Our Failure Competition: The Summer Edition

At our 2014 Hall of Fame event, we featured a video of then Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley who is also CEO of Florida Hospital, Winter Park. The video starts out with Ken saying the following: “I came to UCF as a failure and left a success.” Ken had seen his dream to enter medical school dashed, but found his future at UCF. He has gone on to great things and now has doctors reporting to him! His achievements landed him in our Hall of Fame, a place where only 64 of our more than 50,000 alums have been recognized for their accomplishments.

Despite what helicopter parents think, everyone fails. It is part of life. A Knight should never fear failure. Getting comfortable with failure is a key step in becoming a better risk–taker and successful leader. That is why we celebrate failure and persistence in the college. Today, we begin the seventh installment of our Failure Competition. As in past semesters, I will be explaining the details of this semester’s competition to students in our Capstone Course. But we are adding two new twists to the competition this semester:

First, your failure story has to focus on a new experience, a time you stepped out of your comfort zone: the farther the better. Tell us why this was such a stretch for you, the failure that resulted and what you learned from the experience that would be of interest to others.

Second, in the past I have limited this competition to students in our capstone class, but this semester I am opening it to any student on campus: undergraduate, graduate or EMBA, business, education, engineering or whatever. The only requirement is that you currently be enrolled at UCF.

Here are the ground rules, complete with important deadlines:

1. To enter you must post your essay in response to this blog. If you are a capstone student this semester include your section number and name of your instructor. If you are not in this class, tell me your class standing ( e.g., freshman, senior, graduate student) and your field of study. You must complete this exercise by 5 pm on July 13th.

2. Instructors from the Capstone Course will then choose a winner from their section and explain why they chose the essay they did. A panel of College staff will choose no more than five finalists for me to consider from the rest of campus.

3. Those winning entries are then sent to me. I will select three  finalists by July 15 at 5 pm.

4. The finalists will be asked to submit short videos based on their essays. They must have those videos to me by Monday July 20 at 5 pm.

5. I will then feature one video each day on my blog  July 21-23 a vote taking place to determine the winner on Friday July 24th.

6. The winner will get a letter of recommendation from me along with a $500 prize. Second place will get $300, third place $200. These monies are awarded through our financial aid office.

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17 thoughts on “Our Failure Competition: The Summer Edition

  1. Section 15 SBU Harris

    Short version:

    Research precedes commitment. Business school is an example, it is not for everyone. Also, follow your “dreams” long enough to see them die and then move on. Get good.

    Long version:

    To simply put, I had ended up spending most of the last years of my K-12 existence on a computer. When you’ve passed through Glenridge Middle School being a target for bullying, questioning your own purpose with all the reoccurring and politically incorrect chatter that comes your way, and then you discover this fascinating forum for discussion called the Internet where nobody really cared who you were or where you came from, where if you suddenly had to leave, you could simply change your username and start over, fresh and unknown, somewhere else as I had done so many times, it can make an addicting environment. Think what you want out of me, but chatting and laughing with newly made friends from places such as the United Kingdom and, on good summer days (we were that lazy in public school) spending excess 14 hours (not in one sitting) on every multiplayer computer game was a lot more comforting than what awaited me at Glenridge, and later the first half of Winter Park High School. It did get better though.

    Having accumulated hours of computer familiarity (my once 88 WPM prior our group’s adoption of Mumble VoIP software, in contrast to my immigrant father who will still sometimes ask me how send an email attachment), half way through Winter Park High School it was time. I had to choose elective classes that would hopefully lead me into some IT job in New York because after all, I spent most of my childhood on a computer so therefore any job that requires use of a computer (IT I told myself) would be an obvious match, right? We were told to diversify, try something new, and although my old self was certain I was going to the grave with a keyboard in my hand, under suggestion of what they told us, I took some random shots from my elective sheet. To simplify this story, I also did it next year (2011 my final year) and a lot had happened but there were two electives over the course of those vital two last years that I will never forget: Digital Video Production 1, and Accounting 1 and 2.

    Now Digital Video Production 1, which I took my last year was a breeze since during my mass computer gaming binge I learned how to operate an N.L.E. (non-linear editor, aka video editing program) to make odd videos of my gaming adventures. Despite being in a beginner’s class it became clear to our ex TV production teacher (trivia: She worked at the former Nickelodeon Studios in the 90s and actually drove Kenan & Kel from ‘All That’ to work every day as they were too young to drive during that time) that I walked in with prior experience and was one of the most aspiring editors from both her DVP1 and DVP2 class. I went on to win 2x third places at some “Orange County Student Media Festival” hosted far away at Apopka High and then in 3 days, write, cast, produce, edit, digital special effect explosions, course crispy deep voice over guy, and deliver a parody “action movie trailer” based on the F.C.A.T. that was played for my entire high school to see on the morning announcements. Though I graduated that year (2011), for the next two years, every March/April, I had received word from my underclassmen friends that it was played again and again, and even that another high school and elementary school had requested a copy. It seemed with video, I got lucky since I made a prediction this new coming website called YouTube might be important so while my friends were hanging out at the mall on the weekend, I was smashing my head in my keyboard learning how to encode MPG files off my Sony Cybershot to an acceptable sized WMV V9 file as well as track motion, chroma keying, key framing, and masking.

    The other one(s) was high school accounting, one hosted by some accented Texan who had happened to live in a neighborhood where down the street lived Ken, some executive at some uprising 90s energy company. Accounting class was also a bit fascinating despite being completely random and unexpected from my prior background, but solving puzzles and learning how to debit and credit t-accounts wasn’t too bad and I’m certain I got an adequate grade (in HS everything is easy, possibly too easy from a macro view) . I decided I wanted to try it again so I enrolled in part 2 for 2011, my final year at WPHS, and continued what I already did. My second year I got a lower grade than my first only because it was that year that I got my first DSLR, a Nikon D5000, and began taking photos at every available moment I could. Our teacher’s husband taught engineering next door and they every now and then they would do some wacky science experience like launch rockets and instead of me focusing on doing my debits and credits I got permission to go next door and take neat photo and video. I missed some token assignments but all was well since I still passed that class. The time I spend in that accounting class period doing photography instead could have been foreshadowing looking forward. But anyways, having been the only person to spend our one non class day (field day) by devoting my time running around in the hot Florida sun taking photos for everyone paid off. I had finally climbed myself out of the social hole I was in and gained an adequate reputation among my peers as the go-to photographer. Life was good as it seemed the more time I spent working camera, the more friends I’d meet, which was what I wanted.

    But come high school graduation and my acceptance letter to UCF, my family and friends had warned me being a photographer or filmmaker was dangerous. You have to know people to get in, and the truth was nobody knew me. They told me just because I liked doing something doesn’t mean it’d be profitable. Doing what you like is nice, but not having to worry about how to pay for gas, food, fun money, is nice too, and having been raised by immigrant parents who’ve been in it worse than I (or seeing the recent job market, maybe we’re not too far apart). They tell us sometimes to pay the bills, you just have to do something you don’t like too much. I wanted to continue building on the familiar computer/photo/video work but everyone told me it wouldn’t be profitable so having gone through your basic UCF classes, when I had to choose a major, I elected to choose the only other topic I learned in HS that I really knew about, accounting. And so it was so.

    And now that I’ve finally introduced you to all this background about how I ended in here, in UCF’s fine College of Business Administration, you can now understand the statement I am about to say: I failed the Dixon School of Accounting program.

    Who would have known it would be me? Debatably, I could be one of the most visible accounting students in my class(es). Everyone has my name, inside and outside the accounting department, whether it would be from my reoccurring joke name given to me in 3131 “Handcuffs” or from my camera waving adventure. Turns out, a lot of this public course work makes me tired and since firms prefer to see young energetic students put some odd ~2 years at the Big 4 and never look back again, I know I won’t be end up in that route which leaves me out of a lot of options, but somebody has to say my warning.

    My camera waving adventure is quite one if I don’t say so myself. To sum my first two years solo shooting for some once better SGA funded organization and a smaller recently formed one that I was sad to see decline in membership, one June 13, 2013 day (according to Canva’s mail) I was walking to BA 1 open carrying the same D5000 camera that gained me my reputation at HS when I stumbled upon the familiar “Cupcakes for Cornerstone” table outside the COBA and one well versed and well-dressed Cornerstone professor and I just happened to meet at the same time. I asked him if he wanted a nicely done photo with the random Cornerstone table to show off student engagement and motivate the young Cornerstone students some more. It went well and I personally Canvas mailed him the file. A couple of weeks later that same well-dressed Cornerstone professor informed me that the Cornerstone Competition didn’t have a regular photographer and wanting to reward my enthusiasm, had invited me to shoot for the Cornerstone Competition. He came back after that email and asked me to shoot for some end game little showdown called the Capstone Competition and I told him alright. That was Summer 2013. I’ve been the Capstone/Cornerstone Photographer ever since (it is Summer 2015 at the time of this writing). I’ve been the Capstone Competition finals multiple times so I know what evil finance sins the marketing students make like calculating NPV using revenues. Along the way I was spotted by some faculty who started emailing me left and right to shoot for all this nice events ranging from job fairs to student events, student organization side quests, fancy little breakfasts at some fancy high tier club over in Downtown Orlando all the way to corporate level conventions, dinners and golf courses. It’s the life right? Some students have to work hard, write essays, or shell out lots of money or connections to get to even attend these events. Two weeks before I get a pleasant little email: “Anthony, we just wanted to confirm you’ll be joining us for this nice sponsored dinner.” I jokingly told myself that “I was the one…who takes all the photos.”

    Everyone I knew wanted to be me, but the reality I hid from everyone else was that having gotten deep into 3131 and the infamous 3501, I realized I don’t like accounting as I much as I thought. It’s not all debits and credits and Excel spreadsheets like I originally assumed as much as it is GAAP compliance, the CPA exam, and memorizing a terribly long list of rules and regulations. If you can do it, I applaud you, because I can’t. Along the way it started feeling like a chore not a dream. I started escalating my camera work as an escape from my regulation laden burden. Instead of doing my debits and credits I started accepting all the camera waving side quests from other COBA departments and student organizations. Having successfully taken the most photos of any semester of their history for their chapter and gotten my name all over the undergrad accounting department, I was removed from the local accounting organization for failure to maintain honorable GPA, an event preceded by my attempts to network some firms and companies who accurately predicted 3131’s ability to weed out the wannabes with lower major GPAs than everyone else, myself included. I don’t blame them, as we learned in marketing class, a brand has to be consistent. I was not consistent, I was a defect, and therefore could not be used to represent said organization.

    This came full circle when one reoccurring accounting friend of mine invited me to shoot for the DSA 41st Spring Banquet. Everyone who’s someone was there: accounting firms, students, professors, alumni, you name it. It’d be totally prestigious to get invited to shoot for the Spring Banquet and get free food right? I can say there is nothing too prestigious about being uncertain of your future and having gone to the Spring Banquet, seeing all my classmates who had graduated during my time now talking about how successful their internships at the Big 4 offices in New York went, on the way to their fantastic careers, and I’m here likely to be rejected by every firm for my GPA. I went to the job fair and there were my accounting class TAs who took the CPA exam and were now standing in front of the firm tables doing the hiring. I was too ashamed of myself to even come up and say hi to them when the bright young faces of my other classmates were better off than I and much more likely to get the job.

