Failure Competition 2.0: Failure to Success

Below is an email I received from Dr. Robert Porter who teaches our capstone course. He took up the challenge to begin our failure competition last year. We had 177 entries and more than 800 votes were cast on-line to determine the winner among our four semi-finalists. As we prepared for this semester’s competition, Bob shared the following observations with me. They make for compelling reading and I hope they will be of great use to our students as they prepare for this round of competition…..


You are a champion of the idea that exploring failure is a key learning opportunity for our students. I shared this idea last semester in a challenge to my students in their capstone/applied strategy course – to share their experiences regarding their own challenges. During that semester I was asked by a student, “Is failure the best teacher in life?” While I personally don’t think it is always the best teacher, I do think it creates one of the most powerful learning opportunities we can experience. I think a good way to view this process is to recognize that learning to succeed is often the result of a personal change driven by one’s failure.

One of my greatest learning experiences in life was when I failed my physical exam to enter the US Naval Academy. The Academy represented a chance to get an incredible college education, and serve my country in repayment. My grandfather was a Naval Academy graduate, and as a result I was eligible for a Presidential Appointment to the Academy. The appointment process to an Academy is a rigorous examination process. I spent two years in high school going through the interviews, taking the qualification exams, and ultimately I received the Presidential Appointment contingent upon a physical exam. My physical exam came during my senior year in high school. The exam was conducted at a naval base by navy doctors and it took a full day. I learned at the end of the exam that due to a childhood injury to my hip when I was 10, which landed me in a home for crippled children for a year, I would most likely have severe arthritis about the time that I graduated from the Academy. As a result, I was rejected and my Presidential Appointment was given to the next qualified candidate. I was devastated by the news. I was a high school senior with no good backup plan for college due to the near certainty of my appointment. I thought my entire future was based on going to the Naval Academy.

One of my most significant mentors in life was a man named Lew Treen. He was a war veteran, a gifted semi-pro baseball player, and a high school principal and coach. One thing he taught me was, “To learn is to change, and to change is to learn.” I called Lew Treen the day I was rejected to get his advice. His advice was to ‘learn from this, build on it, and move forward.’

I wound up attending UCF to obtain my engineering undergraduate degree. This led to my career with General Electric, and many other very positive opportunities in my life. I learned that major setbacks in life, with a great deal of work, can be converted into very positive new directions. Success is not automatic in life, even if you have a Presidential endorsement. You have to learn how to succeed. Failure guides you on what you need to change when you don’t succeed.

I propose we set a challenge for our students along these lines -to paraphrase Lew Treen, “Learning to succeed can be the result of change driven by failure.” While I think exploring experiences related to failure may encourage students to press through their challenges, I think that positioning the failure exercise to focus on how students have learned from these failures or how they used them as a platform to succeed makes this challenge focus on an individual’s growth that results from change. It essentially transforms the exercise from articulating one’s failure into the process of learning and growing from it. Everyone fails at something at one point or another in life, and if we are able to approach these situations with the perspective that we can learn and grow from them, then they are not failures after all, but learning ultimately how to change and then succeed.

As a side note, when I was 30, I needed a total hip replacement just to be able to walk – the Navy doctors were right.

Bob Porter, PhD


21 thoughts on “Failure Competition 2.0: Failure to Success

  1. I admire that Professor Porter used his own past in explaining failure. One of the things I had to learn is to never be afraid of failure. I believe failure is part of learning, and it shapes who we truly become. Had I not experience a bad semester or two when I transferred to UCF, I probably would have never developed the work ethic and passion I have now. Failure in a way is a blessing in disguise. Thank you Dr. Porter for sharing your insights.

  2. Shevon Johnson
    Sharon Sheridan

    Dr. Paul Jarley,

    When I graduated from high school, I went right into college. Everything was going great with school and my parents were ecstatic that I was going to college. They were very strict parents and even at 18, I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend. Well I finally met someone, and of course, they didn’t approve of him. We dated for three years before we got the news that I was pregnant. This was the worst news my parents could have ever gotten from me. I felt like I had crushed their dreams of me finishing college. I got married and two babies later, we were on our way to raising a family. My parents wanted the best for me, like any other parents, but life got a hold of me and was taking me for a ride. After moving into our first home together, things didn’t work out as I would have hoped. My husband and I started to fight a lot and had gotten physical at some point. I then had to put my pride aside and tell my parents that they were right about everything and that I was going to get a divorce because this is not how I wanted to live my life. I divorced my husband of seven years, and not to mention, I had two girls to bring up on my own. I didn’t let the circumstances of life take control again, so I went and found a job and took care of my girls with no help from anyone for seven years.

    After years of not dating, trying to figure out who I was and where I wanted to go, I finally started to date again. My girls came first before anything in life. That being said, dating was hard to do because my checklist was longer than usual now. I prayed hard about finding the right person to come into my life and waited patiently, sifting out the bad seeds carefully. I found him! Finally, my angel came to rescue me. He loves my girls like they are his own and we have built a life of happiness. I always wanted to go back to school and finish so my parents can be proud of me. It was a dream of both theirs and mine. My angel made it possible for me one day after being taken advantage of at work, he said to me, “why don’t you just go back to school.” I jumped at the opportunity and was signed up for Fall Semester and had three classes to take before getting my AA. After receiving my AA, I signed up for UCF and was on the way to getting my degree.

    The lesson to this story is to not give up on your dreams although you may think they are unattainable. Life has a funny way of teaching you lessons. My parents only wanted the best for me and I felt like a failure when I had to quit school. I never gave up on the idea that I wanted to finish one day. I just had to get the opportunity to go back and it’s not an easy decision when you have a family to take care of. I am so proud that I am finally in my graduating semester and I have done it. When I first started back, it was very hard to adjust at first, but after a couple semesters, I got the hang of it and there was no turning back. I know there are many out there that feel like it is impossible to go back and finish, but my girls gave me the strength I needed at times to pull through. I push education on them and I want to be a role model for them. I want to have an answer for them when they ask me, “Mom, what do you have your degree in?” I want to encourage them to not give up on their dreams no matter what life throws at them. My parents will be watching me walk across the stage in December to get my degree and I will be the first in my family to graduate college. This is one of my biggest accomplishments.

  3. Waqar H. Mahamad
    Sharon Sheridan

    I was in my senior year of high school when I got the news of my mother’s cancer. It devastated not only me but my entire family. My grades were affected, but I did manage to graduate in May of 2008. After high school, I decided not to start college because I wanted to spend time with my mother since she was fighting stage three colon cancer. Later that year in November, she passed away two weeks before my 18th birthday.

