Failure-Then What?

April 18, 2009
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When is failure ever recognized? Michael Jordan is known for his six NBA Championships, not his failure to make his high school basketball team. Great people are recognized for their successes, not their failures. Instead of sitting back in envy of those who have found success we need to analyze how these people achieved success. The myth is that the greats achieved success overnight, but the reality is that they were able to overcome failures in a way that defined them as people and changed the way they approached their future. I have learned that everyone fails, and true character is defined by response to failure.
Failure is a healthy part of life that everyone experiences. People think that lazy people fail, but in many cases the hardest working and most ambitious people experience the worst failures. Michel Therrien was the paragon of success last June when he led a young Penguins team to the Stanley Cup Finals. This February he was fired. James Harrison was cut by various teams four times during his early years in the NFL. In 2008 he was the Defensive Player of the Year and this April he signed a six year contract worth around $52 million. Jack Wilson has played Major League baseball for 11 years and has not had a winning season. J.J. Redick won the Naismith College Player of the Year Award in 2006 and is second in career points in the ACC (the same conference where Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, and Grant Hill played). He doesn’t even start on an NBA team in 2009. Hillary Clinton is the wife of a former President and managed to raise millions of dollars in campaign funds and still lost in the Democratic primaries. These are all hard working, ambitious people who have experienced failure. The character of these people is not defined by their failures or by their successes. Their character is defined by the way they respond to their failures.

In eighth grade I got cut from my cup soccer team that I was on for the previous five years. This was a major setback for me because I was about to enter a high school program that went to states four out of the previous five years. I was discouraged, but I trained hard every day for the next two years by lifting, running, and working on my skills, and ended up being one of two sophomores who made the varsity team. This was a major accomplishment, but I believe that my character can be more accurately measured by my reaction to my prior failure than by my resulting success. This failure shaped my character in a way that will change the way I live the rest of my life. Someday if I get fired from my job, I will not be caught off guard as some people might. A certain resiliency will be ingrained in me, and I will be able to recover and reach success. I have learned the importance of being able to respond to failure, and I believe this will help me to succeed in life.
Recently, failure in our country seems like an infectious disease with no cure. There are examples of failure at every turn: 8.5 million people unemployed, millions without a house because of foreclosures, millions of failing businesses. Just as people do, all nations experience failure. The question today is how will our great nation respond to this failure? Will we ask others to solve our problems for us? Will we solve our problems independently? Will we give up and let the title of the most prosperous nation in the world slip into the hands of a foreign nation? The way we react to our current state of failure will define the character of our nation and therefore the character of the people in that nation.





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