    A C is a legally passing grade, ignoring all “Aim for a C, you get a D, aim for a B, you get a C, but aim for an A, you get an A.” In about a month I may (or may not) pass the two accounting classes I take right now and my Capstone class. Then I’ll walk the stage like the other ~1000 or so business students and then we’ll all fight over the same job offers. On paper, I will pass, but in my mind, I will have failed. I should have been a photographer or journalist but instead I tried something new and now ~2 years of my life were consumed by it. The DSA requires a special kind of person and it’s tragic that I’m not that person. I applaud those who survive though and those who are considering please do some prior research so you don’t end up like me. The time I spent cost me a couple of photo/video opportunities I could have pursued if I wasn’t staying up at 3AM trying to find taxable income. I will receive all negative remarks at home for not being the token CPA in the extended family like I had planned, but that’s not the point.

    Was all my time in waste? I’d say not. Despite my stubborn self for not putting the darn camera away and hitting the accounting textbooks, I don’t regret higher education as it’d say I’m a bit cleverer than I was straight out of high school. I don’t regret going to the COBA either as I notice my non-COBA friends whom I periodically sprout minor details of wisdom I picked up along the way, well, let’s just say people don’t know, don’t care, or are close minded about a topic, it shows pretty quickly. My senior year here at the COBA I started telling myself that accounting is a lot like philosophy. I don’t know if anyone’s ever said that but I do. You walk in and you’re presented with facts and you have no idea what’s happening but you’re told everything happens for a reason and then you start having to ask lots of whys or where something comes from. That takes perception and perception is a necessity in today’s world.

    So what I learned is this, if you want to follow some dream, and all of society says you shouldn’t do it and all the economics say it isn’t profitable or you’ll have a hard time, there is some truth in them so be open minded enough to consider quitting, but within your judgement, if you really want to do it, then escalate your commitment to that dream. I predict one of two outcomes will happen. One is your dream works out well and money magically appear as a consequence and then we all live life happily ever after. Two is your dream crashes and burns into the ground and you realize it’s the worst idea you had and you’ll never do it again. Do it because if you don’t, if you just walk away from the table, no matter what else you do it life, the unresolved outcome will haunt and pick your brain at intervals because nobody leaves a story unfinished, especially your very own.

    I say again, either outcome is preferable because anything short of complete and utter success or total destruction of your hopes and dreams not just a question mark, it’s an incomplete story. One day you’ll all be selling biographies like hot cakes and Amazon and the worst you can do is not having an ending. It doesn’t have to be nice as it is useful. If your dream wins, it’s a good book. If your dream loses and you learn from it, it’s still a decent book. If your dreams loses but somewhere in life you decide to do it again, you better darn win this time though because if you do you’ll look like you never gave up and become a best seller.

    But yes, those who are reading, if you want to try something, I mean if you really know you must do it but you’re putting it off, finish it until the end as your brain will do this really scumbag reaction where it taunts you for not even trying. I think timing is also important so marketing students, don’t just drop out of all your classes tonight and become rappers. If we’re going to fail, we should both have the courtesy to fail and the knowledge to make some sense out of it so we can be more careful when we try something else, and maybe fail that too.

    And when you do, get good.

  2. SBU Harris Section 18

    Sixteen years ago I married an evil person, truthfully I did not know it at the time. At the time I was a pretty independent person, so I did not marry for the “I need someone in my life” factor. I had no idea what was in store for the next few years. Oh, if only we all had the ability to see into the future, if I could things would have been so different and maybe not in a good way.

    This man was the re-incarnate of the devil. I seriously have not met any person in my life this evil (I’m 54, so that says a lot). The first thing to start happening was the verbal abuse. I have never had such hateful things said to me, but I always thought maybe I did something wrong and wasn’t aware of it. This did happen a few times, but then the physical abuse started. From that day forward my days were spent walking on eggshells, since I never knew what would set him off. I have had a gun to my head, I have been beaten, and I have been choked. This man made me feel like I was no bigger than a spec of dust. I know you say “why didn’t you just leave”, but I will tell you it is easier said than done. My window of opportunity did open one day and I had the police escort him out. Now you say all is good, no it isn’t.

    I failed at life!!! That was the thought in my mind, since he made me feel like I was nothing. At times I wanted to die because being afraid he would come after me felt worse. I never wanted to leave the house and when I did I was looking over my shoulder all the time. The day I stepped out of my comfort zone, which was my house, I decided to go back to school. I focused all my energy on school and not on being a victim. I received my Associates Degree and then received my Bachelors Degree from UCF in 2007. Well I did not like that career field, with my first degree. I am again back at UCF for my second Bachelors Degree in accounting and in my last class, Capstone.

    Lesson of story. I won!!!

  3. This requires a 20 year backstory, sorry.
    Whether it was a dark and stormy night I don’t remember. I do remember it being around the year 1997 because I remember gold prices being around $280/oz. It was an infomercial I saw at about 2:00am on about how to turn $5000 into a Million trading commodities with the Ken Roberts Commodity trading course for around $300. Being 17 and naive the prospect of untold riches which entailed the meager task of determining which way the line on a chart will go- well you’d have to be an idiot to decline this proposition. So began a nearly two decade stint of financial market obsession.
    I scraped together a few hundred bucks from my wages working at Red Lobster in Sanford, FL and bought the dream.
    This was the time around the peak of the .com bubble of the 1990’s and everyone who was anyone was in the stock market. As the old market adage goes “everyone’s a genius in a bull market” so after my 18th birthday I went to the Dean Witter office (a popular brokerage back then) on New York Ave. in Deland and stated I’m here to apply for a stockbroker position.
    Keep in mind this was long before cable internet and practical online trading was the norm so to invest your money you actually had to sit down in front of someone to open an account which begs the question, how many of you would give an 18 year old their money to manage? In retrospect I understand why I did not immediately get the position.
    This did not deter me from being a full-fledged market participant myself- I had become one of the bull market geniuses- until January 3rd, 2000- the last day of the dot com peak. The pendulum of market wealth had swung so far north that the margin calls that followed became an avalanche of losses around the nation. I was no exception. Another market adage comes to mind: “Bulls make money, Bears make money, pigs get slaughtered”.
    After my personal bust- the first of many to follow life took its turns- moving out, military, bad life choices, deaths of family members however I continually pursued market knowledge and going through what I believe now is a standard timeline for anyone interested in trading and markets: Thinking there is an easy way to beat the game that nobody has figured out yet, believing you can figure it out (a.k.a. “the holy grail”), spending months and years with countless backtests looking for it, busting a few accounts with real money because you thought you’d found it, pondering the possibility that it may not exist, accumulate a personal library of books on fundamental and technical analysis thinking you may have missed something, bust another account and finally coming to terms that it doesn’t exist.
    After the military I took up odd jobs eventually working at one of the local hospitals which I’ve been at the last 13 years. It has paid the bills while I undertook the extended plan at Valencia finally earning my Associates and financed my entrepreneurial pursuits. In 2008 I had gotten my life, health and annuities license, in 2009 I got my property and casualty insurance license and in 2011 I had gotten my real estate license. The purpose for these is for another essay but come into play here later on.
    Part 2: Exit the comfort zone
    After some coquito at Christmas 2013 I browsed some career builder ads and noticed a financial advisor position in Maitland, FL willing to sponsor candidates. A quick side note- you can’t just go and “get” your securities licenses, you have to have a firm sponsor you to take the tests. A resume was sent with indifference if I hear back from them or not.
    Lo and behold I got a call back. After a few typical online personality tests I get called in for my initial interview. The fact that I’ve sold a house and written a life insurance policy and that I’ve worked on commission before was a plus. I don’t know if you know this or not but in finance there’s this thing called “full disclosure”. It’s in insurance and real estate too but not like this. Remember all those bad life choices you made 15 years ago? Well if they’re documented anywhere you have to disclose them and explain. Where have you lived the last 10 years? What are all your sources of income? How much do you make? Your social media and online presence WILL get looked at by the compliance department.

    Ehh, formalities. I didn’t really have too much to worry about. In the 3 interviews that followed we talk about planning. What’s your plan? Add up all the investable assets you think you can garner from your immediate circle of influence (“investable assets” is the industry term for “money” and “circle of influence” means “people you can call up on the phone right now”). How good at you at prospecting? I’ll just sum it up, in finance prospecting is getting strangers you never knew before to let you manage their money. It’s not easy. Especially if you don’t like hearing the word “no”. The phone at the firm is not ringing off the hook with people saying, “I have all this money and I need someone to open an account for me and invest it!” You have to prospect for business. In the insurance industry people buy insurance on their cars and houses because the bank tells them they have to or they won’t get the loan. People buy homes because they need a place to live. Nobody is required to save money or invest for their future.

    Now for your “Circle of Influence” I’ll tell you this. You may think you have several hundred friends on whatever social media you are using at the moment but in reality, hmm…this is hard to put a metric on…but let’s just say you don’t actually have several hundred real actual “Friends”.

    There’s something about money in America that people hold near and dear. Personally I think it’s been ingrained that here a person’s life work is determined and amounted to by how much they make and the assets they’ve acquired. It’s for this reason I think money and friends don’t mix. I was told to prospect friends so I did. The people you know are probably of the same socio-economic status as you are. This is what you’re up against in financial prospecting with friends.
    For the firm that hired me the quota was either $1 Million under management within a year or make at least ~$50,000 for the firm from various other sales such as life insurance, annuities, financial planning, etc. OK, those are the minimum numbers, now what?
    I had my life, health and annuities license already so I didn’t need that but I had to get my series 7 and 66 licenses. If you’re not already some stellar performer with a book of business (meaning “accounts to bring with you to whatever firm is hiring you”) on hand odds are you’ll have to pay for your own license fees. For the series 7 and 66 figure about $1000. That was a chunk of change for me. You’ll have to pay for your own fingerprinting, another $60. You’ll have to study for the exams which is where I had nice advantage- I had already been in the market for almost 20 years now- and trust me, nothing makes you learn faster than watching real money leave the table.