    My mother made me promise her that I would attend college. She knew I loved accounting, and she wanted me to get qualified. However after her passing, I took up two full-time jobs at McDonald’s and Walmart. I sought refuge in work to escape my reality. After about three months of continuous work and sleep deprivation, I fell into a depression. I felt like I had hit rock bottom. Eventually, I realized that the only way to pick myself back up was to accept my reality.

    It was only after I accepted that my mother was no more that the idea of college was back on the table. In Fall of 2009, I enrolled into Valencia Community College (now known as Valencia College). My first semester I had to take prep reading and writing classes, but I was determined to keep my promise and pursue my dream. Now in 2013, I stand potentially to become a CPA.

  4. Hyun Woong Park
    Ghada Baz

    When I was younger, I didn’t really realize how important my education would be for my future. I was an average student in middle school; average GPA, wasn’t a slacker, but wasn’t an overachiever either. High school was the real low point in my life. I began hanging out with friends and having fun rather than studying. I ended up taking the Korean style SATs, which are extremely important if you ever want to amount to anything. I, still, had the carefree attitude which resulted in a low score, and, me, going to a local community style college. Just like high school, I took that for granted and continued to just party and goof off with my friends.
    I decided to put my college career on hold and complete my two-year, mandatory, army duty in Korea. During my time in the army, my friend offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity. He had family in the U.S. and would help me build a fresh start in a whole different country. He had a place for me to stay and information for a good English program. I had nothing to lose, so after my two-year service was over, I packed up and left Korea to start a new life in America. It was not at all what I expected. It was hard. It made me realize how important my education is and how I had wasted all of that time goofing off rather than studying and trying to better my future. I realized my brain was useless. I didn’t even remember the basics of English from my classes in Korea. I was lost.
    I knew it was time to grow up and to create a goal. I was just living day-to-day without a plan. I was like an assembly line in a factory, doing only what was necessary, not trying to improve or to break free. I decided to put my skills to use and pursue a degree in accounting. I am in my last term at UCF and I will finally be able to say that I accomplished something that I never thought was possible. It was difficult, especially while trying to support my family, but I did it, and it feels great. I have set bigger goals for my future including raising my lovely children to be successful and not just play around like I did. I want them to set goals and follow their dreams so they won’t make the same mistake I did.
    I am now 30 years old and just about to graduate with my first Bachelor’s degree. If I had played my cards right, I would have a wonderful career by now and graduated when I was 23. Everything happens for a reason and life is all about learning. I learned my lesson and will make sure that my children will not make the same mistake. Like the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I have seen what slacking does and I think that has made me a stronger person. I have a stronger work ethic because of it and I know that without goals and dreams, you aren’t going to go very far.

  5. Adrienne Dolly
    Regan Stevenson

    At sixteen I dropped out of high school. Not graduating from high school was a major failure in my life. In the midst of a family crisis, I dropped the remaining classes that I was already failing. For years I was embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t have a high school education. I didn’t talk about it to people, or ever admit it on a job application, but every day I carried the weight of this failure and incompleteness in my life. I often wondered to myself, how different my life would be, if I had just toughed it out and finished. It wasn’t the classes were too hard, or I couldn’t of gotten help, but I choose to take the easy way out. I simply gave up. I failed. I failed myself.
    For twelve years I lived with the pain and the inner turmoil this failure caused me, until the burden of this became a driving force in my life. I stopped hiding form it, faced what this incompleteness was, and accepted the challenge to moved forward. Failure is a misunderstood, misplaced, starting point, and if you allow it to, it can be transformed into the inspiration and motivation you need to achieve great things. I realized, I was allowing myself to be bound by this one event. Sometimes our own thoughts are the obstacle, just manifested and projected into one event. Who was stopping me from overcoming this, who was allowing me to be stifled by this? It was me.
    Change. That is what it took to begin to recover from this failure. I earned a General Education Certificate and took the admissions test at Brevard Community College where I was required to take a math prep-class that began with fractions, again I failed. Only this time it was different. I didn’t quit, because I knew what that felt like, I knew that pain, so I repeated the course and passed. After earning an Associate’s Degree with a gpa of 3.97, I applied to the University of Central Florida, and there I struggled many, many times to complete the curriculum, but not one time did I entertain the thought of quitting.
    See, what I learned from this failure, which I had carried for all those years, is sometimes, that is exactly the drive you need to achieve success. Failure is a challenge calling you to action. It is an invaluable lesson to learn in life, that if you fail, you will carry that with you, until you take action to make amends with yourself and understand what that failure means to you. When failing a class at BCC and faced with the choice of giving up or to fight it out, the choice was clear. I already knew what it felt like to fail, you need to feel that sting, so that when you have the opportunity to succeed you will seize it. Success is the answer to failure’s challenge.
    In just a few short weeks, when I put my cap and gown on, and walk across the stage to graduate Summa Cum Laude, in accounting. I will no longer be a 16 year old high school dropout, but a successful college graduate.

  6. Jeffrey Rossi
    Prof. Mari Yentzer Rains

    I’ve wanted to be a pilot my whole life. When I was just two years old, my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I responded enthusiastically, “a plane!” As childish as this response was, it created a theme that stayed with me for life—I’ve always wanted to fly.

    I graduated near the top of my class in high school and an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) scholarship worth over $120,000 to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Aerospace Engineering Program.I excelled through the early stages of the program. Between my freshman and sophomore year, I took a tour of Columbus AFB and earned an incentive ride in a T-38 fighter jet.

    After completing Officer Field Training, I was excited that my dreams were within reach. Then I had to take one last physical before I was given my qualifications to fly. Everything went well but I struggled on my eye exam. Later that month I received the correspondence that crushed my hopes, my dreams, and my confidence. Because of the eye exam failure, I was no longer qualified to be a pilot or a navigator.

    I was devastated. On top of the horrible news, a few months later I received word that a close fraternity brother of mine was killed in a car accident. The stress from school and my friend’s death led me to find solace in excessive alcohol abuse and reckless behavior. In solitude, I slept all day and stirred all night; every day, every night. I was going through a bad depression and decided to seek counseling.

    But it was too late to undo the damage as I had already turned my back on my commitments with AFROTC, failed two of my classes, and was facing a loss of the funds that brought me there. Disgusted with my predicament, I signed discharge paperwork, agreeing to pay back the scholarship rather than enlist in the Air Force. However, I didn’t possess enough established credit to qualify for a loan to get me through the rest of my degree, and my parents were unable to co-sign for me.

