Let me give it to you straight. My whole life, things came pretty easily to me. I joined ballet, worked hard, it went well. I went to school, worked hard, it went well. I picked up tennis, worked hard, it went well. I think you can see the pattern.
So, the equation was easy to formulate. Start Something + Work Hard = Stunning Success. Well, guess how long that worked. Right up until my second year of college (i.e. now.) Because once I hit a road bump, once things didn’t go exactly my way… well, you can imagine where that put me. Sad, pathetic, rethinking everything about life one pint of Ben & Jerry’s at a time.
Because sometimes you won’t get into a club. Sometimes you’ll study really hard and not get the grade you want. And sometimes, actually, all the time, not everyone in the world will like you. Some of you are like, “well duh.” And good for you, because that means that hopefully you learned this lesson sooner. But if this comes as a shock for anyone, read on. It gets better. Actually, read on if you’re one of the “well, duh” people too. It still gets better.
So what I learned this year is simple. I’ll start with the punch line and that’s this: the key is failure.
1. Failure means that you took a risk.
High risk is high reward, but not without its setbacks, stumbles, obstacles and millions of bumps and bruises. So by taking a risk, you forge a new path and let’s face it, sometimes you fall flat on your face. But by that hundredth try, you’ve learned ninety-nine reasons why it didn’t work out and you’re one reason closer to why it will.
2. Failure gives you the opportunity to be resilient.
You probably know Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school basketball team, or that Steve Jobs was actually voted out of Apple, or that Abraham Lincoln ran for office eight times and had two failed business ventures. But they came back, bigger and stronger than ever. Sometimes you need to fail to learn what to do better. On a way, way smaller scale, this semester, I failed an Economics midterm. I studied at least ten hours, stayed in all weekend, read every PowerPoint and took every practice exam… and received a big fat 42%. Someone encouraged me to take that failure and use it as ammo. So I did. And I ended up with the highest grade in an economics class I’ve ever had. Here’s to you, MJ.
3. Failure makes you humble.
And humility and willingness to change things (whether that’s about your approach or even about yourself) is hugely important. I learned that the hard way, and then also read it in this awesome article here. If you find yourself in a situation where you realize that, really, not everyone in the world will love you… evaluate, contemplate and change what is necessary if you feel convicted that you’ve got some mad character flaws. Then with what is left, don’t change a thing. Because not everyone in the world will like you. And if they do, go back to that evaluation and contemplation. Because if everyone likes you, you’re doing something wrong.
So what I realized this year is that I’ve got a lot of failing left to do. So I better get started, like yesterday. I have to take risks, endure bumps and bruises, then get back on my feet and get ready to start all over until I get it right. By the end of my life, I want to cross the finish line with every possible risk that came my way taken.