    I passed the Series 7 with an 85%, the Series 66 with an 89% and was awarded my trophy; a business card that read: Jonathon Valin, Financial Advisor. I stared at it for about half the day, 20 years had finally come full circle.
    ENTER TOASTMASTERS

    If you’ve never heard of toastmasters look them up now: toastmasters.org.
    I figured the easiest way to leverage my time for prospecting was to get in front of a group. But I have never been in front of a group except for the typical “speech 101”. In fact I loathed every minute of speech class everyone has to take. Toastmasters is an organization where people get together to practice public speaking. It’s very organized and standardized. Nobody laughs or gives negative criticism because they’re all there for the same purpose as you are. Here’s how it works, you sign up with a club and pay the annual dues which are less than $50 and you are given a manual of speeches you must complete. Your first speech is appropriately titled the “ice breaker speech” where you just talk about yourself for 5- 7 minutes. Honestly, for my ice breaker speech I forgot my own name. I kept reminding myself that I was there so I can carry what I was learning to the job. This became an 8 month journey which I went to Christmas parties, birthdays, gave speeches about investing and eventually had people asking me about business. Holy *** I was prospecting! Funny thing was I was hardly talking about market strategies at all. Nobody really cared about “diagonal calendar spreads” or why the IRS won’t let you “short against the box”. The difference was the level of genuineness. Did it work for business? Yes and no. Although my public presentation grew leaps and bounds , personal growth does not make quotas. This all happening toward the end of my 1 year timeline to make quota- $1 Million under management or make ~$50,000 for the firm.
    Time was becoming of the essence and there is really no such thing as a “part time” financial advisor.
    The hours to keep were market hours, Monday thru Friday 9:00-4:00 all the while still working the regular job at the hospital which was Sunday thru Tuesday 7:00pm- 7:00am. I bought a black card membership at planet fitness so I could use any of their gyms to shower after working at the hospital and ended up driving from downtown to the Maitland Planet Fitness at 7a to be at the brokerage by 9a. Sleep at lunch and from 4p-5p then do it all again until Wednesday night. They knew about this, after all- full disclosure- but not something that gave me discontent after all I signed up for this and was doing what I finally wanted to do. I would pack the car with 3 days’ worth of suits and juggle the schedule.
    An unanticipated circumstance arose however. After somewhat living out of my car for 3 days a week it began to look like I was living out of my car. It became unsustainable very quickly. The inevitable implosion was fantastic- a supernova in its own right. After an incident of falling asleep while standing up I decided to gracefully bow out.
    If you’re wondering if I made the quota? No. Else I wouldn’t be writing for the failure contest. The quota was for $1M, I ended the year with ~$400,000- which I’m quite satisfied for just “winging it” since I pretty much knew the odds were long to begin with. I also really should say I don’t consider it a failure per se- more like a Pyrrhic victory.
    And when asked why I took the job if I knew the chances of success were slim to begin with? I’ll quote Admiral Adama from Battlestar Galactica, “Sometimes you gotta roll the hard six…”
    Things I gained from this endeavor:
    -Prospecting is the number one activity that will make or break you in business. It doesn’t matter if the industry is finance, IT, real estate or just trying to get a gig waiting tables. If you can’t go up to a stranger, introduce yourself and have a genuine conversation then before you start you’re already beat.
    -Toastmasters.org , this is probably the greatest thing that I signed up for during this while ordeal. I’d encourage everyone to at least go to a local meeting. Its free to try out. Essential to prospecting.
    – The greatest asset a salesperson can have is the number of people in their circle of influence.
    -Your client really doesn’t care how much you know or how many technicalities you can dazzle them about your business. In fact they’re probably there to only talk about themselves.
    -Bruce Elliot, Chairman of the Investment Committee at Orlando Realtor Association gave me a great piece of advice once, “Make a list of the tough questions you’ll have to ask and ask them upfront. Otherwise they’ll either come up at an inconvenient time or at an embarrassing time.”
    -Try hard not to lose that youthful naive optimism when embarking on something that seems ridiculously out of reach.

  4. Capstone Section 16 SBU Manager Bob Boettcher

    Through my time at the University of Central Florida, I have experienced many failures. However, in order to tell you the story of arguably my greatest failure, let’s go back to my Junior year:

    It was October, 2013 and after months of 30+ hour work weeks as a delivery driver for dominos and not making enough money to pay my bills, the stress finally broke me. I decided to attend UCF’s marketing internship and career expo to find something, anything, better. That’s when I met the campus recruiter for Total Quality Logistics. They weren’t offering any internship positions, but they told me all about their full-time positions typically reserved for recent graduates, and I decided that there was no harm in applying for the position to see what happens. Long story short, I made it through all three phases of the interview process was was extended a job offer. I knew timing could not have possibly been worse, being that I was barely half-way done with my degree and I would be committing to 60+ hour work weeks if I were to accept the opportunity. After a lot of thought and consideration, I took a leap of faith and accepted the position.
    My first day was December 9th, 2013. It was winter break, so I was able to devote 100% of my time to learning the ropes of TQL. In that month break, I easily learned more about business, real world business, than all of the last two years of my schooling combined. The days were long, I worked from 7:45am to 5:15pm Monday through Friday, and 8:00am to 12:00pm every other Saturday. Not to mention that TQL’s company culture is one that strongly encourages coming in early and staying late if “you want to succeed in the business.” I had never been as worn out as I was after a day at TQL. Aside from the long hours, the work was extremely demanding, being that nothing ever goes as planned in the logistics industry, and it was my job to fix the problems as they arose while also pushing forward with the new tasks at hand.
    When spring semester came along, I decided to drop down to a part-time student at UCF in an effort to balance everything. I signed up for only two classes- Supply Chain Management and Cornerstone. I knew Cornerstone was going to demand a lot of my time, but I had no idea Supply Chain Management would turn out to be as labor-intensive as it was. Spring semester of my junior year probably should have killed me from exhaustion. My mind and body were in a constant state of redlining like an overworked car engine. I began spiraling toward self-destruction. I held on for dear life because I was finally financially independent and was no longer living paycheck to paycheck, although admittedly just barely over the threshold. The feeling was addictive, knowing I was in control of my life and my money for the first time ever. That is what pushed me to hold on as long as I did.
    I lasted four months at TQL before I cracked under the pressure. All of my pint-up worries and sobering realizations flooded my brain all at once, and I realized I had reached a cross roads in my life. I could either stay at TQL and drop out of UCF, or I could stay at UCF and quit TQL. There were simply not enough hours in the day for me to continue juggling both. Once I came to this realization, it was honestly an easy decision for me. I moved to Orlando to get my degree and to represent myself and my family as a first generation college graduate, and nothing was getting in between me and achieving my goal. So I walked away from my position at Total Quality Logistics, and started performing damage control on my academics.
    Although I did manage to pass Cornerstone, I ended my semester with a C- in Supply Chain Management, and had to take the course again because I needed a “C or better.” Fun fact about that class, the professor actually changed his syllabus the following fall semester to get rid of “C-” grades altogether because, “It caused too many problems the last semester.” So, even though my grade from spring semester was a passing grade according to the following fall semester’s syllabus, I had to take the class again and pay UCF again for the same course. I went to the professor personally and tried to explain the situation, but this was no use, as he had no intentions of helping me in this peculiar situation. Although at the time this felt like UCF was throwing salt in my still open wound, I eventually calmed down and did not let this become a defining moment in my life, and completed the class for the second time.
    All in all, deciding to take that leap of faith with TQL ended up pushing my graduation date back by one semester; which I was fairly unhappy about, but it also provided me with many positive, valuable outcomes as well. Because of my experience at TQL, I was able to get the attention of many companies for sales positions for after I graduate this summer. I was able to secure 4 different job offers, and have since accepted one with a company that I never dreamed of being able to work for straight out of college. During my final interview with said company, when discussing my skills and competencies, we almost exclusive discussed my experiences from TQL. Even though I had other note-worthy work experiences, my full-time sales position at TQL as a Junior in college served as a major differentiating factor for branding myself, and it paid off more than I ever thought possible. Even though many people thought I was making a bad decision when I accepted that position at TQL, I knew that it would’ve been a bad decision for me not to accept an opportunity such as that to grow and learn from, and even though it caused me to not graduate on time, I would not change a thing if I had the opportunity to do it all over again.

    Don’t ever be afraid of Failure. Instead, be afraid of never pushing yourself to the point where failure is a real possibility. You’ll surprise yourself with how much you are truly capable of.

  5. Capstone Section: 11
    SBU Manager: DeGeorge

    When I came to UCF I had big dreams. Dreams that I did not want to give up for any reason.
    I came in as a bright-eyed freshman, Biology student. First I only wanted to be a veterinarian, my dream career for as long as I could remember. That dream progressed during my Fall semester into wanting to be a veterinarian that also owned their own clinic. At this point I picked up an Entrepreneurship minor with the College of Business, having no idea how much that would impact my life. During this year I focused all my energy on my dream. I joined a new program on campus, Learning Environment Academic Research Network or LEARN, that focused on getting first year STEM students into research labs. I began to work in a population genetics lab with a professor in the Biology department. Along with this, I joined the Pre-Vet Society, UCF Chapter, and began to get to know others that were following a similar dream.
    I could not have been happier with the progress I was making towards my life-long goal. Or this is what I was telling myself everyday when I woke up. During my Spring semester, my freshmen year is when the failure of making this dream become a reality started to play out.
    That semester I took the Chemistry II course. Then I took it again that Summer C semester. And then a third time the following Fall semester. I took Chemistry II at UCF, with two different professors, three semesters in a row and failed it all three times. Semester one, F. Semester two, F. Semester three, D. There was minor improvement by the third semester, but not enough to not consider it a failure.
    I was unable to move on to other courses without passing this one course. I was stuck. My Biology degree was being put on hold because I had failed to progress properly. That Fall semester, third time enrolled in Chemistry II, I could take no other science courses and all my General Education courses were almost complete because of Dual Enrollment during my high school years. This forced me into working on my Entrepreneurship minor. A minor that in the previous Spring semester, had me take a Marketing course that I was excited to attend each week.
    During that final semester of Chemistry II, after failing my midterm in the course, I went home and was so upset myself. I could not believe that I was failing again. That my dream was never going to come true. Then I really thought about what I was doing. Why was I so stuck on my childhood dream? What was it about being a veterinarian that was so appealing to me? I could not come up with any answers. I was stuck in my way, afraid to make a change. Feeling like if I changed what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I would have failed myself. But by not pushing myself towards a dream that I actually wanted, I was already failing myself.
    I did not like Biology or the related subjects. I was not motivated to learn about it and that lack of motivation was fully shining through. So I took my three-time failure and made a change. I switched my major from Biology to Management.
    A few people mocked me for this. Pulling out statements like, “Science is to hard so you switched to Business.” For that statement and those similar I just shook my head. Business was not my fall back plan. It is what my plan developed into. I learned from failing over and over again. What I learned is something I will bring with me through my whole life. That lesson is, never settle for something because it is comfortable, but instead try new things, focus on other areas, and never be afraid to take a leap and change what has always been same. If I would have continued on my dream path, I wouldn’t be happy. I could have made it, followed my whole dream. But in the end, the motivation wouldn’t have been there, the desire to succeed wouldn’t be there, and the way I feel each morning when I wake up would be completely different then it is today.
    I’m happy that I have those failures on my transcript. No other way would have known that helping people grow and the world of management was my true passion.

  6. Section 16 SBU Manager – Charlie Viggiano

    As I thought about the best way to write this story many memories came to mind and God I made a tough decision but yet the right one.

    I was born and raised in Colombia (South America). About 7 years ago I was 21 and was one semester away from graduation and I could not wait to get school over with. I was approached by a local recruiter who talked me into the Disney International College program, I was amazed by his story and I immediately shared with my friends. They loved it too but did not really buy into it, so I decided to tell my dad and asked for his support. I pitched him the entire story and told him I would come back with tons of experience and bilingual! As I remember my enthusiasm about this program I remember that I really just wanted to get away from family for a while and be a grown up for once. My friends jumped on board with me and off we went to Orlando.

    I will not share all the details of the program otherwise, you would be reading the next New York’s time best seller, however, I will share that during those 7 months I learned really amazing things about this culture. Without realizing it I had fallen in love with this country and to top it off I had met a very lovely woman towards the end of my program. I can only remember my conversations with my mother and her sad voice as I think she foresaw what was to come.

    I thought and thought and decided with my new girlfriend that the best for us was for me to stay here in Florida, with her. When I shared the news with my parents they were not very happy, especially my mom, one could think she had lost part of her body or something. It was cruel to see her crying and her face expression. A big deciding factor if not the biggest for me to stay here was the fact that I had the opportunity to meet my girlfriend’s family, she is now my wife and the mother of our 9 month old little girl BTW..yes, I will elaborate on this shortly. Anyway, her family is the most amazing people I have ever met. They are loving, caring and took me under their wing as if they had known me for a very long time.

