Monday, April 30, 2012

The Benefits of Failure

By Kelsey Robbins

          With finals right around the corner, the entire St. Thomas Aquinas College campus is losing their minds. Students are worrying about their grades, graduation, and who knows what else. The core of this frenzy is that we are programmed to believe that failure is a bad thing. But is failure truly a bad thing?
          Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, spoke at the university’s “last lecture series.” For him, this was not a drill; it was one of his last lectures. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given a couple months to live.  His lecture was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, enabling the dreams of others and seizing every opportunity. He spoke of achieving your childhood dreams. A big part of his point was “brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want it.”
          Obstacles are put before us to challenge us to make us strong individuals.  Yet we are not always going to be able to beat the obstacles on the first try; there is what I like to call a learning curve.
          Sometimes we are just not meant to scale these “brick walls”. In Randy Pausch's case, his unscaleable brick wall was joining the NFL. Although it was a dream of his, he accepted that it was not possible nor was it what was best for him. He realized this but still believed some of the best lessons he learned were from his football coach. It was through this sport that Pausch learned responsibility and that hard work will get you further then just pure talent. While some may look at this as a failure, I disagree; it was a learning experience where the lessons he learned far out weighted his original goal.
           “Brick walls” come in many different forms, but the trick is to have a plan and more importantly be able to change this plan. More than likely, you’re not going to make it over the wall the first time or the second time, either .While some may view that as failed attempts, they should be viewed as learning experiences. Honestly, how would we learn how to do anything right if we had not have done it wrong a couple of times first? As Pausch would say, “the person who failed often knows how to avoid future failure. The person who knows nothing but success  can be more oblivious to the pitfalls.” Failure is part of the journey, without it  success would not be as sweet.
          Failure can also be a great teacher and motivator. Think of all the movies, books and speeches that have been about those who have had nothing, were considered failures, but made themselves into CEO’s, professional athletes and so much more.  They got there because they had motivation, they had nothing else going for them, but why not try?  Failure weeds out those who do not have the commitment, passion or drive to achieve. Those who do not know failure, do not know how to pick themselves up and adopt, they have never had to try at the brick wall more than once.   Let’s face it, no one is failure free; but we can chose to learn from it or try to cover it. Personally, I would rather take the lesson and move on.
          To me failure is not  a taboo word; it shows that you tried your goal, which may have been out of your reach, but at least the attempt to become a better individual was there.  Failing may mean that you could not do something; but eventually if you “work hard enough, there will be things that (you) can do tomorrow that (you) couldn’t do today.”  That’s life striving to better yourself  and others. Along the way, you may meet a task you just couldn’t  handle but that’s alright-- just get back up and give that brick wall another try. Better yet,  think about what that failure taught you.
          Too much emphasis is put on winning and succeeding, but nothing is mentioned about failing. Show me a person who has never failed and I’ll show you a person who has never challenged themselves. Isn’t that what life is all about? Life is  not a destination; it is a journey in which you should challenge yourself and others. Do not be afraid to fall, because I promise you will be stronger when you get up.

Kelsey Robbins is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas College majoring in Psychology, with a minor in Communication Arts.

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