By: Sean Massa
“Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” - Robert T. Kiyosaki
There is are two important lessons that no one ever taught me. They are things that I have learned from my lowest points as a student, and things that I continue to learn to this day. They are common sense, but hard to really identify with. Quite simply, the hardest lessons I have had to learn in my academic career are this:
2) You are not your failures.
In high school, I had been satisfied with my academic accomplishments. With an above average GPA and AP courses already under my belt, I felt secure in my identity - I was a good student. However when I went to college, my whole understanding of personal academic achievement had changed.
Upon arriving, I was no longer a big fish in a little pond: I was a big fish swimming in an ocean of big fish. Many nights I stayed awake studying for hours and hours, only to receive a B or C- at the end of the day. I remember being crying to my family during Christmas holiday when final grades were released. All those nights studying - were they for nothing? When I tried finding opportunities to do research my first year, I also had no luck. I applied to over 20 different labs and received no word back. Was I doing something wrong? What was wrong with me?
After my freshman year, I slowly began to regain some confidence as I adjusted to the higher course rigor. Yet, even for years following I continued to internalize my academic feedback in a personal way. It was a mindset that made me sensitive to any criticism. In work, with family, in school - any critique of my efforts became a critique of myself.
What I have come to learn is that it doesn't have to be that way. From school and work experiences, I now know that failure is something you can't avoid. At some point, you will mess up. But that's okay. Here are a number of important points that I honestly think every student needs to know:
What failure does not mean:
- You are worthless. (Listen to Beyoncé... Flawless...)
- Your work is meaningless. (Obviously not true.)
- You should give up your passions and dreams. (Listen to Shia LeBeouf... Don't give up on them!)
What does failure mean:
- You have room for improvement. (No one is perfect, right?)
- You can seek out other opportunities. (If one door closes, another opens.)
- You can refine yourself and try again. (If at first you don't succeed...try again!)
Some of my friends have been circulating a photo on Facebook lately that talks about the struggles of some famous people in their young age: “At 23, JK Rowling was broke, Tina Fey was working at the YMCA, Oprah had just been fired as a TV reporter, And Walt Disney had declared bankruptcy, It's going to be okay.” If it worked out for them, it can work out for you and me. The path to success is never linear. In fact, I think it's more like a rollercoaster, but one that we design going progressively upward.
Failure is going to happen. There will be expectations to perform a certain way, whether made by yourself or others, and you will not meet those expectations. Failure is never the end. It is only the beginning of a longer process of personal growth and development. So don't take it personally. Continue to seek out your strengths and passions whatever they may be. Learn from the experience, and move on knowing that things can only improve. Upward and onward.
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