    I know this competition is about failure and for some reason I don’t think this is a personal failure as We (Stephanie and I) have accomplished so much over the past 6 years and will not trade this life for anything in the world. Though, I thought and still think that my decision really stabbed a knife or something in my parents’ hearts, as a father now I put myself in their shoes without going through Vivienne’s teen years (my daughter) and I can only imagine their pain – I had failed my parents. They had worked so hard for me to go to school back home and did everything in their power to educate me and raised me and my brother the best they could. I also believe I failed my dad because he did not get to see his son graduate and how proud a parent feels as he sees his son walking across the stage.

    As my mom shared the news with some of her friends and family all she received back was a “I am sorry” which made it worse. I guess the biggest failure here is that I was only one semester away from graduation back home and if we think about numbers, my parents spent a lot of money trying to get me to graduate as the university I went to wasn’t very cheap. Also, the fact that the way my parents expected me to introduce their future daughter in law was completely different – they could not even go to the wedding! Anyway, as I said before I really hurt their feelings and somehow felt that I took that away from them.

    Months passed and the wound was starting to heel but still a lot to recover from. I had made the commitment not only to my parents but most importantly to myself. I would go back to school here and graduate. Well – it sounded very easy to say a completely different thing is to actually do it. I had to go through so much in order to get accepted to a community college here and to try to transfer some credits from my school back home so that I felt like I didn’t waste a lot of time in my life….

    I had to send all my paper work to Miami so that it could be read by professionals, this after being stamped by the minister of education back home, not kidding it took a lot of effort not only from me but also my parents who not only had to deal with the pain of seeing their zone in Skype but also deal with tons and tons of paper work. I am also not counting the immigration paper work part of my life which is another interesting story.

    I finally was accepted to Valencia and skipped several math classes by taking the math test, went through all the general education classes and graduated from Valencia. Yay! Wait it was not over yet, UCF required me to have additional paper work in order to transfer some credits but also to be admitted. I proceeded to gather all the stuff and with the help of a very lovely, extremely helpful and I will never forget about her, Carol Black student adviser, who took me under her wing and put me in the right classes, gave me awesome pointers, but most importantly motivated me to never give up. I had the chance to share my story with her and I think she just felt really bad which may have persuaded her to give me special attention.

    Long story short after completing all UCF requirements as far as paper work and classes, going through a ton of work setbacks as I went from employer to employer, having very little dollars in my bank account, here I am one month away from graduation! I am not attending graduation ceremony, why, I don’t know. I just think it took so long to get here that now I don’t want to stop and I will actually be attending grad school sometime next year. I will definitely be putting my parents on a plane to see me graduate with a master’s.

    I grew in so many ways not only from a personal stand point but also professional, as I used to say to make myself feel better “extra education does not hurt anyone” and it actually did not. I feel very accomplished and cherish all the professors and leaders I have had during this journey. If we are talking about a new experience, this was definitely a new experience to me and definitely not within my comfort zone to have to make the biggest decision of my life thus far in a matter of a day of hard thinking. I was not in my comfort zone, to come to a different country, understand the culture, adapt to it, learn to get around and get a job because the magic of Disney was part of the past, this was real life now and for a 22 year old I think this is a pretty tough decision to make.

    I live a very blessed life, like I said I would never trade it for anything in the world. My parents have been here multiple times, have met my wife (love her), her family and obviously their granddaughter. I have been with Disney for about 5 years now and work in lodging line of business as a quality assurance manager and absolutely love it, I never thought I would be where I am at and the route to career success ahead is looking great. My wife is part time with Disney as a leader as well and our work-life balance is great. We have no debt except for the house and already have a retirement plan in place. If there is anything I appreciate about this country, it is the individuals that motivated me to keep going and never give up.

    And for those out there that tell people “you can’t do that” as some told me in the past, here is proof that it can be done. It only takes perseverance, patience but most importantly love for those around you.

  7. Ida A. Santiago – Capstone-CMB-15/SBU Connell

    I grew up with limited means and early on I learned that when you fall you get up, dust your knees, head high, and tackle the next best thing. I call this persistence, and the strength build in prepared me for the failure silently awaiting.

    Spring of 2007- I was presented with an opportunity to start my own retail business, and jumped at the opportunity to make a dream a reality. Yippee! I will be the captain in control of my own ship, oops! Did I mention destination unknown? First mistake- I did not have a business plan, or researched the industry, or conducted a business analysis; I just learned how to do these researches in my Strategic Management class/aka CAPSTONE. I was in complete overdrive, I took money from my savings, a big chunk – oops! Second mistake. I was on a mission and adrenaline was fueling my excitement, who will not? Business was registered and I got the license to operate. Also, I needed my business cards, it was important to hand them out when attending workshops or networking events, oh yea! I knew the importance of being surrounded with like-minded individuals. I had the flexibility of working hours and making the decisions that were guiding and fueling the desire to succeed, however, I did not follow a specific business plan because I did not have one and my business was destine to fail. The business lacked a solid foundation and it was a matter of time before it crumbled. I was good at what I was doing, had returning customers but, it was not enough, new businesses will have to jump over the five years hump to survive. I was well aware of the statistics and could hear the sound of the clock ticking, I constantly injected money to order new merchandise and meet customer demands. That dreaded day came, but not as I expected, big corporations were laying off employees in masses and the economy of the country was hurting. People were holding onto their money tight, I was not going to invest more money into the business and sadly ended my business, but not my dream.

    Even thus I was not successful in this venture, I have no regrets, there were wonderful people I met and many things I learned about entering into business; do your due diligence, take a business course or a class in whatever field you choose. I have learned so much from my experience back in school and have had the privileged and guidance of great educators that I am sure to succeed next, as I have better tools now.

  8. Brandon Burke
    Capstone Section 20
    SBU Manager DeGeorge

    Have you ever envisioned your life and what it would be like in the next year, in five years, in twenty years? My dream for the last two years has been to start a career in public accounting. My plan this year is to get accepted into the UCF masters program for accounting which is required to sit for the CPA exam and to obtain the license. In five years I want to be a senior tax manager for McGladrey LLP where I currently serve as an intern. In twenty years I want to be a managing partner of the firm, making executive level decisions that have an impact on a global organization and working to make it even better than when I first started. Future plans require actions in the present, which means we need to plan ahead and do whatever it takes today in order to be where we want to be in a few years. The steps I needed to take to apply and be accepted into the masters program was to have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA, a strong resume, and a competitive GMAT score. My agreement with McGladrey is to finish my internship this summer, obtain my masters in accounting, and then start the CPA exam before I work full-time. I have a long-term plan that can only be orchestrated as soon I am accepted into the masters program. This is my story of how I failed.

    One month ago I took the GMAT. It was the last requirement I needed to complete in order to apply for the accounting masters program at UCF. I went into the exam confident that I would meet the minimum expectations of the university. After a long four hours I submitted my exam and when I received my score I was shocked that I had underperformed even compared to my own minimum standards. Although I was unhappy with my performance I still wanted to submit my application to the university in optimism that my strong GPA and resume experience would overshadow my low GMAT score. I was convinced that with a 3.6 GPA and a resume that consists of two accounting internships, various jobs over the last four years, campus involvement, community service, and consistent academic achievement earning Dean’s List every year, I would be accepted into the program right?

    Just one week ago I received an email stating, “We regret to inform you that you have not been recommended for admission at this time”. In the moment of reading those words I could only think of how I put in so much hard work over the last four years just to get to the end of the road and fail. I was devastated by those words I received and I broke down mentally. I couldn’t focus on anything besides this news I had just received, I wasn’t interested in eating or even speaking to anyone. All I kept thinking about was how I failed myself, my family and my friends. My family has been so proud of my academic and professional achievements and constantly asks how excited I am to start graduate school in the fall. My friends ask about the classes I am taking so that we can take them together. I was too ashamed to tell anyone I have failed to get into the masters program. This failure meant I must retake the GMAT in fall rather than start graduate school. I had a plan to finish school with my masters by summer 2016 and begin my career as an accountant. But now I must wait six months to apply for graduate school again which will delay the start of my career. I am not even sure if McGladrey will extend me a job offer if I am not starting graduate school right away. I realized this failure was changing the plans that I have had for my future and this was breaking me. At the end of the day I had a decision to make. I could let this failure ruin my next day, my next week, and maybe even my next month by not doing anything about it. Or I could take action and seek how to use this failure as an opportunity to make me a stronger individual.

    The very next day I went to the accounting building hoping to gain insight on what I could be doing to overcome this barrier. I spoke with Dr. Charles Kelliher to find out what my options were. He advised me with two alternatives: I could take the GMAT again in the fall and wait to apply for the masters program in the spring or I could take action now and appeal the decision made in attempt to be admitted in the fall. When he mentioned there was an appeal process my eyes started to grow wide and I sat up tall at the edge of my seat. I was eager to know how the appeal process works. What does it consist of and what do I have to do? How much time do I have to complete this? I wanted to know every detail about this appeal process. He explained to me the appeal process consisted of writing an essay and obtaining three letters of recommendation. He informed me it is not an easy task to persuade the graduate admissions office to change their decision but that it is possible. When I left Dr Kelliher’s office I thought of this as a window of opportunity, I had nothing to lose. This was an opportunity that I could attempt and at worst gain a learning experience. I immediately emailed him that night for the appeal documents.

    Since the day I left Dr. Kelliher’s office I have been getting in contact with previous professors and employers. I have gone into the office hours of professors and have sent emails to those who know my work ethic best, asking if they would like to meet with me for coffee and asking for letters of recommendation. Without having this failure I would not have reached out to those individuals that I have learned so much from over the last four years to catch up with them. I am now realizing how important it is to stay connected on a personal level with my predecessors. Since this failure, my eyes have been opened to being proactive and taking the initiative to stay connected with as many people as possible. This weekend I went out of my comfort zone to meet with one of the managing partners of McGladrey for a cup of coffee. We talked for over an hour about my life plans and goals and she also shared with me her professional experience and how she got to be successful in her career today. After just an hour of talking she was confident enough to promise me a letter of recommendation! I realized this recommendation would not only be beneficial for me now but also in the long-run when I am trying to start my career with the firm. I left Starbucks feeling amazing. I also wondered if I wouldn’t have failed getting into grad school would I have been proactive and asked the partner to meet with me? Would I have ever received the letter of recommendation that could give me an advantage when applying for the job? Currently, I am continuing to meet with my professors and employers to seek advice and receive as many recommendation letters as possible. I am taking every action that I can to persuade the graduate admissions committee that I am a qualified candidate for admittance in the fall.

    The lesson I want everyone to take away from my story is that we are all going to fail in our life. The great part about failure is that it is not the end of the world or the end of the road to our success in life. Rather failure is defined as a barrier that provides an opportunity for us to learn. It is imperative to take early initiative when you fail and never let it get the best of you or let it control your actions. This is the story of my most recent yet most difficult failure to overcome. I am giving it my all to prove that failure is not an end it is an opportunity to prove how strong you are as a person.