    After being forced to drop out and let go of my dream, I drank and partied; I needed to escape reality to cope with my losses. I managed to hold bartending or sales jobs for almost six years, barely making minimum payments to the loans. Credit card debts continued to accumulate. Every day I would go to work hating my job; I didn’t fit in. Intelligent conversations with my co-workers were few and far between. I was embarrassed of who I had become. I struggled to hold down any job for very long because I always despised the fact that I didn’t realize my full potential.

    Six years of living as a struggling college dropout finally motivated me to change my life. I took ownership of my mistakes and learned from them. I found healthier coping mechanisms. After learning that my student loans could be deferred, I decided to go back to school. My mindset has been totally different ever since because I care about the lecture material; not just about making the grade. I crave exposure to as much education as I can attain. I don’t take these opportunities for granted. I tutor classmates as teaching them helps me further retain core concepts. I graduated Daytona State College with a 3.92 GPA and, though my GPA at UCF is closer to a 3.6, I believe that I have helped others around me succeed.

    After experiencing this turnaround, I can conclude that, personally, failure is something that falls short of what’s expected and shouldn’t define someone. I used to view myself as a failure, however I feel now that I’m stronger due do these experiences. To overcome my failures, I had to let go of my past, focus on my future aspirations, and put in the work to achieve one thing at a time.

    I’m not done yet. I plan to apply these lessons throughout my career. Although I can’t fly for the Air Force, I can create my future and amass the wealth to eventually soar in my own plane.

  7. Steven Bostel
    Bob Boettcher

    Around 5 years ago my girlfriend (now my wife) went back to school to become a certified esthetician, which is someone who performs skincare treatments based on their unique skin types. I encouraged her to pursue this path because it was something that she was truly interested in. She enjoyed the classes, earned good grades, and graduated. She had high hopes of getting a job at a high end spa or plastic surgeon’s office since she was now certified to work in the industry. After intensive job searching and numerous interviews she soon found out it was not going to be so easy to get her “dream job”.

    She soon began job hunting online and in her searching she found someone that was selling their skincare business that was located in a hair salon, at a price that we could afford. Now one might think it would be crazy to open a business with their spouse, some people thought we were even crazier to start a business since we were boyfriend and girlfriend at the time. However, as an aspiring entrepreneur I saw a great business opportunity for the both of us and everything just seemed to feel right. The hair salon was very nice, the people that worked there were very friendly and it seemed like a good fit, so we purchased the business.
    We soon found out that there was a reason that the previous owner sold the business… because they did not have any business! It was just not in a good location for the services that we offered. We tried very hard to market and get things going but we simply could generate enough money to make it work. So after nearly two years of trying, we decided to call it quits, cut our losses and sell off the equipment we had purchased. The whole experience truly tested our relationship and our bank accounts. We ultimately felt like we had failed miserably and had nothing to show for it.

    In the years to come we would soon find out how much value and experience we gained from our “failure”. My wife ended up getting a job at a dermatologist soon after we closed up shop. It was not the most ideal job but it helped the bills and build up her resume for the next job that she would get at a plastic surgeon’s office, and some spas performing skincare services. She moved from spa to spa for a couple years but then one day saw her “Dream Job” posed online. It was at one of the best spas in Brevard County. She updated her resume and applied for the job. She was selected as the best candidate for the job out of over 150 applicants.
    All of her jobs build up her resume that got her dream job.

    The foundation of that resume just so happened to be our failed business together. We did not realize it but 2 years of having our own business was a great resume builder for her. It also opened a lot of doors for her and had lasting benefits for both of us. After failing at a business together, without causing bodily harm to one another, we realized we could go through anything together and on December 31, 2010 we got married. We have a great marriage, made great friends along the way, and learned a lot about business in a small amount of time. She is now very happy at her current job and we are pursuing starting a photography business together in our free time. We will not make the same mistakes that we made in the skincare business. If we had not taken that risk five years ago we may not be where we are today. I am very happy that we tried our best and failed. No class could have taught us the lessons that we learned from that experience.

  8. Tanzia Peters
    SBU Manager- Mr. Gary Nichols

    Everyone has failed in life and if we haven’t means that we are not living. Before I start my story I just want to name a few people who have failed in life that allowed me to see that anything is possible. Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team, Steve Jobs got removed from the company he started, Albert Einstein didn’t learn how to speak until the age of 4 years old, Walt Disney was let go from a company because he didn’t have original ideas to come up with, Oprah Winfrey was demoted because they felt that she didn’t have the face for T.V., and The Beatles got rejected from a record label because they thought their music wouldn’t be successful. After hearing these stories it showed me that if I want something I need to go out and fight for it. Once I believe in myself anything is possible with the failure I had in life it really opened my eyes in being determined after awhile.
    There was a time I would never forget when I was attending Valencia Community College. I wanted to do an internship in Business but ever thing that they had on the list for internships I was not interested in. After a week of contemplating on what type of internship I wanted to pick from the list I woke up one morning and told my mom I want to intern in the fashion world. I love fashion so much it would be the best thing for me to do. So, I went to the internship office and asked the advisor, “if I was able to get a company that is willing to take me in as an intern and received credit for it would it possible”? The advisor told me yes but I have to make sure the company is legit and that they are willing to take me in. That day I spoke to her put a smile on my face.
    Now, I was always in love with how Kimora Lee Simmons ran her business. She was fun but stern at the same time. I kept looking up phone numbers on the internet to contact someone from the Baby Phat office but every number I found was disconnected. Trying to reach big time companies are hard because you can’t find a direct number to reach the actual people in the company.
    As I couldn’t get a hold of anyone and the semester was passing by I wanted to cry. I told my mom I give up, I felt like maybe it wasn’t meant for me. My mom sat me down and told me that you shouldn’t give up. If the people that are successful today gave up so easily we wouldn’t have a lot of businesses here today. Just talking to my mom gave me a warm feeling of knowing that she cares for me and she knows that I can do anything.
    As the spring semester rolled around I told myself I know I can get this internship and I am going to keep trying. So I talked to people that knows the industry and they told me that these companies get their interns from companies that are over them. After hearing that, I started looking for companies that did the hiring for Baby Phat. So I found this phone number that hired for Baby Phat, Nautica, Black and White, etc. I called an ended up getting this lady name Tina Watts. I would never forget her; that was my new best friend. She helped me so much on the procedure and what I need to do. I got all my paper work done and ended up landing the internship at Baby Phat in New York City. I signed up to do the internship that summer and I had such a wonderful experience. I couldn’t believe it took me 9 months to get this internship but I proved to myself and my family that I am able to accomplish any goal I plan to do in life.

