Here’s a job interview question that gets asked a lot:
“What is your greatest achievement?”
I was thinking about all the times I gave the wrong answer:
“I grew [company name]’s social media following by 150% in 3 months and grossed more than $3600 in ticket sales for some pretty big music industry names.”
Sounds like a pretty good professional achievement to share, right?
It’s expected but it doesn’t stand out. Plus, it’s not my greatest achievement.
To date, my greatest life achievement is blowing bubbles with an 8-year old.
Her name was Jamie. Brown hair, brown eyes, absolutely terrified of water.
I was 14, volunteering at a summer camp teaching swim lessons.
On the first day of camp, I received my class rosters and was disappointed that I’d been given a level 1 class with just 1 student, an 8-year-old. Most 8-year-olds were level 3 or 4. Level 1 was almost exclusively set aside for the 5-year-olds.
The head life-guard sat me down in private before the class, explaining why this 8-year-old was a level 1.
A few years earlier, Jamie had a near-drowning experience after falling out of a boat. Since then, she had refused to go anywhere near water.
Why God? Why this sweet and innocent girl?
I had 8 days to help her pass the level 1 test.
Day 1 – We spent looking at the lake and wading in ankle deep. That triggered hyperventilating. So, as she cut off the circulation in my hand, she reached down and touched the water with her finger tips.
How was 8-days going to be enough time?
Day 2 – We tried to blow bubbles but she burst out in screams.
I showed her to neigh like a horse while exhaling, which made me look like an idiot in front of my peers but in hindsight, it was the coolest thing I ever did. Jamie laughed and snorted at me. She forgot to panic.
It was THE slowest process. We looked at the water. We put our faces to the water. She squeezed her eyes shut as she neighed like a horse with just the tip of her nose touching.
By the end of the week 1, I had gotten Jamie knee deep and holding onto the dock for dear life. We worked our way deeper, literally inch-by-inch. To summarize that process, there was a lot of hand holding and a lot if patience.
Week 2 – From ankle deep, to knee deep, to waist deep; from holding on to one arm while she let go with the other; we forgot about the 8-days.
But the day before the test, we worked our way to the deepest part of the dock and I held her arms while she dunked under for the first time!
Nothing I’ve seen in life has been more beautiful than the smile on her face when she came up.
The next day, test day, Jamie looked nervous; it was clear she didn’t feel ready to do it alone. But she puffed up her chest, took in a deep, confident breath, looked at me and then marched into the water like she had been doing it for years.
Dunk under – ✔️
Blow bubbles – ✔️
Glide – ✔️
Back float – ✔️
Everything done near perfect! She ran out of the water with tears rolling down her cheeks,
“I did it, I did it! I get to be a level 2 next year!”
She gave me the biggest and coldest wet hug, and that afternoon she played in the water with the others instead of remaining on the beach by herself.
Fear gone, innocent, childlike joy – the way an 8-year-old should be.
The next year, I was standing on the beach and Jamie yelled to me from that deepest part of the dock,
“Look! I’m a level 3!”
From ankle deep to level 3. From terrified to brave. From a near-drowning experience to loving the water again. 8-days was more than enough for this 8-year-old.
Jamie is about 18 or 19 now. I wish I knew her and what she’s been up to. What other obstacles has she faced and overcame?
My greatest and best achievement is actually hers. How should I summarize that to a potential employer?
Wherever you are Jamie, I’m still cheering you on!