  9. Senior
    English – Creative Writing

    As a senior in high school, I didn’t want to think of what lay beyond the graduation stage. High school had structure: a bell system that always rang on time, a cafeteria organized by popularity, a gym that never failed to reek of dirty socks. Beyond high school, there was chaos. I shied away at the thought of graduating from the bubble that protected me from adulthood. Conversations at my relatives’ dinner tables were cut short by my hesitance to lay out my five-year plan. I avoided posters pushing seniors to attend college visits, purchase blue polyester graduation gowns, and learn study tips for the SAT.

    It was only with the utmost reluctance that I applied for college. I grew sick of hearing my teachers warn me of wasting my potential at McDonald’s: the best my high school diploma could secure. Deep down, I knew they were right. I’d been on the honor roll for longer than I could remember, enrolled in every AP class that fit my schedule, and held memberships in multiple honor societies on campus. College was the next step.

    Still, my Peter Pan attitude hindered me from even starting a college application. I was terrified of losing my academic standing. The thought of moving away from my childhood home petrified me in ways I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. While my classmates raved about the fraternities they would rush, the clubs they would join, and the parties they would have, I questioned whether or not I was ready for the responsibilities of a college student. The anxiety that stemmed from immersing myself in an environment so different from the one I was used to in high school nearly prevented me from pursuing a college education.

    In an act of desperation to push past my fears, I attended a seminar at my high school organized by the UCF Admissions Office. Sitting amongst my peers, I pondered the idea of applying to one college: an all or nothing opportunity to further my education and quiet my anxieties. UCF stands for opportunity, and I took this lesson to heart as I walked away from the seminar. I lived close enough to the main campus to remain at home, a thought that satisfied my reluctance to leave my safe haven. With over 60,000 students, there had to be at least one person I could find a friend in.

    I applied. I was accepted. I walked across the graduation stage with my classmates, believing that the worst of my struggles were over. I had a next step.

    On my first day of college orientation, I hadn’t chosen a major. I’d been so distracted by the fear of applying to college that I never chose how I would continue my education. I tried to imagine myself in different career paths: an engineer, a foreign language professor, a mathematician. Nothing appealed to me. Standing in front of the orientation leaders dividing eager freshmen into tour groups based on majors, I was forced to determine my career for the rest of my life in the next two minutes—at least, that’s how I felt. I blurted out the first major that came to mind: graphic design. I was the editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook two years in a row, so it wasn’t completely unreasonable to pursue an education in graphic design. I completed orientation, enrolled in my courses, and waited the long month before the fall semester began.

    My first day of college was nothing short of a nightmare. Even with studying the campus map with the same vigor I used for my AP final exams, I found myself wandering through campus alone: an Alice among Wonderland’s creatures. Sitting in an introductory drawing course for my major, I had never felt more out of place. The students around me looked focused, determined, and in control. In my mind, I knew I had made the largest mistake of my life by enrolling in a major that I truly didn’t belong to. After class, I sat outside the UCF bookstore, discouraged and let down by my failure to be prepared for college. I had wasted too much time in high school reveling in my comfort zone that I didn’t prepare the four years that would determine my calling in life. I can’t recall how long I sat outside the bookstore that night, but by the time I dragged myself to my car and drove home, I was ready to drop out. I had failed.

    By the time I woke up the next morning, I reconciled. So I’d chosen the wrong major. Big deal, I told myself. I could just pick a new one. I reviewed the list of majors offered at UCF, considering every option. When I saw English-Creative Writing on the list, I remembered my former fourth-grade self declaring an author as the ultimate dream job. It was a small bit of peace, but I stuck to it. I changed my major, enrolled in new courses, and approached my second day of college as a do-over. This time, I was prepared to get lost, prepared to feel uncertain, prepared to meet failure head-on.

    A lot has changed since my second “first day of college.” I found a home in UCF’s English department. My instructors pushed me beyond limits I didn’t know I had. By the time I walk across the graduation stage for the second time in my life, I will have earned a bachelor’s degree in under four years; presented my literary research at two international academic conferences; held the position as president for Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society; and published two of my works in literary journals. For a girl who was too afraid to leave her comfort zone in high school, UCF has taught me to keep pushing past these fears and take advantage of the opportunities available to all Knights.

    As I start to apply for my graduate school, I remember the anxiety I had as a senior in high school and my subsequent hindrances that prevented a smooth start in college. My failure deals not with a lack of academic drive, but with a lack of courage. Today, I am proud of not only my accomplishments but the struggles I dealt with that led me to triumph. To all, I urge you to remember that failure does not mean the end of opportunity. If anything, UCF has taught me when one opportunity fades away, another five appear in its place. To meet these opportunities is where courage blooms and where my story continues.

  10. When we are young we get easily fascinated by things that we find interesting, new, fresh or COOL! I was in my sophomore year in high school, during that time I was a reserve, quiet, and at times a shy person. I was interested in simple things such as Tetris, listening to music, and reading. One day I was walking down my school’s halfway and I saw a flyer about an audition for the break dancing team. I ignored it as I usually did and didn’t think much of it.

    One afternoon I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a video a friend uploaded. In this video he did some pretty crazy, creative, and awesome dance moves (or so I thought). I didn’t even know what he was even dancing to. I did little of research through Google and YouTube and found out it was the art of break dancing.

    When I was fifteen new things out of the norm were interesting, but I wouldn’t really try it. I wasn’t looking to stand out, I was just trying to survive high school. But when I started thinking about my life, there wasn’t anything exciting about it. I wanted to do some pretty neat things, basically change my life.

    The first step towards change was to do break dancing, I thought it was something anyone could do as long as you put in time. But I was a short, chubby, nonathletic girl. On top of that I was a nerdy looking girl fascinated by the world of Harry Potter, so breaking as a different universe.
    It was time for me to step up my game, there was two weeks until the audition, so I had more than enough time to put something together. I was an hour in on the first day and stopped because I got tired. The next day practiced for five hours to make up for the time lost. Little did I know how sore I was going to be the next day. I could not walk, sit or stretch without feeling pain. Then again that afternoon I practiced because I thought the pain would go away…but it didn’t. It took five days for the pain leave.

    There was a week left and not enough time. I tired focusing on four steps and perfecting it. I made little improvement. Finally day zero arrived I went to the audition, I was nervous to say the least. I had many thoughts while waiting my turn, like why I was there, should I leave or hide among the crowd? But then again what was I going to lose. When the time came I underestimated the experience of being in front of a crowd. I walked timidly to the front. The beat turn on and my face turned bright red. I did the steps I was worked on. During my performance I missed steps and honestly it was just sloppy.

    After I finished I heard weak claps. There was silence, or maybe my imagination. I didn’t make the cut, but it was of no surprise. After I walked out I laughed because it was crazy that I actually did something new. Even though I embarrassed myself in front of people and failed at break dancing, I learn to appreciate the work put behind each performance. In addition I learn my own strength and weakness. After that I tried different things and even though there were more failures I also found other areas I was talented at.

    In the end don’t quit before you try. You got to give it your best, to walk away proudly.

  11. Nhu Nguyen
    Senior – HR Management

    “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” – George Washington Carver.

    It was my decision to move to the United States when I was 17. My parents had always wanted a better education for me, but they were immensely worried that I would not be able to make it on my own. My mom and dad never let me go anywhere farther than a quarter mile from them, yet this time I would have to travel halfway around the world all by myself.

    “Why would you want to go to a different place and start from zero?” asked many friends of mine. I had everything I wanted: being President of my class, obtaining first place in every single student competition in high school, achieving the High Honor Roll, having a great group of close friends, and having my parents taking care of everything for me. Why would I leave it all behind?

    I heard lots of stories about America by word of mouth from Vietnamese immigrants and international students and read from some teen magazine articles. They said that the country is prosperous and the people are friendly. Many said that finding scholarships and jobs is a piece of cake, and your English will be improved in no time. I thought this could be out of my comfort zone and there might be a few obstacles. On the other hand, I would be able to adapt quickly and it would be worth the risk. Thus, I packed my bags and said goodbye to my friends and family to pursue the “American dream.”

    Well, I knew it could be challenging, but I didn’t know it would be THAT challenging.
    At first, I didn’t get along with my legal guardian. I wasn’t allowed to participate in any extracurricular activities or interact with friends after school. I got to talk to my parents twice a year. I was extremely depressed and had a few breakdowns in public. My English wasn’t good enough to succeed academically either. I took a few English courses in Vietnam and ranked number one in my class most of the time, but what I learned is nothing like the English used in textbooks or real conversations. I studied until 3 am every night just to secure my A’s and passed the FCAT.

    After high school, I decided to major in Business Administration in Valencia College because I didn’t know what to do with my life. All I wanted was a better education. I wanted to satisfy my thirst for knowledge, but I didn’t know what to do with that knowledge. I graduated from Valencia with a perfect 4.0 GPA but no scholarships. I was aiming for a full-ride scholarship offered by Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to pay for UCF tuition, but there was one problem: The application asked for my campus involvement. I had nothing to fill in. I paid attention in class and studied very hard for my exams but I never talked to my advisor, nor did I bother taking part in any activities on campus. I was so confident that I would get the scholarship due to my financial situation and story of making it in America with a perfect GPA, but they were looking for more than that. As a result, I couldn’t afford UCF out-of-state tuition and postponed my application.

    After a year working and saving money, I transferred to University of Central Florida and attended the Spring 2014 Welcome to the Majors. Little did I know a series of life-changing events would start from here. A quote from Herbert Spencer was emphasized over and over that day: “The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.” I started to see clarity! I want knowledge; I want wisdom, but knowledge and wisdom without action is futile! I started to feel motivated to get involved and found a recruitment table of Delta Sigma Pi, a professional business fraternity. I decided to join and made the pledge class that semester. I, however, was still very timid and afraid of taking any more risks.

    The nomination for Delta Sigma Pi officers in Spring 2015 was held; I was planning to apply for a small position because I wasn’t confident about my experience and popularity. Rami Morse, a brother in DSP, was very supportive and suggested that I should run for Senior Vice President. At first, I chickened out because my opponent was someone whom I very admired and respected. He’s a highly qualified candidate: very involved with the fraternity, very skilled and personable. I wouldn’t stand a chance, but then I think…. What do I have to lose? Nothing. I stopped looking at what I don’t do as well as he does and started to focus on what I do best: innovate. I created a survey to collect ideas for recruitment, made an event app, created promotional videos, and then proposed these ideas at the election. My heart stopped the second they announced me as the new Senior Vice President! After that, I started to come up with more ideas and new plans. I was told “that’s not what we always do”; I was told to not “change things.” I knew the risks, but I am no longer afraid. I would rather try something new, fail, and become wiser than stick to the status quo and never make any progress. During my time as Senior Vice President of DSP in Spring 2015, I started to develop passion in recruiting and changed my major to Human Resource Management. I also gained more experience through my involvement on campus and made the student ambassador program this semester.

    I have learned so much through this journey:

    First, data-driven decision making is extremely important. I would have prepared myself better before moving to the U.S if I did more research and varied the credibility of the resources. Many Vietnamese immigrants and students hide their struggles due to pride and paint the perfect picture about the American Dream. The truth is no pain, no gain.

    Second, 4.0 GPA won’t get me a scholarship or a job. Getting involved on campus transformed me from a very shy little person who barely spoke English to a student leader who dares to step out of her comfort zone.

    Third, know thyself. I was lucky enough to obtain the second highest position in Delta Sigma Pi. I knew I’m not better than my opponent; I won because I was different. I focused on developing my strength instead of letting my weakness discourage me.

