The Role of Obstacles in Accomplishments

Imagine you are watching what you were told is a romantic movie. There is a hero, and there is a heroine. One day they meet at a party. They fall in love. They start dating. After a few months, they decide to get married. They have a grand wedding. The movie ends!

You can be sure that, with a story line like this, the movie will run out of an audience pretty soon.

Why, what’s wrong with the story?

It is extremely dull. That is because the lovers encounter no obstacles: there is no rival lover, there are no challenging circumstances to overcome, and there is nothing to test the depth of their love. The story falls flat.

The more obstacles you bring in, the more interest the story will evoke. The heart of the story will lie in the overcoming of the obstacles. It is this, in fact, that will make the hero a hero, and the heroine a heroine. Without it, there will be nothing to make them stand out.

Think of Romeo and Juliet. What makes their story poignant is the obstacles they encountered, and how their love endured through it all.

Put Obstacles in Your MBA Accomplishments Essays

Yes, obstacles have a key role to play in your application. When you write your story, present the obstacles as well, and let the adcom know how you surmounted them.

Let us consider portions of two versions of the same MBA essay:

When I was a Project Manager at Company XYZ, I invented the Anilox laser machine, which is the most innovative machine of its kind in the industry. I had it tested, and was confident that I had made an important scientific breakthrough. It has a novel feature that makes it special: it utilizes ultrasound viscometers that measure the ink viscosity in line with the printer machine. When I succeeded in persuading a client to buy it, I gave up my job and used the money to start my own company.

The invention is impressive, no doubt, but the account does not read too well. It is bland. Why? Because there is no conflict here, no hardships, no obstacles. Introduce these, and an element of drama enters the scene which makes the goings-on much more interesting, as in the passage below:

When I was working as a Project Manager at Company XYZ, I would return home in the evenings and, rather than relax, head straight to my workshop to complete an invention I had conceptualized – the Anilox laser machine. It would have a novel feature that would make it special: it would utilize ultrasound viscometers that would measure the ink viscosity in line with the printer machine. Working on it relentlessly, I created my first machine, had it tested, and felt confident that I had made an important scientific breakthrough. But when I went up to the company I was working for and enthusiastically offered it to them, they were suspicious of it and turned it down immediately.

Deeply disappointed as I was, I kept my chin up and looked around for a client. I faced the resistance all inventors face – people were sceptical. Even when I explained the process to them in minute detail, they refused to be convinced. Then one day, it happened: I found my client. He bought my machine, and my life changed forever. I gave up my job and used the money to found my own company.

When you are talking of your achievements in your essays, don’t just dwell on what you accomplished; emphasize also the obstacles you had to overcome before you finally succeeded. Your achievements will come across all the more impressively because of them.

Sandip Bhattacharya

I specialize in assisting International applicants to apply to top B-schools in USA, Canada and EU. Over the last decades, I have successfully helped hundreds of applicant from United States, UK, Canada, Mexico, India, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and Africa. I recognize the pain points of the applicants and help them meticulously to overcome those crucial barriers. Click here to review my clients’ feedbacks, including video testimonials!

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