Failure to most is defined as a lack of success, but in reality, it's simply part of the path to it. I used to associate failure with being the worst possible outcome of an action, but as I’ve found in my time growing up, it’s really the second best outcome of success itself. I’ve learned to change my perspective on it and appreciate failure as a growing experience not as an embarrassment. Therefore, to truly understand a failure’s usefulness you must first define what it means to succeed and what it means to fail while keeping an open mind to an alternative viewpoint.
Success for me has always been something like an A on an assignment or doing something that has a positive impact; failure, like the inverse of my previous example, would be getting a low grade or doing something with true intentions, but disastrous results. With these two definitions in mind, it’s well observed that a success is the best possible result, while a failure is the worst, and that sticks with all of us as we grow up. However, what we lack to realize is the “failure” that you may have experienced just taught you what not to do and better yet might even tell you exactly how to get the best outcome. Not only this, but it instills an ambitious mindset in you, thus increasing future productivity exponentially.
To give a great example of how one failure or rather a year of failure can result in a prosperous future, I’ll tell you about my 7th-grade year. This year was by far my worst memorable failure and its turnaround is still benefiting me today. Let’s set the scene. It’s 2012 and the year before I was a mere 6th grader enjoying the ease of elementary school. I still remember the teachers saying “Everyone line-up for lunch,” which was my favorite time of the day, second to recess. Life was easy, and going to school was more of a treat as we were allowed to spend time with our friends on the playground. This all changed when the year inevitably grew close to an end, and it was middle school visit day. We all walked up to the school and strolled through the hallways listening as our counselor told us about all the classes we’d be taking and how we would get our very own combination lockers. When the first day of 7th grade rolled around after the summer, it was a disaster. People scrambled to get into their lockers before the bell rang, and when they couldn’t they panicked.
For the first month of the 7th grade, no one was really on track, but as time progressed, those who had a good grip on the new system fell in line, and they began working. This was not me, (at the time anyway); I was in the mindset that I didn’t have to do anything, and I could just wait until I got to the class to do my work. This was not acceptable for the teachers, and before long I was loathed by most of them for being among those who didn’t do their work. In the beginning, it was acceptable to me, and I simply didn’t care; and the day one teacher announced our grades meant nothing until 9th grade didn’t help either. Subsequently, one day when I was in that very class as I had many times before, I heard her familiar call “Everyone get out your homework so we can check it.” Thus, I began like all the others to reach for my folder, but unlike the others, I didn’t have it remotely close to being done. When she came over to reach for my paper, I remember my ordinary response “Sorry…, I don’t really have it done yet.” When I said that, she just looked at me with her piercing eyes, and said “lunch study, today.”
This continued for my entire 7th-grade year and not only with her, but with all of my other teachers as well. They had begun to associate me with the bad kids and when the end of the year party came around I finally “had it.” On the last day of school, they kept me in a room with everyone else who didn’t get their work done. It was the old English room and there was a distinct smell of old desks and the taste of an overly strong air freshener. I looked around on both sides, and not to my surprise everyone was face down working intentionally slow on their homework, knowing that when the bell rang it didn’t matter. I remember spacing off, and staring at the clock only to hear the familiar “Keep working!” from the teacher in charge. I picked up my pile of assignments, and could feel the anger with each piece of paper in my hand. I picked up my pencil and began to write as I heard the laughs from the room over in the movie they got to watch. This day was one I would never forget, and that I would use as inspiration to change myself for the better.
My 7th-grade year was by far one of the worst years of my life, or so I had thought. When I started my 8th-grade year, of course, nothing had changed at first, but soon I had begun to theoretically “patch” or “repair” myself and my attitude towards success and failure. I soon took every one of my mistakes and found the solution to fix them. I took all of my experience from my great failure, and I used it as a roadmap in order to achieve my greatest goal at the time: an A in most classes, if not all.
My time in the 7th grade gave me the mindset to achieve, and it helped me embrace my new responsibilities at school and outside of school. I matured and took growing up much better than myself before. My teachers that year started to notice and before I knew it, I had been removed from the “bad kids” group, and I gained a level of respect and trust that I had never seen. By the end of that year, I had finally achieved my goal, and I had A’s in all but one class. This embedded the productive mindset in me and through the next three years, I had mirrored that goal. This resulted in a higher level of respect among my classmates and the teachers of the high school. I broke myself down and built myself back upsetting my life on an industrious path which was one of my greatest achievements that proved failure was really success’s master plan.
Although achieving that goal was my greatest, it doesn’t mean it was my only impactful one. My next greatest failure was my experience with the ACT test that everyone in the United States needs to take in order to get into most colleges. Along with taking the test, most require certain scores in its 4 main categories. An ideal score would be something like 25 or better which most people can achieve; I’m not most people. It all started when I was in my junior year when I was given the first opportunity to take the test in order to see how I would do on future tests. I remember hearing about it for the first time from our school counselor. He said, “Well, it’s not the final score, and along with it being a good test of your skills for the school ACT test next year, it can give you an idea how you will test in April.” I replied, “Sounds great.” He gave me a study book for the ACT which contained a practice test that I could take at home.
I never opened that book until the day before our school required test several months later. When I did take the first ACT test, it was very overwhelming and when the 3 hour testing period was done, I knew I didn’t do well and sure enough 2 months later I found out that my score was a 17. A 17 was ok to me at first because it was my first time, and I thought for sure that if I studied enough for the real test I wouldn’t have any problems considering my good grades. However, to my dismay in April when we took the test I tried my best, but again the results came back, and they were nothing to be proud of. I was furious and internally angry at myself and the test. I didn’t even want to think about taking another ever again, and so I forgot it for as long as I could.
That all changed when I received another email from our counselor again. This time it was for a retesting opportunity. At first, I ignored the email and I had simply refused to believe that I got the scores I did, but once again I realized something. I realized that in order to become the successful adult I wanted to be someday, I had to take my many failures and look at it with a different perspective. I put myself in the eyes of my future self, and I thought to myself “If you don’t at least try until you can’t take it anymore than you are no better than your old self.” This inspired me to open that email once again, and instead of ignoring it I signed up for the next available test. In the end, I got those scores back and this time I was impressed. My hard work had finally paid off, and I was ready to move forward to the next challenge.
May it be my time in 7th grade, which showed me the ultimate meaning of failure or my acute failure with a very important test, it can be seen that failure is one of the most helpful tools growing up. From now on, remember the next time you experience failure, it’s not the end. In fact, it’s only the beginning of success.