  9. Naomi Joseph
    Reagan Stevenson

    I moved to the U.S. at the age of seventeen. When my grand-mother went to register me for high school, I ended up in the 11th grade.
    I went to French school my whole life. In Haiti, speaking French fluently is a big deal. I spent half of my life learning the language that was supposed to open doors for my future. My parents were proud of me. They made sure all their friends knew their little girl spoke French. When I started school in Miami, I did not know how to read anything in English and did not understand anything that was going on in class. I will go home and cry every day. I hated my school and wanted to go back to my country. I was always a great student at school. I never wanted to fail an exam. I’ll cry if I ever get a C’s because my mother will get angry at me. Couple of weeks after starting school, I learned about the FCAT. My friend told me I couldn’t go to college without passing the state exam.
    When came my first exam, I was nervous. I did know what to expect of the test. I was an ESOL 1 and was still learning how to put sentences together. My English teacher Ms. Carla brought me a Creole dictionary which was no help at all. I had never see a Creole dictionary in Haiti. I didn’t even know there was one for the creole language. I didn’t understand any of the words. I was seating in the room sweating. When the result came, I passed the Math and failed the English part of the test. I took the exam four times before passing it. I cried a lot during those two years. I missed a lot. But I didn’t give up. I read as many books that I could and went to every tutoring sessions there was at school. I couldn’t join any club or go out with friends after school. I wanted to go to college. I needed to pass the exam. I finally pass it and receive my high school diploma. This was the best day of my life.
    My mother always told me to pray and with God all things were possible. She never had a college degree but she encouraged me to continue with my education.
    Now, I’m getting close to graduate college. It has been a long ride but I can say I make it. I decided to take a minor in Creative Writing. I have a 3.4 GPA in English. Grammar is still my greatest challenge but I’m doing my best. Recently, I took magazine writing. And I wrote an article which I edited and proofread all by myself. I had an A with no deductible points for grammatical errors. There I am, the girl who didn’t understand anything in English not long ago wrote a 1600 words article.
    There’s more to life than feeling sorry for yourself. Life is about learning something new every day. As long as you are determine and work hard you’ll accomplish your dream. You just need to focus and believe in your ability to succeed.

  10. Jason Fay
    Reagan Stevenson

    As a student in the College of Business I thought that my education and intelligence would carry me through the business world on a green backed chariot. I attended all of the classes, read all of the chapters, and even spoke the lingo and dressed the part. I couldn’t fail, right? Well, one of the greatest things that I learned at UCF is not found in any of the textbooks, not even if you read those highlighted sections or the case analyses. The only way I learned it was through failure and good advice.
    It all started with a good attitude and a dream. I took an active approach to my education by applying theories learned in the classroom to “real-world” scenarios. When I attended an Entrepreneurship class with Dr. Quinn I immediately saw the opportunity to open my own business. I thought my professor and classmates would be excellent and free resources.
    I had an idea for a product that I thought was going to be the next big thing. I made my business plan and developed a budget. I took all of the lessons learned in class and used them in the business. I decided to structure the business as a corporation to limit my liability and to separate my personal income from income generated by the business. I thought that I had figured everything out and that I was going to need a print company that could put my face on the front of the packaging.
    The idea had potential but I was not aware of the scale that would need to be produced in order to earn a substantial profit. I figured out that I would need to sell thousands of these things. I would have to manufacture and sell thousands before a local company figured it out and destroyed me. I was not ready to compete so I had to let that one go. I still had the equipment and the drive though, so I just thought up a new product.
    This new idea would be targeted to a niche market. I made the products, sold some to a local drop zone (skydiving), and even sold some to a drop zone in Brazil. Things were going great. Fortunately, I realized that even though I thought I was good there were people who were just as good. I made what I could but the phone stopped ringing. I had already failed once in that business, so what’s the big deal? I’ll just think of a new product and the next one will be the one.
    I struggled with different concepts and ideas. I bought different materials and used different tools but nothing was working out. I decided on using the equipment to provide a service. It was getting toward the end of the Entrepreneurship class so I figured that I should run the idea by Dr. Quinn.
    The conversation with Dr. Quinn was bitter-sweet. I told him what I was doing and explained that I thought I was doing it right. I told him about the failed attempts and that I had not given up and that I was going to make it work. That is when he stopped me. He told me that may be the problem. He said “Don’t keep throwing yourself off of the same bridge.” He said sometimes the smartest thing to do is to know when to quit. He was right. I finally figured out why in the next couple of weeks in the course. I had no competitive advantage. I found an expensive hobby, not a business.
    I hear the stories about the person who wouldn’t give up and that all of their success is attributable to their drive. In some cases that is true but trying is not the only thing that brings success. I learned that, sometimes, you have to rely on the facts to tell you if your venture is worth pursuing. While emotions may drive you it may not make sense to keep going. Ask somebody else or play devils’ advocate with yourself. I did and my dreams didn’t die. I just quit spending money on those that wouldn’t pay me back.

  11. Paige Baldinger
    Christoper Leo

    Failure is one of the most conflicting things for me to talk about. With that being said, I think failure is actually one of the greatest things that could happen to a person. I have experienced many failures throughout my life mainly in dealing with my job at Disney. It was as if, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get out of the merchandise department. I went on many interviews for different positions, but it was clear to see my strengths lied in selling.
    With each opportunity that I had, in different departments such as Entertainment and Disney Vacation Club, I couldn’t seem to get past that first initial interview. I’ve been told I interview well from many different people outside of Disney. With this knowledge I just couldn’t seem to grasp what it was that I was doing wrong with Disney. I am a marketing major and I know how to sell myself but for some reason I just couldn’t seem to get anywhere higher within the company.
    After discussing this problem with different people, it was the person who I considered my mentor who finally told me something that seemed to make sense as to why I wasn’t able to move along in the company. Disney is a very “story” oriented company. They want to make magic and if that means making up stories along the way, then so be it. My mentor mentioned to me that I am a very outright, truthful person. I don’t like the getting the run around nor do I like giving people the run around. Through this, she noticed that that was probably what was holding me back. Like the say in sales, it’s a “fake it until you make it” kind of deal.
    Part of my skills lie in the fact that I am very upfront with people and give them reasons as to why they are doing what they are doing and why they would be waiting. I’m the kind of person who, while I love to keep the “magic of Disney” alive, I also like to be truthful to people. Through this realization, I found out that Disney was not the company that I wanted to work for. While the perks of the job are great, the fact that I felt I was being held back from my fullest potential really bothered me. I worked with the company for 3 and a half years and I finally just decided I wanted out.
    Through all these failures in this company, I found a way to get through them. Instead of simply being upset and getting mad that I couldn’t move on with the company, I learned to remain positive. I saw each failed opportunity as if it just wasn’t meant to be. Something bigger and better would come along later and I would finally be appreciated for the job I was capable of doing. I learned to think of it, not as a door closing, but as a door closing because it just wasn’t the right time and it wasn’t meant to be. I learned to think of it as a new opportunity for something better down the line.
    Overall, I learned that failure is a process to be recognized and learned from rather than to be resented. It is a way to make you better prepared for the real world and better prepared for the rest of your life. It’s something that will happen to you no matter what you’re doing in your life, but it is also something that can mold you into being the best person you can be.

