The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

My independence began with a walk.

One morning, instead of bursting into my mom’s room and shaking her awake to drive me to school, I quietly inched the door open. As I peeked down at a silhouette curled up in a fluffy mess of blankets, I couldn't see a chauffeur, or a cook, or a maid; I saw my mom. That was the first morning I took a step back, closed the door behind me, and walked to school myself.

I spent the first thirteen years of my life completely dependent on my parents, my every desire—material things, activities, love—within hand’s reach. Every Friday my dad would take me to a nice dinner, showering me with gifts and treats, and until second grade I thought that all kids had Friday-fun-day with their dads. I expected my parents to make my life comfortable and to keep me in an ignorant bliss. At this time hardship meant a Christmas where Santa only brought six gifts.

One day in seventh grade my mom picked me up from school and drove us to the hospital. The next day a portion of my dad’s brain was removed. In the following two years my mom experienced medical bankruptcy, divorce, death, and lost a client that provided the majority of her income.

My relationship with my mom changed after that. Instead of coming home to a...

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