I’ve had some pretty good ones over the years.
There have been moments of complete face-first failure in the classroom, in the workplace, in the relationship, in the interview, in the mud even (I’ve always been clumsy). There have been petitions for requested space, and reminders to breathe, and times when even binge consuming positive quotes on Pinterest couldn’t get me out of the funk I got myself into.
I say all this because I graduated from Rutgers- Camden with my Bachelor of Arts in English almost two weeks ago, and as I celebrated the whole day with friends and family, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much work, and time, and energy, and straight up failure brought me to that moment of victory.
So, today I want to do something new.
So much of my graduation was about being the first in my family, and finally MAKING IT….but today, I’d like to celebrate failure. Failure, an almost constant companion over my last
four 5 years in college, is what you don’t see on Facebook. Failure, however, is what stretches us into who we can be.
Below are my top three failures and the lessons that I learned from them. Whether you’re a new professional, a recent graduate, or just starting your first day of college this fall- I hope that some of these lessons can help you out in your journey.
Failure 1: (perhaps my greatest one) I postponed my math and science requirements until the end of my college career, which forced me to stay an extra super senior year.
As a first generation student, and an aspiring higher education professional, I can blame a tiny portion of this failure on the lack of guidance that exists at most institutions for first generation college students (this is one of the many reasons why I want to serve in student affairs). However, this failure can mostly be attributed to the fact that I had really low confidence in my quantitative and scientific abilities, and was too afraid to ask for help. *Luckily, I finished off my math class my super senior year with a B+ after years and years of C’s. Thank you Dr. Johansen!
If you don’t know something, seek out the answer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because often you end up looking more silly when you don’t ask for help.
Procrastination is not just laziness. Procrastination hides deeper issues, often surrounding low confidence and fear of failure. Still, procrastination is not an excuse. Start the project anyway. Write a word, make a phone call. As Anne Lamott says, most things in our life start with “shitty first drafts.”
Failure 2: The semester I spent running a freelance writing and editing business…which really turned into the semester I spent laying in bed, feeling bad that I wasn’t writing. I made a total of $60.00 that semester, and to put things in perspective- I started off that semester buying a $30.00 book on how to run a freelance writing business. I’m not great at math, but I know that my return wasn’t great.
I enjoy writing. “To write everyday whether people see it or not” has been a goal of mine for years. However, I thought that loving writing meant that I should want to be a freelance writer. After that semester, I learned very quickly that a full time freelance writing career was not for me. I’m an extrovert- a person who learns best and lives best when I can be around others for inspiration and good discussion. That being said, spending hours and hours alone to write was not for me. In addition to that, I’m ashamed to say that I spent a lot of my time viewing my writing as a way to gain fame and not as a way to serve my readers and make a difference. I wasn’t writing what I felt called to write. I was writing to get likes. Ego mixed with an environment that wasn’t right for me produced little to no results after a semester.
Self-awareness is key. Take note of what works for you, and doesn’t work for you. Seek out environments and positions that allow you to shine.
The greatest question in any endeavor should always be “How can I serve to the best of my ability?” not “How can I make my mark?”
Ego has no place in the workplace.
Failure 3: The endless hours I spent trying out pursuits that I knew weren’t right for me.
*Don’t worry- none of these short lived opportunities are on my resume.
I’m a multipassionate person- so for many years, I struggled to know what was truly right for me. I would hop in and out of projects and professions and majors that didn’t feel right for me, and I’m ashamed to say that the majority of these obligations were taken on because I was too afraid to say “no” or to disappoint people. Yes, I am a longtime sufferer of PPS- People Pleasing Syndrome. Though it has been a constant struggle, I daily fight my way out of living for others, and through these experiences I have learned more and more to live for me, and what I need.
People who want to please others-at the expense of their own dreams and needs- finish last.
Quality matters over quantity- but sometimes quantity is helpful to figure out quickly what you want to experience, and what you don’t want to experience.
Live life on your own terms, and don’t care what people think. Your time and emotional welfare matter. When you say no, really say no. This is the greatest action that can help you build self esteem.
When my name was called last week at graduation, I began to walk across the stage (a rehearsed dab already in process) when suddenly I felt myself shove two peace signs into the air at the crowd. I took my rolled up diploma (which was actually a piece of paper that said I would receive my real diploma in 4-6 weeks) and I walked off stage feeling triumphant- feeling ready to celebrate.
The knowledge of my past failure, and the lessons I have learned, continue to stay with me.
Now, I am proud to announce that I will be pursuing a Master of Arts in Higher Education at the Ohio State University in the fall. In addition to that, I will be supervising 7-10 undergraduate Resident Assistants as a live-in Assistant Hall Director.
Many exciting opportunities are coming my way, but I don’t doubt for a second that this also means many more failures are in process.
No matter what- I am happy to bring a culture of failing forward to my positions as a student and a campus leader at Ohio State…and I honestly can’t wait to see what I will learn next.
What have been your greatest failures? Where were you able to learn the most? What lessons stick with you from those moments?