  12. Sharon Moore
    Professor Chris Leo

    Three years ago I married my best friend. From the outside, it appeared as though I had the perfect life: a loving husband, a college degree and a large home in a respectable neighborhood. However, six months into my marriage I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. When I tried to talk to other people about my feelings, I was shut down – ‘Why should you be unhappy?/You have no right to be unhappy’. However, I was unhappy. Every day I saw my husband leap out of bed, so excited to start the day and go to work; I did not and became quite jealous of him. I woke up one morning and realized what I was missing – passion.

    That same morning I sat at my computer and put together a list of everything that made me happy. After reviewing this list, I started to search for ways to utilize my skill set so that I could be as passionate as my husband. The result: while I had a college degree, I wasn’t passionate about pursuing a career in that particular field. I realized that my passions lied elsewhere – marketing. By the time my husband woke up, I had enrolled back in school to get a second bachelor’s degree.

    While my husband fully supported me going after my dreams, others did not. Many of my friends told me that college was over and I just needed to get a job; that I was too young to think that my first degree was a mistake. My parents have always been anti-business and were certain that this would be a bad decision. But something in my gut told me this was the right decision for me.
    Two-and-a-half years later I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that going back to school was the best decision I ever made. Realizing that I made a mistake with my first degree was hard to do, but I am so happy that I did it. This journey has brought an adventure I never thought possible before. I have met the most amazing people, gotten more involved in my community, I have a stronger relationship with my husband and I hugged a penguin!

    I now have a successful business that I run and love being a part of. As for those naysayers, we are no longer on good terms. As I became more passionate with my life, they kept trying to get me to quit – something I was not willing to do. Our relationships naturally dissolved, as we no longer had anything in common.

    Lesson Learned: With passion comes confidence. And with confidence comes the courage to pursue your dream. This pursuit opened doors that I never thought would be possible. I used to dream of having a life like this. Now I am living my dream – and all because I had the courage to admit I made a mistake and chose to follow the road I knew was best for me.

  13. Alexander Hubenthal
    Ghada Baz

    On the topic of Failure, I don’t believe in it. But I do believe in setbacks. You have only truly failed once you have stopped trying at something. I believe that we as humans are defined by what we learn and do with those setbacks to better ourselves and the lives of those around us. Everyone goes through challenges and trials in life. Those challenges become a part of us and helps us define how we see and interpret the world. From a very young age my parents instilled in me the concept of being resilient and knowing to never give up even when life has taken you to your knees. Rather than letting setbacks in my life overcome me and drain my tenacity, I have found ways to come back from the ashes and come back stronger than before.

    One of my most recent setbacks in life came about a year ago when I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis at the age of 21. A few months prior to my diagnosis I started noticing that the joints in my hands and my lower back would be very stiff and even to the point at times where I couldn’t even write or type. After numerous doctor visits to specialists and getting endless blood work, my family and I learned that I was born with only half of my immune system functioning normally. My body wasn’t producing any antibodies or “B-Cells” only high levels of white blood cells. The white blood cells in turn created high levels of inflammation due to my body essentially attacking and destroying “good cells”. This process is also known as an auto-immune disease where the body thinks that it is being “attacked “and destroying good cells.

    After this diagnosis, I was given medications to try and combat the inflammation in my hands and back but shortly after starting them, I landed in the hospital. Our next option was to receive a lifelong treatment that included self-administered infusions of antibodies (Immunoglobulin) from blood donors. This treatment was and is still new and has many unknowns, not to mention the price of this treatment was astronomical and it was only a temporary fix. I would have to get the treatment every month for the rest of my life. My family and I looked for options again, and in our research we discovered that some sufferers of this diagnosis receive relief through an “anti-inflammatory” diet. This diet includes eating foods high in omega three acids and eating a gluten free diet. We had finally found something that worked to an extent, but I was still not feeling my best and I would still have flare-ups.

    At about the same time, I started to feel good enough to where I was able to work out again and to the point where I ran in my first 5K. Shortly after running in the 5K, some of my co-workers were talking about the Crossfit Gym that they go to and they talked me into checking it out. After my introductory session, I was immediately hooked and I have been going ever since May of this year. While still on my “anti-inflammatory” diet I had learned of a diet/lifestyle known as “Paleo”. It was similar to how I was already eating, but with one distinct difference. This difference was the complete elimination of grains; gluten bearing and gluten free. The concept of this lifestyle is based on eating as a “Hunter and Gatherer”, which allows you to eat fruits, vegetables, animal proteins, animal fats, and nuts and seeds.

    Since starting to live the “Paleo” lifestyle and going to my Crossfit gym, I have been able to achieve complete remission from my Psoriatic Arthritis. Furthermore, I have been successful at losing 30 pounds and 6 percent of my body fat. So far this experience has taught me about how important it is to consciously think about how you are feeding your body and to make sure you are taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. This setback has taught me to keep trying something until it works which ties back into my original comment about failure. I didn’t have the option of giving up and failing because my life was at stake. This setback has turned into an opportunity for me to live a lifelong mission of eating and living clean and healthy. I have also been able to inspire my family and some of my friends to adopt this lifestyle because they see the good that it is doing for me. I hope to inspire the readers of this article as well, and I would like to serve as a role model for other people that are facing a similar setback.

