”. It’s a course at the Harvard Kennedy School and focuses on public speaking. Alumni have consistently rated the course was one of the most useful in their careers. For popular courses such as this one, there is consistently a long waitlist. Although I had registered early, I didn’t receive a response about whether I was accepted or not.

One of the important lessons I quickly learnt when coming to the USA is that “no” does not necessarily mean “no”. Had I been in the same situation in Australia, I would have thought, “well, I guess I didn’t register early enough. Better figure out something else to do.”

Instead, because public speaking is a skill that I wanted to really work on, and because good communication is the foundation for all relationships, I tried a little harder. I contacted the Professor, and was able to sit in on the first class where she told me there was a spot for me available.

While it helped that I reached out to the Professor, there is a fine line between recognizing the difference between “no meaning try harder”, and having a false sense of entitlement. And in this case, as in most success stories (no matter how big or small), what we think is due to our determination or hard work, is actually luck

Here’s to a wonderful 2014!

PS Here is the Course Syllabus for those interested in accessing the readings.

Lisa Qin is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. She aims to create meaningful and sustainable reforms to address the complex issues of education inequality. 

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