An ADD Case Study: What Does it Mean to "Fail"?
By ADD Management Coach Jennifer Koretsky
© Copyright 2004
Josh is a client of mine who is a junior in college. He's very
smart. He's amazingly smart. Talk to Josh for an hour and you'll
know how smart he is. But if you don't know Josh and you look at his
grades from previous semesters, you would probably guess that he
wasn't smart at all.
Josh gets frustrated in school. He works hard, but often finds that
the pressure of test taking overwhelms him, and his grades suffer for
Recently, Josh had a midterm in his Economics class. He knew it
would be tough. He hates this class, but it's required for his
Business major. He had one test in the class already, which he did
not pass. For the midterm, there were 3 books to review, and pages
upon pages of notes to memorize. But he was determined to get an A.
Three weeks prior to the test, he began setting aside review time.
He highlighted the books, and took notes on them. He rewrote his
notes to memorize them. And he even formed a study group with some
of his classmates.
The morning of the test, Josh felt good. He had plenty of rest the
night before, he ate a good breakfast, and he was ready to ace his
Economics test. He got to the classroom, ready to go, and when the
test was handed out and he flipped through it, he froze. The test
was four pages long, with short answer questions, math problems, and
an essay. Even though he had studied so hard, Josh started to doubt
himself. He did his best to push past the anxiety and overwhelm and
finish the test. Then he went back to his dorm room and slept. He
was physically and emotionally spent.
A week went by before Josh got his test back. It was a B. He had
studied so hard, he knew the material, and yet all he got was a B.
He was crushed. "I did the best I could, I worked so hard to
overcome this test-taking fear, and I failed."
"What exactly did you fail at?" I asked.
"I got a B," he replied. "I put so much work into that test that I
should have got an A."
For Josh, it was very easy to look at the situation and see failure.
He wanted an A. He wanted to prove to himself, his parents, and his
professor that he could ace this test. And Josh was so busy holding
himself up to unrealistic expectations, that he completely missed his
1. He stuck to the structure that we created for him.
2. He developed excellent study habits to prepare for the test.
3. He got a B! He answered approximately 80% of the questions
correctly, when just a month ago he wasn't passing the class.
I pointed this out to Josh and, although he listened, he only half-
Then, two days ago, I got this email from Josh:
I got my philosophy test back today and guess what, I got an A-! I
thought about what you said and realized that I have been doing
really good studying this semester and I am doing better than I ever
have. My dad is so excited about my B and A-. Thanks for pointing
it out because sometimes its hard to see the good stuff."
I agree. Sometimes it is hard to see the good stuff - whether you're
a student, an artist, an office worker, a business owner, or a
parent. When that happens, look harder. Even if you "fail," you'll
still learn something about yourself or the situation you're in. And
if you're learning, then you're really not failing, are you...?
This story was shared with Josh's permission.
About the Author:
Jennifer Koretsky is a Professional ADD Management Coach who helps
adults manage their ADD and move forward in life. She encourages
clients to increase self-awareness, focus on strengths and talents,
and create realistic action plans. She offers a 90-day intensive
skill-building program, workshops, and private coaching. Her work has
been featured in numerous media, including The New York Times
Magazine and The Times (UK). To subscribe to Jennifer's free email
newsletter, The ADD Management Guide, please visit