  14. Andres Burgos
    Leslie Connell, SBU Manager
    My name is Andres Burgos, I am originally from Colombia. I have been living in the Unites States for almost 14 years. My higher education process is divided in two parts: one in my country Colombia, and the other segment of the story is here in USA. When I was still living in Colombia in 1993 as an 18-year-old, I started my higher education in the Catholic University of Risaralda. I majored in industrial economics because my passion was always focused in business. I had two semesters left to finish my bachelor’s degree but unfortunately, Colombia was experiencing a tremendously violent situation due to differences between the government and rebels groups (Guerrillas). In this scenario, the people are the most affected by this conflict.
    At the age of six I was kidnapped when I was going to school. I spent about a month in the kidnapper’s hands, but thank God everything ended up in a good manner and without physical harm. After many years, my parents started getting threatening letters informing of the possibility of another kidnapping. I was 23 years old when these letters started coming to my family; because of this situation, I decided with my family that the best way to avoid this situation is to go to a foreign country. I was very sad because I was leaving behind my life, my education, and a business-related job that I really loved. It was such a failure in my life, and I was devastated by this situation.
    I arrived to this country on February 24, 1999 with a political asylum status. I was very unhappy because I was leaving my education behind. I was basically nobody in this country, and I had to start again from the beginning. Nevertheless, I was always thinking what I was taught by my parents: that education is the ladder to the success. While looking for a job, I also began taking English classes. I didn’t know a word of English, but after I got an idea of the American language, I started college level courses. I began pursuing my AA degree, which I obtained after two years in college at Daytona Beach Community College. Along with this degree, I also got a real estate license which helped me a lot in order to get some income to sustain my family.
    After graduating from DBCC, I went to the University of Central Florida pursuing my next milestone to get my Bachelor’s in Business Administration which I always dreamed about. After all my efforts, my dream is becoming a reality. My graduation is on December 13, 2013. I am very happy and proud when I stop and think that after I had this education failure in my country, I could do it all over again in a different country and with a different language. I got married to a very supportive woman that always believed and helped me in all this process, and we have a kid named David.
    After working in several different construction jobs, I started to work with Volusia County School Board as a custodian in 2001. I did this job for 7 years but always concentrated on my family and my education in order to keep progressing in my personal and professional life. Now I have 13 years in the Volusia County School Board, some of them as a User Support Analyst, belonging to the Management Information System department. I am very happy doing this job now because I can show what I can do with my brain instead what I can do with my hands. Now my next step is start the Master in Business Administration program. I am still young, 38 years old, and my vision is to become a proactive leader within Volusia County School Board, get a very high position or the highest in the organization, and implement everything I learned in my many years in college. I also want to help people that are in a similar situation as I was and show them that with faith, effort, and education, the goals you set up in life can be done no matter what.
    My dream was to be a business professional from a well-known university in Colombia, but I failed it for external reasons. I started it again here in America and this dream will become true in December 2013. I will achieve this goal in the best and powerful nation in the planet with a second language, my own family and a Bachelors in Business Administration degree from a well-known University, The University of Central Florida. With the education that I am getting from University of Central Florida, I will succeed in my professional life.

  15. Haley Huitt
    SBU Manager: Michael Johnson

    Before I became a student at UCF I was a student at a smaller college a couple hours away. I wanted to get my AA degree there and then transfer to UCF afterwards. Back then I used to push myself to the limit. I had two jobs and on top of that was going to school full time. I also had a boyfriend and a dog to keep happy. It never seemed to catch up to me. I was indestructible. I ignored the fact that I was losing sleep and harming my health.

    After I finished my AA Degree I moved to Orlando. I don’t know how but the next thing I know I had two jobs and was signed up for two classes at UCF. I didn’t know what UCF classes were like so I only took two to be on the safe side. My restaurant employer asked if I would be able to handle this huge work load. I said of course, not a problem! I was used to it. I would work from 5:30am to 2pm at that job and then rush home to let my dog outside. Then I would go to my second job from 3pm to 9pm. Eventually, I fell behind in my classes. These classes were so much more intense than the classes back home. I kept telling my restaurant employer that I couldn’t work as many hours. Initially, I was told that I would only be working 32 hours a week. However, they were working me about 50 hours a week and on top of that were working me like a dog. I had not one, not two, but six positions because the company was short staffed. They didn’t allow me to have a break because usually I was the only one working. I would be so exhausted from that job that I would be fighting to stay awake at my other job. After a while, the manager wouldn’t schedule someone to relieve me until 5pm. So basically I was stuck there until 5. They didn’t care that I had a second job and most importantly, lectures to watch. Honestly, I just left at 2pm most days and left the restaurant empty. I wanted to quit both jobs so badly but I couldn’t. The second shift job hired me first and I felt that I had to be loyal to that company, especially since they needed the extra help. I definitely couldn’t quit the restaurant job because I was making so much money. In the end, I got really sick and had to go to the hospital. I had to quit both jobs and was unable to pay my bills. I had to stay home for a few months just so I could recover. I didn’t think I was ever going to find a job and be able to finish school. This was a personal failure to me because I couldn’t be perfect and do everything I wanted. It was really hard for me to get over.

    The first lesson here is to not push yourself to the extreme. My health issues from the last few years have progressed tremendously. It has made a huge impact on my daily activities. I am constantly in and out of the doctor’s office because I didn’t take care of myself. School has always been my main priority, but in some cases it can’t always be. It doesn’t matter if you graduate with a 4.0 if you are constantly sick. After calling off work or going home early from your job too many times will cause you to lose your job. I may not be graduating on time but I am finally getting there! The second lesson I’ve learned is to not settle for a crummy job. If your employer is running you into the ground you should not have to put up with it. Something good will come along eventually. No one deserves to be treated the way I was at my job in the restaurant. My advice is to have some respect for yourself and to never give up! Something good will come along eventually. Even though it took a little time, I found a great job where I have started to grow with. I’ve already been promoted and will be promoted again after I graduate! Patience is the key to success!

  16. Jessie Hamilton
    Professor Chris Leo

    You brush your teeth and wash your face above that recognizable and somewhat comforting sink you greet every morning. Then, you slowly look up to inspect yourself before you head out of the bathroom and into a new day. It is at this moment when your gaze meets the other person staring back at you in the mirror that you realize you don’t even recognize the person you see. Sometimes, you make subtle hand or facial gestures to make sure that person really is you… Yes, they are making the same movements. Yes, they have that same birth mark. No, there is no one else in that confined space with you. It must be you. “Okay, then…” you say as you quickly turn around and alter your thought possess, dismissing that small but growing notion you have absolutely no clue who you are… I did this for over a decade.

    I was brought up in a Christian home, went to church at least two times a week. Although I was home-schooled through elementary and middle school, in 4th grade I tested at a 9th grade math level. I was valedictorian from my small private school, and later, graduated with honors when I received my AA. As a child, I was often called the “golden child” or “perfect”; even overheard parents say “I wish my child listened like yours” to my parents. The fact is, I was a great kid. Everyone liked me. I was humble, respectful, and did everything I was told to. I never took the easy route and always made sure I ate my veggies and said thank you for everything that I received. I was admired by adults for being not only a good child, but also being intellectually on a higher platform. However, in this environment, I became skilled in telling people what they wanted to hear, and I was able to adapt and be the person everyone needed or wanted me to be.