    And finally, after I do a SWOT analysis, it’s okay to take risk. Now I know my true purpose of moving to the United States: to search for freedom. For there’s freedom, there’s innovation. Where there is innovation, there is advancement. If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary. – Jim Rohn.

  12. John Gavin

    Senior, Bachelor of Music Education Major

    I think many people have misconceptions have the professional performing musician. They believe that someone who plays an instrument has a gift or talent that was bestowed to them at birth. Even when I am in conversations with others, they will mention that I have a gift or refer to my playing as a talent. I always thank their kind their praises, but I also find myself slightly annoyed. What I am able to do today is, in my opinion, the furthest thing from a talent or gift. I do believe I posses a strong work ethic with a goal orientated mindset that has led me to constantly improve my musical ability. People never see the hundreds of thousands of hours musicians must spend alone in a practice room, refining technical and expressive skills. They fail to realize the countless rehearsals a band or performing group must complete before playing in front of an audience. Similar to any other refined skill, successful music making requires repeated deliberate practice. If I was “gifted” anything, it was a string of failures packed neatly bythe University of Central Florida. I have come to realize that these failures were some of the best gifts I could’ve received.

    I don’t remember a time in my life without music. Some of my first childhood memories are of my Dad playing guitar and signing James Taylor or Paul McCartney songs as I fell asleep. Or when my Mom would dance in the kitchen while singing Cher or Whitney Houston. Or when my parents would take me to the Strawberry Festival to watch my Uncle Jack play drums with the Charlie Daniel’s Band. I heard and saw the power of music early and have yet to stop dancing.

    I can trace everything back to landing my first job. After my first year of high school I got a job at Publix Supermarkets over the summer. I made three hundred dollars after a few months of work. I never had that much money before. I was proud of it. One afternoon I got the mail and starting flipping through a wholesale music mail order catalogue. Toward the end of it, I came across a drumset that was exactly three hundred dollars. It was glossy red and came with hardware, cymbals and even some sticks. I was sold. Once it arrived in the mail I set it up and just started banging. I hardly knew what I was doing. I remembered one groove that my Uncle taught me. I was awful. Looking back that was one of the worst sounding drumsets I’ve ever played, but at the time I didn’t care. I was onto something. I was speaking with a voice I had never heard. I felt emotions I didn’t know I possessed. Later in the year my high school hosted a college fair. I remember the exact moment when I found out you could major in music at a university. Once I got back to class, I started flipping through a school’s degree offerings and found a slew of accredited music degrees that were based in instrumental performance, education, conducting, music therapy and arts administration. I was shocked. “How cool is this!”, I said as I turned to the guy sitting in the desk next to me. He responded with a less than enthused look. That was the moment where a seed was planted and somehow a part of me decided I was going to major in music. I had no idea what that even meant, (I couldn’t even read music!) all I knew was that I was going to do it.
    For kindergarten through twelfth grade I attended two private schools that boasted high graduation and college attendance rates. These schools possessed honors and AP courses with well-qualified teachers. Most of the student body either excelled in math, science and sports. Nurturing an artistic and creative independence was not the school’s strongest aspect. For the most part, these schools prepared students well for their future. Personally I believe I fell through the cracks and was woefully unprepared for the future.
    My first two years at UCF included one failure after another. My musical ability was not on the same level as other students of similar age. In some cases it was entirely non-existent. I was very behind. The schools that I had thought prepared me so well had not. The private drum lessons I started halfway through my junior year of high school were simply not enough to get me to the level I needed I to be at. Most music majors in college began learning their instrument in sixth grade or younger. I did not get to experience that. My middle school had no band to speak of and my high school had a miniscule group with mismatched instrumentation that I joined to my last two years of high school. My K-12 music education was nothing like the exceptional music programs in Orange County Public Schools. I didn’t even realize any of this was an issue for me until I had to audition to get into the music department at UCF, which is normally completed before a student is accepted into the university and enrolls in classes. I auditioned during the Spring semester of my freshman year, a full calendar year after I should have. I just was not aware of the process that it took to become a music major let alone be able to play the required instruments.

    Percussionists at UCF are required to learn a variety of instruments including marimba, timpani, snare drum, drum set, hand drums and a myriad of other percussion accessories. Notice I mentioned percussionists at UCF, not drummers. At the time of my first audition I was just a drummer. Not that there is anything wrong with just drummers, but I wanted to be more than that. I did not know how to read melodic music, which kept me from learning marimba and timpani. My deficiencies on snare drum and drumset along with the lack of playing experience on the other aforementioned instruments ultimately led to a rejection letter from the department of music. How could I compete with other students who received proper instruction on these instruments since grade school? Although it was disheartening to realize how far behind I was and that I would have to wait another full year to get the chance to audition again, I remained unphased by the rejection. I wanted the Bachelor of Music Education degree. With this degree I would get applied instrument instruction and state certification to teach music K-12 in the state of Florida. I felt, and still do, that this is a strong degree that amounts to more than just dried ink on a diploma. Now that I was aware of what I needed to work on, I met with UCF music professors to discuss a course of action. They referred me to private teachers in the area who would instruct me on the necessary instruments to re-audition. Ironically enough, I found myself back on high school campuses to meet with my new private teacher to study marimba and timpani.

    The next benchmark of failure came during the drumline auditions for the Marching Knights in the weeks before the start of the Fall semester of my sophomore year. I was a member of the Marching Knights the previous year and played cymbals, but I was auditioning again to pursue a different instrument, snare drum. It is often difficult to claim a spot for this instrument since there are only a limited number of snare drums in a drumline with far more drummers fighting for a few spots. It takes experience, musicianship, and a high level of technical proficiency to gain the trust of the band staff to believe that you will succeed on the instrument. It happens in college drumlines every year across the country. Certain guys (or girls) are not at the playing ability needed and are cut from the snare line. For this semester, I was one of those guys. It was embarrassing. I was getting outplayed by incoming students two years younger than me. I was invited back to play cymbals, but I solidified the failure and quit on marching band altogether that season. I never played snare drum in a drumline like UCF’s before and I would have to wait another year. It was tough. I had to walk away from friends I’d made and my dream of playing snare drum in Bright House Network Stadium.

    I took my frustration and directed my emotions into practicing and making music. I dove head first into concepts that were fresh and techniques that were foreign. I was able to start taking some entry level music major classes in a similar way that a music minor would. The spring auditions for my sophomore year eventually rolled around. I auditioned again and did slightly better, but did not gain full acceptance into the music department. At this point I was classified as a Bachelor of Art in Music, which is basically an art degree with music classes added. The degree was not enough for me. I wanted the full Monty. It was this point when I realized I would be at UCF longer than most students, possibly much longer. It was something that I had to come to peace with. I saw others music majors quit and drop out. I wasn’t going to be one of those statistics. There was no option. No other way I could satisfy myself as an artist, other than to get the Bachelor of Music education degree.

    At the onset of my junior year I auditioned again for the drumline. I made the drumline for that football season. It is an indescribable feeling marching to the stadium on a game day and performing the fight song as the football team comes roaring into the stadium. Some of my favorite memories from college are from my times performing with the Marching Knights. I’ve never felt prouder to be a Knight and to wear that Black and Gold. A dream that formed in high school finally came to fruition years later. I felt myself gaining steam musically. If I can achieve this after all this time, What else can stop me? I started taking other auditions. Walt Disney World holds drummer auditions every year for their seasonal Christmas parade. Year after year I would take the audition and never hear anything back. I auditioned for drum corps also during the fall of my junior year. I got cut from three separate drum corps, even after marching for UCF. My playing still had a long way to go.

    My music classes during my junior year continued to get increasingly more difficult. I ended up failing my first class ever, Music Theory III. Music theory is essentially how music functions on paper. It is a set of rules and regulations that act as musical grammar. I passed the class the following semester, but it would keep me at UCF longer still as the class is a pre-requisite to other upper level music classes. In the spring of my junior year I auditioned yet a third time for the Music Department. My private lessons on high school campuses finally paid off and I was accepted into the Bachelor of Music Education program and Percussion Studio for my senior year. Now the real work could begin.
    My senior year saw another season with the Marching Knights and full participation on UCF music ensembles and classes. Disney didn’t call me that Christmas either, but I would eventually be able to say that I performed at Universal Studios, Disneyland and Disney World as a seasonal and part-time theme park drummer. I never withdrew or failed another class since Music Theory III and am heading into the last phase of my full-time student teaching internship for this upcoming Fall Semester.

    Every audition is an opportunity for success or failure. Throughout my six years of UCF, I learned to grow from every bit of failure. Auditions are similar to job interviews; there is a certain risk vs. reward, but what’s the risk really? Embarrasment? Poor recommendation? Not having a job is certainly an issue. Yet if you take out the risk and just focus on the reward, you have all the power. You’re performing (or interviewing) with nothing to lose. That is exactly how I want to perform. I can narrow down everything I’ve learned from failure into three basic precepts. Patience, Courage, Conviction. I’ve had to wait many years to see progress in myself and within my degree audit. I focused on the day to day grind of accomplishing achievable goals while still aiming towards walking across that stage on graduation day. If a semester or year wasn’t going so great, I would simply buckle down and concentrate on what would bring me happiness and how I could get myself there. Some approach job interviews, auditions and performances with fear. They are afraid of what others will think or how they will do. One of my favorite quotes is from the book called Who Moved my Cheese by Spencer Johnson and it asks “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Well, if I wasn’t afraid then I would take that lofty audition or believe that I can succeed in something if I set my mind to it. I would believe that I am deserved of a successful career in music. That takes courage. After every failed auditioned I would ask myself, Is this what I really want? Will I ever get there? And I would answer back with a resounding, ”Yes.” I am not sure where my passion for music comes from. I can’t explain it fully. Maybe it dates back to my Dad playing guitar for me, or the comfort I felt playing drumset in high school. Wherever it comes from, I know music is what frees me from the limitations of human language and brings to light some incredibly strong emotions that, to me, are the very essence of our human nature. This is my musical conviction.
    For every failure I endured I can count double the amount of successes. If someone sees me play now they might comment on a talent or gift, but that’s not the entire story. They don’t see the literal blood, sweat and tears and countless hours of solitary work in the practice rooms in the music building on campus. After a certain point, that’s not important anymore. The music is what’s important and not my hardships. I’ve progressed in ways I could not have imagined and am full of gratitude for the University of Central Florida in providing for me education and opportunities along the way. I feel prepared to be competitive in the contemporary music industry. I am fully away that my decision to pursue a career in music will most likely not result in monetary wealth, but I already feel like the richest man on Earth.

  13. My Sharpest Memory

    I remember like it was yesterday. I was the most passionate person you would ever meet. My heart was full of gold, love, and passion. I was dedicated to becoming someone great, someone that my peers believed in and could look up to. Ever since I was in first grade, my teacher at the time, Mrs. Sims (who still teaches until this day), told me that she enjoyed my writing and that I was in the top percentile in comparison with my peers. She told me she believed that one day, I could do something great and that she wanted the very best for me.

    I had a passion for writing. It was something that came natural to me. I remember jotting down random lyrics after hearing songs on the radio and singing them in the shower. I was a little star in my mind, and in my parents’ mind, especially given the fact that I was their only child. When I was a boy, I had few friends. I went to a private school called Hiawassee Christian Academy on the west side of Orlando, which had smaller class sizes and really focused on the needs of the students. There is where I really focused on myself, doing homework, and focusing on what I loved–my writing in my own little world.

