Celebrating Failure!

Do you ever feel like a failure?  Is that a bad thing?


I definitely feel like a failure from time to time.  But I put way too much pressure on myself to succeed.  And what is success?  After some reflection, success for me is usually a process more than an event, in two words: measurable improvement.


So I have succeeded as of late!  I am officially mastering my GMAT study time.  I’m regularly completing question sets of 40-50, five times per week.  I’m finishing under the allotted time.  AND I’m finishing with a 90%+ percentage correct.


I write all of this because I felt really insecure and vulnerable the other day when I checked my “blog stats” and someone had actually viewed my blog entry on “The Perfect GMAT”.  I revealed my initial score.  However, come March 2009, I will be very pleased to report my next score.


Mostly, I feel relieved that I can be honest, albeit somewhat anonymous, on my blog about my GMAT score.  Throughout most of my Gen Y life, I’ve been WAY above average for grades, job reviews, etc.  However, failing is more than being average, and my GMAT score is really above the median score.  From an analyst point of view, I haven’t failed at all.


Which leads me think, what are the top failures I’ve benefited from in my life?  Here are three from my teenage years.


  1. Not trying out for my high school play in the 9th grade.  This is a true failure because I was so full of performance anxiety; I just ended up feeling sick and not even going to the audition!  Fortunately, God handed me a second chance, the director, and the casting decision maker, was at the time my Geometry teacher as well.  After class the day following auditions, he pulled me aside and asked me why I didn’t try out.  I told him I was sick, and he said, I’ve watched you perform the past three years in other plays and musicals, and I really intended to have you audition for a role this year because you are really talented.  He continued by saying that even if I was sick, I could have arranged alternative auditions to accommodate my health.  That was the last year he directed any plays for my school, and the new director never assigned me any roles above the chorus.  I’ve mostly stayed away from performing because of this failure.  I was handed a second chance and I didn’t pursue it, but I will enroll in a few improve classes this year, so maybe I’ll be handed a third chance one of these days!  And Mr. Johnson, if you’re out there—I totally would have been perfect for that role.


  1. As a cashier at REI when I was 15, my first performance review (30 days into the job) indicated that I had an 87% accuracy rate.  This is really funny to me now as a business owner.  I definitely would have fired someone who was 87% accurate with my cash!!!  I remember going over my cashier POS (point of sale—the software that tracks your cash register through a login each shift you work) records with my manager, and she was so delicate with me, but basically she said that corporate, and therefore she as well, insist upon a 97% accuracy rate for the cash registers.  I remember feeling totally comfortable with this meeting—whereas today I might be WAY harder on myself.  I was very thankful that someone TOLD me to pay more attention to my job!  After that, the AR/AP guy nick named me “OTP” which stood for “On The Penny” for my 100% accuracy rate.  I even made it a habit to check my POS record print out regularly in order to track my numbers personally.  This was within my first three months at this job, and after my first 90 days, my manager pulled me aside and congratulated me on my improved and excellent performance and gave me a raise.


  1. Getting rejected from Georgetown University.  I didn’t even want to apply!  Ha!  That’s what so funny about this failure—I was encouraged to apply.  I really wanted to go to GW, where I in fact was accepted and had an amazing university experience.  I made it far into the application process with Georgetown including a West Coast interview with a journalist who is a Georgetown alumnus in the Bay Area.  I don’t remember being too affected by this failure until I learned that PLENTY of GWU students lament that they chose to go to GW only because they were rejected from Georgetown or [insert other IV institution].


What I notice in my childhood and teenage years is that I didn’t fail ENOUGH!  I allowed false indicators of my “success” to dictate the amount of effort I put forth.  Because I was a high schooler who graduated with a 4.1 GPA, with AP credits and college courses under my belt, and plenty of jobs by age 17, I guess I never had TRUE indicators to pressure me to keep trying harder.  I grew complacent with my plan (to major in Political Science, study French, and teach French to middle and high schoolers).  I totally scrapped this plan in college not out of disinterest but because I didn’t know how to make it happen.  Having since graduated, studied in West Africa (a French speaking nation), gained a strong understanding [and monetary bonuses] in online marketing, growing my extensive professional network, and starting my own business, I guess I still haven’t “succeeded” in my view because still to this day I haven’t failed enough.


Maybe some of you out there have a few confessions of failure to share, come on, out with it—you know you’re a better person because of the failure, so let’s celebrate it together!


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