    While everyone saw this “perfect” Jessie, there was a 10 year span of my life where I thought myself to be unworthy of such acclamation. The truth is, I didn’t even know myself. I was self-conscious of everything – what I said, what I did, what I looked like, or even what I thought… I was absolutely terrified for people to really know me; even more terrified to see the ugliness inside myself that hid behind the ‘perfect’ mask. I tried to fit into other people’s cookie cutter rather than allowing people to accept me as I was. As I grew older and began to form my own thoughts and ideas on life, it became more and more difficult for me to please everyone and “act” like this perfect, innocent child. I was not a child any more. As I grew further from my charade, the gap in my life between who I was and who people saw was growing daily.

    I realized just how far I was from that “image” of mine in adolescence. My girl friends at school would talk about how hot this or that guy was and I just didn’t see it. When I was 14, I fell in love with a girl who returned my affection. I did not understand what was happening. I would constantly lie to myself to make things seem right so that my world felt in place. I would tell people that I was “I waiting on the right guy,” or “I am just focusing on school right now.” People didn’t question things too much until I was in my 20s and still did not have a boyfriend. Now, being brought up in a Christian home, going to a Christian private school, and realizing you’re attracted to the same sex do not mix very well. I was torn between being the “perfect” girl and my private life that I was so desperate to keep a secret. I was torn amongst the God I loved, the girl I loved, the family I loved, and the guilt that was overwhelming me.

    I came to a crossroad in my life. I was now 21 and an adult, but I was failing… Failing at being that perfect child, the perfect Christian, the perfect daughter, the perfect girlfriend… Failing to even acknowledge any part of who I was or allow the inner me that was no longer a child to become an adult; failing to believing myself to be good enough. Failing to face my biggest fears… to be honest and vulnerable, to be flawed; to just be me – whoever that girl was. Meanwhile, while everything in my inner-world began to fall apart, when I was a junior at UCF, my educational experience started falling into place. I found classes that I enjoyed and everything in life was making more sense. Through experiencing a variety of classes within my sociology minor and business major, I began to understand that everything in life is evolutionary and dynamic. Change happens and it is okay. I also learned to be more open minded, finding that not everything can be pinned down or stereotyped or fit into a ‘cookie cutter’. I began to explore and learn that there were others like me who were failing in some aspect of their life and that this was something that could be overcome.

    One day, I finally forgave myself for not being “perfect.” Slowly, the “inner me” surfaced. I confronted the parts of me that I didn’t like and was able to either accept them or changed them. I gained confidence I didn’t know was within me. I began to talk to God more, realizing He created me for a purpose and loved me for who I was. Everything in my life was finally falling into place; that guilt eating me inside-out left and I was becoming whole. I gathered the courage to fight my biggest fears and speak my mind rather than what others wanted to hear, and to be honest with myself and others. I found weight in my words and words were correlating with my actions. I finally saw the imperfection in myself like a candid photograph – beautiful and unique. And, I found my purpose. I could help others – just how I always desired to when I was young. Amazingly, I found that being myself allowed me to be respected and so much more effective!

    My biggest failure was not being “good enough.” My biggest success was realizing I didn’t need to be. I could be me – whoever that was – and I was good enough. And, to anyone out there who ever feels that you are not good enough, you are. You are more precious than diamonds, more beautiful than gold, and more incredible than a chocolate molten lava cake or a rock and roll concert; you are more strong than superman. You have been given a life to be whoever you wish to be and you ultimately choose who you want to be. Every day you wake up is a new day to make new choices, and those choices will determine who you are tomorrow. Change can be good even though it is not always comfortable. Some days will be better than others, and it is normal to take a few steps forward and one or two steps back. All it truly takes to be “good enough” is an ounce of courage to face your biggest failures and fears and to forgive yourself for being less than perfect. You are a beautiful, worthy person that is good enough – just by being you. 🙂

  17. Failure has definitely taught me a few things in my life so far. However, one failure of mine completely changed everything for me. I have been working for the banking industry for a total of 11 years. My failure experience happened when I was a loan officer and manager on duty at a bank in the Orlando area. One afternoon, I was helping some customer when I noticed my phone was vibrating non-stop in the cabinet of my office. When I was finished with my customers, I went into the break room to find out who was calling me. I had 7 missed calls and texts from my father that lives in West Palm Beach, FL. I quickly called him back. He informs me my grandmother is in the hospital and that I need to come quick because the doctors didn’t think she was going to make it. I go to my manager and let her know about the horrible news. She was nice enough to let me leave early and stay in south Florida until Monday even though the bank was extremely busy. I had to be back by Tuesday to open the branch because my manager had a doctor’s appointment that could not be rescheduled. I rushed out of the branch and I quickly drove down to West Palm.

    Turns out, my grandmother was able to pull through but had some medical problems to deal with. I returned back on Tuesday morning to open the branch, however, I couldn’t find my keys to open the door. My manager and I are the only employees that have a set of keys to open the branch. My manger wasn’t answering her phone because she was at her doctor’s appointment. At this point, the branch was not opening normal business hours. When an incident happens like this, we have to notify everyone in top management. After an hour and a half of the branch not being opened, my manager got out of her appointment to come rescue the day. Customers, my regional manager and my manager were not happy. It had to be the biggest mistake I have ever made in my career. Apparently, I left my keys hanging from the keyhole of my desk. I tried to lock my desk but got distracted by the bad news.

    Unfortunately, I was written up for this huge mistake. After this incident, it was all down hill from there. I felt like I made the biggest mistake companywide and I didn’t feel worthy enough to work there anymore. Meanwhile, I was going to school part time, which was another thing to add to my stress level. I made several mistakes after that.

    My mother is a big role model in my life. She says, “do what makes you happy and you will figure out what to do next.” So I quit my job and went to school full time to finish. I am finishing school this December and I have received several job offers because I did so well at networking and sales with my previous job. What I have learned from this is I can’t let a failure bring me down to where it demotivates. I need to pick myself back up and more forward. Thanks to my mother, I want to be sure that I am happy every step of the way.