    Eventually, as I got older, my parents bought a Compaq, nineties computer, which I then started listening to and downloading music. My cousin, who I met for the first time in 2004, introduced me to a program called Acid, which allowed me to make beats and record my voice. It was something I became fascinated with. Slowly but surely, it became my love, my passion, and my everything.

    As time passed, I started school at South Lake High School in Groveland, far west of the city I grew up in. I met my best friend, Andres, who shared the same passion for music as me. I wanted to develop myself as an artist and create a name for myself. It was something that transcended my life and took me to a place I didn’t know existed.

    A few years later, things changed. My best friend moved away to Wisconsin to be with his father. By that time, the two of us had written over a hundred songs, and it became apparent that it’s what we really wanted to do. By my eighteenth birthday, I had recorded over seventy-five songs, and Andres had recorded over fifty. The passion we shared strengthened our bond and allowed us to develop a friendship that remained strong despite the distance between us.

    Throughout the years, I continued working on my music and my writing, and as time passed, I became better and better. Each song gave me a sense of purpose and allowed me to escape to a new world of fascination and dreams. My fan base grew tremendously, and by 2010, I had performed at the school talent show and recorded my first professional album titled, “Unsigned.” The show and the album were a success, and served as a trial for a focus group whom later became my fans. I had an album release party in my backyard where I put my album for sale. On that night, I sold seventy-seven out of a hundred CDs, and it instilled a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride as all my hard work paid off.

    By 2011, I wanted to try something new and exciting. I told Andres that I loved making music but that I wanted to look for bigger opportunities with a greater risk. At the time, there was a new TV show out that everybody was watching: The X Factor, U.S.A. I watched the show over and over and grew a fond liking of it. I remember watching it until the end and seeing the winner’s face light up in jubilation as her world changed forever. I told myself this was something I wanted to do.

    The year after, I built up the courage and told myself I was going to do it. It was set and done. The plan was to audition in 2013 as it gave me the most time to prepare. I was to give it my absolute everything. All of the nights of practice, all of the nights of being in my own world with my music, all of that for a shot of glory, fame, pride, and success to one day substantially pay off was what awakened my spirit and kept me going.

    After countless hours of rehearsing, practicing, and believing in myself, I boarded a plane to Denver, Colorado on the morning of May 9th, 2013 at 4 a.m. to visit my uncle who lived there. This was where the auditions were taking place—in the Denver Coliseum. I remember seeing the mountains as I flew over the city and wondering how high I could climb, not just in the mountains, but in my dreams. Registration was on the 12th and 13th, and auditions took place on the 14th. The first couple of days of the trip, my uncle and I went to explore the city, and he showed me the downtown area and the mountains. It was a beautiful city in America I had never seen before, and I became infatuated with it.

    On the morning of the 12th, I went to the coliseum, and there was a long line of so many people, probably the longest line I had ever seen, all there for the same reason—a shot of glory and success. I went through the registration process and remember meeting a few friends along the way, one of which was a mom who mentioned she also had an only child which was the center of her universe and the reason for her being there. By the end of the day, I finally finished with the registration process, and I remember going back to my uncle’s house and practicing and praying that the following day would be a victory.

    On the morning of May 14th, 2013, I awoke at 5 a.m. with the biggest smile on my face, and my uncle took me to the coliseum. I had the best outfit on one could imagine and a strong belief that I would make it. I remember waiting in the agonizing line for hours, until eventually, I made it inside the coliseum. I sat alone for a while, until eventually, a very pretty girl sat next to me named Gabriela, who shared the same dream as me. We sparked up a conversation exchanging our aspirations and ideas for the future. She told me she was studying architecture, and I told her I was studying business and writing, so if The X Factor were to fail, school would be our back up.

    Six hours later, it was time. It was the time I had been waiting for countless months. It was the moment of truth that could possibly change my life forever. Gabriela and I took the very long, nerve wrecking walk up to our booths as our section was called. We stood side by side, and then she went and auditioned before me, and I remember hearing one of the sweetest voice ever. I heard the passion in her voice, and then finally, it was my turn to go in. I slowly walked to my booth passing hers as my heart raced, and as I was walked, I saw Gabriela leaving her booth and walking to the front with the biggest smile on her face. That was the last I ever saw her. I walked into my booth in front of the judge, and she began asking me a few simple questions. After answering them, she told me to begin when I was ready. I took a moment, took a deep breath, and poured my heart out. I sang a song called “Glass House,” which I wrote back home about my life. After I finished, I paused for a moment of silence expecting a positive response, and the judge looked at me and said, “unfortunately, we won’t be moving you to the next round, but thank you for auditioning.”

    I couldn’t believe it. From that day on, I was crushed. I lost hope, confidence, motivation, and my spirit for one of my greatest aspirations, all because of one single person’s opinion. For many months after, I attempted to get back to recording, but it was never the same. I beat myself up taking rejection as a personal attack, even though I knew I was a great artist. I didn’t know what to do. A couple days later, I got back home, contemplating my future and whatever happened to the beautiful girl that sat next to me during the audition and what to do next. I was uncertain. I knew that one day, I would again attempt to show my greatness, but didn’t know in which form. It would be for me to define. One day, I would make it and would make all of my peers proud. One day, I would become everything I ever wanted and would make my dreams come true.

    I’m happy to announce that today, after two years of ceasing to believe in myself, I have finally reclaimed my spirit after realizing I only have one life to live. Come August, I will be graduating from U.C.F. with a degree in business administration, and I will begin working on my new album titled, “Letting Go,” not only for myself, but for the fans who never ceased to believe in me.

    Never give up.

    Sincerely,
    Carlos A. Hernandez

    Section 50
    Prof. Viggiano

  14. Senior majoring in electrical engineering and physics

    At the end of my freshman year in college, I adopted the international engineering minor being offered here at UCF. I was excited at the premise of travelling to a foreign country and taking coursework in engineering and that country’s culture. I chose Brazil as my country of interest and needed to learn Portuguese before I could be approved to go. There is no detailed Portuguese program at UCF; merely a single Portuguese course for students who are adept in one of the other Latin based languages, such as Spanish or French. I decided to take Spanish courses to prepare myself for Portuguese. After I had learned Spanish, I decided to enlist in a 2 week study abroad program in Spain offered by UCF to test and solidify my skills. It was in Spain that my failure happened.

    In addition to the 2 weeks that I was there as a part of the program, a few other students and I decided to spend an additional 2 weeks travelling to various cities in Spain to absorb even more of what the country had to offer. In the first two weeks, for the study abroad program, everything had been established for us. The students took a course in Spanish language and culture. We were provided with room and board, and went on various trips and excursions in and around our host city. In the latter two weeks of personal travelling, we would not have our UCF supervisors to make sure that we were taken care of. Just two days before our two week journey, I made the terrible decision to jump off of a cliff into the sea below with my glasses on. Other students had told me not to do it and I even battled with the decision up until the moment when I jumped. I lost my only pair of glasses to the Spanish sea. This, for all intents and purposes, was a “fail” on my part. I had failed to listen to the wiser part of my judgment and threw caution to the wind. My flight dates had already been set, and I was stuck in Spain with terrible vision for the next two weeks.

    Without my glasses things seemed bleak. My parents wanted me to depend on the other students who I was with and to stay in the hotels that we booked until I returned. I was incredibly sad for the first few days. My vision is absolutely terrible. To put things into perspective, what a person with 20/20 vision can see clearly from 400 feet away, I would have to be 20 feet away to see it with that same clarity. My vision is effectively 20 times worse than normal. I cannot read anything, and everything is blurred to the point where I cannot recognize people’s faces when I look around with my natural vision. It was a terrible situation.

    This was my first time being abroad; it had been going great up until now. I had experiences in the past without my glasses and I could honestly call myself “effectively crippled” without them. Now, there was just no way that I would be able to see and experience the beauty and culture of Spain. Half-way through this trip, that I had struggled personally and financially to prepare for, and my fire was extinguished.

    One day, after speaking to my parents, who were continuously telling me how bad my situation was, I hit a breaking point. I was tired of being sad and bored all day. I decided to get up and enjoy myself, glasses or not. I used my phone’s camera to magnify images to the point where I could see them clearly when needed, and I spoke to the locals in their language and found maps to make sure I knew where I was at all times. I truly did enjoy myself in my blurred world.

    After having had that experience, I learned many things. I learned to think about the consequences of my actions before I make them. Had I gone with the wiser decision of not wearing my glasses before jumping, I would not have gone through that ordeal. All decisions that we make generate a shock-wave of good and bad consequences, and they must be considered before taking action. I learned that where there is a will, there is a way. With determination and a sensible plan, one can accomplish almost anything against even the worst odds. I sought out and saw what I wanted and needed to see, and made the most of my time travelling there. I also learned to believe in myself, and my ability to take care of myself. In those two weeks, I never spent more than 3 hours with the other students I was with. They were all together, and I would leave by myself to have my own adventures in the various cities of Spain that I visited. One last thing that I learned was that the differences between cultures really do create a barrier between people and how to maneuver around said barrier. I came to understand that some things that Americans view as polite and respectful can come off rude in other cultures. Proper American etiquette is not always so proper in Spain or other countries for that matter.

    My outlook on myself, people, and my interaction with others changed for the better after that trip. Thanks to that experience I had many fewer problems when I went to Brazil and had a great time without as much heartache.

  15. SBU Harris: Section 18

    Background and Issues:

    Growing up, I looked like I was on top on school work, balanced extracurricular activities, and had no worry. However, that was far from the truth. In reality, I was struggling and it got worse in college. The reason for that is because I have autism. Looking at me, you would never have guessed, but sadly it has hindered my reading and writing abilities and English school work. When friends finished their work early and went to play video games or go out and have fun, I was still doing homework at late hours because I struggled to read and write material at a normal pace. When it came to math and money, I had no problems hacking out the numbers at a quick pace. It was because of my skills in these areas, a lot of people suggested that I try to do accounting in college. Luckily for me, there were basic accounting courses in my high school that I took and after reading the material, doing the practice, and hearing real life experiences from my teachers, I was hooked and went straight to the accounting program at the University of Central Florida.

    Fast-forward to Senior year in College:

    My senior year of college I felt like a failure. At first, I managed to keep a high GPA, held leadership roles in accounting clubs, and enjoyed pursuing accounting. As the semester progressed, I felt I had lost complete control. Between my presidency in one club, keeping up with accounting course work, and preparing for the recruiting season, I felt like a failure. I thought I would be prepared to sell myself at the career fairs and conferences and then be set with an accounting internship before I graduated; that was the general path accounting majors were told to follow to get themselves one step closer to having a career after graduation. I thought I could do that and follow what everyone else has done, but I was wrong. I failed at following the status quo in accounting and was now struggling to find a job, any job, keep my grades up, and not lose my sanity. After failing to obtain an internship or even a job at the fall fairs and conferences, I was finally hearing the dreaded clock ticking that graduation was approaching. I fell into a depression.

