He sat in the far corner of the room–no clip board, no notepad, no smile.
I couldn't make out his face–the room was dark and the curtains were drawn.
I waited for Al Pacino to bust down the door, cigar in hand.
I was seated near the door, at a table, with a woman named Carol opposite me. I was to address Carol–not the man in the corner–and, most importantly, stay focused.
I trembled as I pulled a box out of the garbage bag. It was a brown cardboard hexagon-shaped box. One I had bought at a craft store two weeks prior. One I had labored over. Sweat over. And one that I hoped would change everything.
“This,” I started, pointing at a scanned, shrunken newspaper article that I had pasted to one side, “was the stone wall I built for my friend Jill.”
Carol's face remained indifferent.
“She passed away when we were in middle school.”
I slowly rotated the box. “And this, over here, is when I led our volleyball team to a district championship as Captain.”
“I bet your mother was very proud,” Carol interjected.
“My mother never saw me play volleyball.”
I quickly glanced away and continued on with my carefully planned monologue, pulling a second box from inside the bigger one. Another hexagon.
With each turn of the box, I listed yet another arbitrary achievement–Honor Society President, Student Council Secretary, Yearbook Staff–before pulling out an even smaller hexagon box and rattling off more of the same. I had spent hours scanning, shrinking, and painstakingly pasting evidence to my hexagon boxes.
“And this,” I said, “is a copy of the eulogy I gave, as I led my father's memorial service,” before rotating the box to show another side. “And this is the estate sale I held thereafter.”
“How old were you?”
She made a note. The man in the corner did not make any notes.
It was then, however, that I pulled the remaining box from the stack–the smallest, and seemingly least important. I paused, placing the tiny box on the table, and mustered the courage to look her in the eye to say the one thing I had really come to say.
I took a deep breath.
“But none of any of that matters,” I began. “Not the awards. Not the recognition. Not the hardship. And nothing I've just gotten done telling you about.”
I had her attention.
“Because if you would do me the honor of opening the last box, you'll see why.”
I slid the box toward her. She lifted the lid.
Inside was a plush red something, tucked neatly inside.
“What makes me a future entrepreneur,” I said, “is that, right there.”
She pulled it out of the box.
It was then that, despite the shadows, I noticed a small smile spread across the founder of Monster.com's face. Andy McKelvey then stood up, walked over to me and shook my hand.
One week later, I had won a fully paid scholarship to a private university, including room and board and a brand new laptop, worth over $120,000.
I accepted the award on stage, and watched as the other winners' families surrounded them with flowers, proud faces and dinner reservations at fancy restaurants.
I silently snuck out the side door.
Everything was going to be alright.
It wasn't until many years later that I was convinced that what I had said in that interview room at Penn State University wasn't just a well-executed line to win a scholarship.
It was the truth.
And throughout the years would I come to discover just how true it actually was.
Because as it turns out, no matter who you are, what your circumstances are, or how little you're starting with…
…heart will always, always, always be your number one asset.
And sometimes, all we need to do?
…is remember to access it.