  18. Carlos Lopez
    SBU Mngr: David Wo

    Growing up money is not something we had. Ever since I was little I wanted to have money, I wanted to be able to buy whatever I wanted. By the time I was 20 years old I was having my first son, bought my first Mercedes Benz and a 4-bedroom house. In my eyes I was successful, at one point in time I remember I had 10 cars. I worked really hard for those things and I was proud of it. I was living life in the fast lane; I had even gotten into some legal trouble, and not even that made open my eyes. By the time I was 24 I owned an insurance agency, a real state agency and a entertainment company.
    2012 changed all that for me, I had met someone and gotten married. She was the typical bimbo you would see with an older guy, but I was 24 so I was ok with it. As far as I was concerned that was it, I had everything I wanted. By summer 2012 my marriage had gone down the drain. I was getting a divorce and it happened in the blink of an eye. Being 24 years old and with all the money I had of course it wasn’t my fault, I always thought I was right. One thing I was certain of, it hurt really bad to see my family fall apart and there was nothing I could do about it. My main priority was to provide for my family, and I thought if I did that everything would be ok. 2012 thought me it wasn’t! I had been so busy with work and so focused on money that I had slowly grown apart from everyone I loved. When my wife left I was in the process of selling my two businesses. And there I was 25 years old with enough money to do what ever I wanted, but no one to share it with. I remember going back home and spending time with my son and the first thing he told me when he saw me was “are we going to the toy store?”. I honestly had no one to blame but myself, that’s the only thing I ever did with him. My brother and I had gotten into an argument about a business deal with it with a house and were not in speaking terms. I felt as if I had traded everyone that ever cared about me in for money and greed. That is a feeling I don’t wish upon anyone.
    So there I was alone and with no plans, no career and no one by my side. I remember that year I bought 4 cars. I was trying to fill a void that could not be filled with material things. I had no choice, but to start all over again. I moved to Florida were I hardly knew anyone signed up for school and began a new life. In a year and half I completed around 60 hours I had left. I lost 80 lbs and I am currently in the best shape of my life. I never got back with my wife, but I have met someone else. My relationship with my son, brother and mom has changed completely. I now take the time to listen and spend one on one time with them. Financially I am not even remotely close to how I used to be, but I am glad to say I have never been this happy. In life we get so caught up with money that we let it take control of our lives, and to me that is the ultimate failure. The best thing we can do is take our time, find ourselves and build ourselves. Make goals and accomplish them, nothing will give you fulfillment like that will. Money will come and go and loosing peace in life and more importantly loosing time with the people you love is not worth it. Take control with your life and do what ever you want with it, because once you let money control it your no longer living your life. That is what my failure thought me.

  19. Norberto Fleites
    Ghada Baz

       There have been so many situations in my life were I have failed that it’s difficult to pick just one, so I won’t, I’ll tell you them all in one simple word…fear. All of my failures in life can be traced back all the way down to one very essence, and that is the essence of fear.

       I came to America for the first time a 4 year old Cuban boy, and in my Kindergarten class I soon learned one thing that was law in America; if you’re different, people will judge you and label you. This lead me to develop a personality in which I kept my mouth shut and blended in with the crowd. It lead me to accept the fact that I am no more important on this earth than any other person, animal, or object, and that kind of thinking has always lead me to disbelief in God, but more importantly it lead me to disbelief in myself.

       This final semester at UCF however, helped me come to one daunting realization…If you let fear stop you from doing the things you believe are right, then you might as well already be dead. My entire life I forced myself to be the quiet kid, the one no one really paid any attention to because he was nothing special, and through my silence I single handedly destroyed every dream I could ever have had, and every relationship that might have sprouted if I had just had the courage to speak.

       I’ve always looked up to role models, always wanting to be like that one person…that one happy individual that you can never get to frown, but the truth is that such a person is a mirage. Happiness is simply the result of you getting over your fears and achieving what it is you want. We as human beings are creatures of habits and addictions, and every one of us is addicted to drugs. For many of us that drug is money, for some it is knowledge. I always thought schools were a place for learning, but they are only a place in which we learn. If we want, we can choose to learn everywhere we go, to learn from those that do, instead of those that teach.

       My biggest failure? I’ve always believed in nothing…but now, I believe in myself…and my mind has been torn apart and awakened. I realize that our success is simply the result of work and dedication, and that regardless of fear, the ones who work hard will eventually find success.

       I’m done keeping quiet, and I’m done pretending to fit into some molded stereotype. Geek, loser, weirdo, narcissist, arrogant jerk, Cuban, Hispanic, generation x, y, and Z…these are just masks that we put on and can take off whenever we choose. The truth is that many of us live in the past and fear the future…but that is no way to live. Instead, I choose to live in the present, learn from my past, and forge my own future.

       There are so many shades of colors in this universe…but you can’t copy them, you have to create your own.

  20. Zachary Keeney
    SBU Manager : Matthew Griffith

    Hello Dean Jarley,

    I want to start off by thanking you for the opportunity that you have given all of the graduates to explore this topic, because I believe that “failure” is one of the most influential factors to physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. Failure has had a significant influence on my individual growth, both in personal and professional relationships. There is quote by Henry Ford that says “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”. I read the quote every morning and every night, adding “We are going to fail, what matters is that we learn from it”. Some may think of this as negativity, but to me it is a constant and embedded reminder to dream big and not let fear of failure hold me back from my dreams and aspirations.
    Now, I have failed many times, but the failures that had the biggest impact on my life were none of my own. On November 14, 2009 my grandmother died of cancer at age 67 and soon after, my parents separated, ending in divorce. After a period of mourning, I began to analyze why my grandmother was taken away from me so soon and what came of it was life changing. I realized that it was not someone or something taking her away from me; it was her poor lifestyle choices that resulted in her early death. She was a smoker until the age of 50, she did not exercise, and she had an extremely unhealthy diet. As a result, I decided that I would make exercise and a healthy diet a lifestyle, so that I would not leave my children and grandchildren to suffer prematurely as a result of my poor decisions. The change I made that day resulted in physical strength, mental clarity, and spiritual well being that I never thought possible and I use that strength and focus to not only continue my journey, but to lead by example and encourage others to do the same.
    The second failure that has significantly impacted my life was the divorce of my parents. For years, I was torn between the two sides, switching back and forth from my dad’s side to my mom’s side many times over. Through all the emotional and spiritual distress, it wasn’t until years later that I realized my place in the situation was neutrality. It was in that neutrality that I could clearly analyze the situation without bias to either side of the argument. I found that when there is a dysfunctional relationship, personal or professional, no sole person or entity is at fault; there is a problem with the system as a whole. I now apply that same principle to my own relationships; it allows me to take a step back and analyze the bigger picture more clearly, instead of focusing on a specific aspect of a situation or problem.
    Although I wish things worked out differently between my parents and I would love nothing more than my grandmother to still be alive, it was through those failures that I learned not only to hold myself accountable for my own actions, but not to dwell on things that are out of my control. Many people blame their environment or someone else for their problems, but the fact is that although you cannot control the actions of others, you can control your response to those actions. In concluding, I searched for something that would help keep me focused and on track both when I became lazy and through difficult times. I came across a set of “9 Promises”, four of which stand out as they relate to failure, that continue to inspire and encourage me to push forward: (1) Promise to think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best, in yourself and others, (2) Promise yourself to be strong, that nothing can disturb your peace of mind, (3) Promise to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements in the future, (4) Promise to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit trouble to press on you.

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