    Turning Point:

    I remember feeling lost and struggling just to survive the semester. I had no hope. In October, something happened to me that was bigger than I could ever imagine. I offered to help out during an event that raised money for scholarships for women to go to college. At the same time, I was partnered with a woman who replaced someone else who didn’t show up. This woman happens to be a Business and Life Coach, and an entrepreneur, works with women who owns businesses, is a CEO of a mentoring group, and is a mother of a teenage and adult son with autism. What are the odds that I would meet someone like her?

    Christina saw I was struggling to figure out my career direction and took me under her wing to help me get a better view of what I could do. She told me to be open about my disability. She encouraged me to advocate for myself. She help me be more comfortable asking for help. She challenged me to think outside the box and not be discouraged about what other people think of me. We also explored other creative ways to use my gifts and talents and passion for accounting.

    Then before spring 2015 started, I had to make tough choices. Because I still wanted an internship before graduation, I had two choices: push graduation to summer, do school part-time in the spring and try to get an internship, or die my spring semester with 5 courses just because everyone was pushing me to graduate now then find a job or internship. Despite a lot of opposition, I decided it was best for me to extend the date of my graduation and thank God I did. Not only did I manage to get decent grades in my spring courses, but Christina referred me to her client an amazing Chief Financial Officer Coach who took me under her wing as well. Ms. Ivy gave me an internship for the spring and summer semesters and has inspired me to create my own accounting business.

    I learned that for me, I have to break out of the status quo and follow what I believe is my path and not let others pressure me away because of fear of the unknown. Also, my disability does not have to hold be back from a bright future and that I am an advocate towards others that still struggle with their own disabilities and need to know that we can make a difference in the world.

  16. Independence. A word every pre-teen aims to grasp sooner than life intends. Striving for the first opportunity handed to me, in any form, I reached for my independence as though it were the last homemade cookie in the cookie jar, sitting on the highest shelf in the kitchen. Simplicity. An interpretation I longed for as a means of lifestyle. How these relate to my failure story, really define who I am today.
    By the age of twenty, I had been homeless twice. The first time, my senior year in high school, and the second, my sophomore year of college. To my small sphere of knowledge, these circumstances had become such a vivid reality, it redefined the meaning of success. Success wasn’t about a possession of materialistic things anymore. Instead, it became about having the endurance in character, the attitude for possibilities, the values for direction, the generosity for significance, the growth for potential and the priorities for focus. My second experience of being homeless contributed most to the importance of the two words I previously described. The first word, independence became the entirety of my being. Learning how to best survive on skills I’ve acquired through time and recent heartbreaking experiences, offered moments of regret when I wished for independence in the way I did as a child. The second word, simplicity was a dream of how to live, not in just a perspective of monetary success to host more options, but in a way to have less for a bigger gain, to have an altruistic incentive for understanding as one’s sympathy for others grow. Thankfully I had a consistent income and a somewhat reliable car. I could afford to eat the amount equivalent to an average college student’s daily intake of three times a week, pay for a P.O. Box and storage, take myself to houses of people I met along the way for temporary shelter, and find places to park my car for other moments in between. Overtime, I had learned to be creative in living style, still ensuring a functional way of living. I would shower, exercise, and watch TV at the gym, do homework at school and Starbucks, bike ride to places within a five mile radius to save on gas and do small amounts of laundry in bathrooms of restaurants or occasional “host homes” as I called them. Eventually, I was able to pick up an additional job working in a kitchen so I can eat free, and work for compensation of living in a room of the small restaurant owner’s home. So, in my perspective this lifestyle really wasn’t as bad as it could have been, nor was it as best.
    Prior to my metamorphic behavior, school and my education become a lower priority on my list. It’s easy to work for a dollar, because society pitches the importance of financial gain in the world, no matter how small or insignificant to your life it can be. A life altering situation can easily discourage someone, as it did for me for years. Trying to get out of a degrading cyclical way of thinking, I realized my attitude towards school, my education and myself had to change because the way things were did not make me happy. As I did not attend school for a year to work, I came to this realization in my free time through reading, “The 8 steps to success” by Andy Albright, which revealed the kind of changes in my life I needed to make.
    Everything up to this point may appear to have the illusion of success, overcoming a tragic alteration in a person’s life. To a small extent, I can support the idea, which this process was hard to overcome but was still possible. Because of this situation I was able to really dream big and start a “new beginning” to what I desired to gain from my life. I want to point out that the background of this story is mentioned for your understanding of how it relates to what I’ve learned from what seems to me the biggest contribution of my ‘failure story.’
    Reviving my scholastic endeavors, I boosted my ego by re-taking classes for grade forgiveness. Immediately forgetting the humbling experience I encountered, I quickly let the success of improving my grades cloud my thinking. Although the success of this new start fed my motivation, it enervated me to consider options and alternatives for further steps I chose to take. So I set my eyes on a grand adventure for international opportunities. Planning for a one year highly competitive exchange student program in Germany, I held confidence I was guaranteed acceptance. This exchange student program offered a variety of areas to grow from through language school, a semester at a German university, exploring the culture, and an internship phase. I chose to pursue this program because it would make me more eligible for a BMW Bachelor Speed up program in Germany, where I would be offered a two year (Junior and Senior) scholarship to a work-study program as I complete my bachelor’s degree. From there I would work for BMW in Germany for a couple more years and be eligible to travel to other places in the BMW finance department anywhere in the world. As you may think, this immediate five year plan seemed plausible, realistic and well thought out. The catch was that it took a year of waiting for the application to open up for the first program I mentioned. Let me emphasize the year of waiting. Rather I spend my time preparing the best I could for the application, aside from gathering references and other small informational resources, I had not allocated any time for deeper research and planning for alternative routes to pursue the same end goal. This is where my failure comes into play. Getting caught up in a dream, is not necessarily a bad thing until you allow it to consume your rational thinking. In that year, I had discovered superficial opportunities that improve my resume but not completely set myself apart to stand out in something as competitive as this initial program I aimed to participate in. My mind was closed to certain suggestions others had offered because my independence had transformed to pride, and my yearning for simplicity prevented me from considering differences to reach the same goal, in the chance I was not immediately accepted into the program. A year after waiting, and a minor amount of planning, the availability of this anticipated application approached my fingertips. In the moments of even applying, I could taste the success and change my appetite hungered for. I remember thinking how this step, was the next step to my fulfillment of a dream and envisioning the rest of my life in the path I had planned. Upon submission, I teared up as I could feel in the pit of my stomach the excitement for how far I would go, considering all I went through and the many times I bordered the fence of nonexistence. Two months passed before I would receive my acknowledgement of application and its current status. Waiting to apply for something and anticipating the response have very different effects on a person’s physical, mental and emotional states. In those two months I worried more than I did during that previous year to apply. I worried mostly because of the academic struggle I faced and how it wouldn’t measure up to all I knew I had to offer. Especially in a highly competitive program, academic success precedes any story, any circumstance. Encroaching on the time when interviews were being scheduled, I received an e-mail, which I read three minutes before starting my shift at work, that I was not considered for the interviewing process of this application. The rest of the e-mail became a blur as I recall it trying to encourage me to reapply for other programs which I immediately thought were too far out of my reach to consider. Reaching for something that seemed so palpable, my devastation to read that e-mail colored my attitude so heavily. I found myself searching for reasons why I wasn’t enough, reasons to give up or plateau in the stage of life I was at. Immediately I began to tell myself that I had to make up for all of the time lost already, and now this window was my last chance. All of my five-year plan was destroyed in an instant, and my focus grew blind. After a few months’ time, I began to confide in people, searching for guidance and help because I allowed myself to be guided by naivety and pride.
    Reflecting on that moment in my life, I know that leading myself to believe facing hardships, doesn’t make me any less worthy of trying to conquer more. Failure is not falling down, more so than it is not back getting up. Winston Churchill once said, that “success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” With this quote I translate to all students, inclusive to every individual eager learn, that failures along life’s journey doesn’t define who you are, it’s how you grow from failing to personally improve, that enhances your being. As a result of facing difficulties, I learned that I would not change any experience I lived because it’s what molded me for the better. I continue striving to do great things through Phi Beta Lambda, and structuring a non-profit organization to assist homeless college students. With that, I have the constant reminder that if we could achieve everything through wishing, our individual purposes would hold no value. I learned that in lieu of dreaming big for success and great adventures, to make your dreams a reality by setting goals to achieve them. Don’t be afraid to fail, it provides you with lessons to help you grow.

    Taylor Hutson – Junior. Finance Major

  17. Karissa Kennedy
    Man4720-15 DR01 Leo
    Senior

    When I started to write this paper I had one specific incident in mind but in my heart I knew what I truly needed to talk about. To understand the substance of this paper on failure I need to go back to my high school years. I attended a small private high school with only 100 students in my class. Needless to say this small school bread a culture of either acceptance or exclusion. If you were different in any way, you faced the torment of those around you.
    I was exposed at an early age to different cultures and traveled to many cities and countries. This expose made me think outside of our small city atmosphere I lived in and many times other students could not related to me.
    When it was time to apply to colleges in Florida I applied to all the Universities small and large. I was accepted to all of them and some with generous monetary allowances. So when I turned down the University of Florida, Florida State and other well-known colleges to attend the University of Central Florida I was considered a pharaoh. They told my parents how could you send your daughter to that place, you know it is not a real college. And the best part was, how will she survive it is one of the largest colleges in the country, she will be just a number and fail there.

    It was a very difficult time for me to go against the grain of students, teachers, and administrators. They tried to get my parents to make me re-considered but my parents backed me with my decision. In my heart I knew UCF was meant for me, that feeling you get, you just know it is the right thing to do.

    So, I set out on my journey with UCF and the hope of not becoming a failure or dropout because I made the wrong choice but because this time my heart told me I should be here.
    My freshman year was great, exciting and I blossomed in so many ways coming out of the sheltered school I was used to. I had many choices to make and lots of distractions to pull me away from my academic schedule. I thought I was handling it well, but little by little I was losing grip in controlling all aspect of my life. The personal side was great but those grades, well they were sliding right on down.

    The wakeup call came at the end of my freshman year when I went from a 3.75 GPA student down to a 2.66 GPA. The repercussion from my parents was not pretty and I am sure you can just fill in all those words and rants in this sentence that were strewn my way. At this point I wondered did I make the right decision, was I a failure that could not make it.
    I knew I had to change and the one thing I did not want to come back and haunt me was those people saying “I told you so”. Those four words had a big impact on me.

    So I went back my sophomore year and started to re-group and look at my life. Was failure an option for me or did I have enough drive and confidence to prove everyone wrong.
    This low point in my life was the turning point and I decided to take matters in my hands this time. No parents on my back, no friends telling me what to do, just me making my decisions, right or wrong.

    I started to put more time into my classes, I obtained an internship with a social media company and obtained a part-time job. No time in my life but guess what, I had control and things were going good. My confidence started to rise in myself for the first time in years and I knew my next step, New York City.

    I worked on obtaining an internship in the big apple and convinced my parents to let me go for three months during the summer to gain more experience. This was a leap of faith for my parents, an only child all alone in the big city, could I handle it?
    Well, let me just say not only did I handle NYC, I fell in love with it. I roamed the streets, embraced the culture and learned to work a job in a very fast pace environment. NYC was the stepping stone for me to know that I was not a failure with my life, I could obtain anything I desired. For once in my life, people no longer controlled my life, I did.

    Life will not come with challenges nor failures but what I have learned is this, I am ultimately responsible for my journey. If failure comes my way I have learned how to take a different road in life.

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