In 2004, I walked into Mumbai’s Oberoi Hotel for my Wharton MBA admissions interview. I was nervous but once the interview started I got into flow.

The interview was smooth, and I had no idea how time flew by until the interviewer thanked me, indicating that the interview was over.

But when I stepped out and saw the clock, it hit me.

The interview had barely lasted 17-18 minutes. Usually, these interviews last 30 min or more.

Clearly, I had bombed the interview but I wasn’t sure how. What did I do wrong?

Did I give a stupid answer? Or did I speak too fast? Yes, that must be it. When I get excited, I talk like machine-gun burst fire. Was I even intelligible?

I cursed myself liberally — why did I have to act like it was the rapid-fire round of a quiz show?

For the next few days, I catastrophized endlessly. Just 18 minutes of stupidity was going to cost me my admission.

Finally, when the Wharton decision came, I got the admission offer. I now rationalized, ‘How does the duration matter as long as you answer the questions well?’

We all have a natural tendency to catastrophize. While it seems likely to help us be more prepared, more often, it just makes us panic and freeze.

Here is the truth — we have no idea what will happen tomorrow. Just be present and do what you can do right now — that is the only way to avert tomorrow’s catastrophes.

Next time you catastrophize, remind yourself — it could be a case of an ‘18 min interview.’

– Rajan

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