How to Overcome Personal Failure

I have a personal confession, I failed/dropped out of college three times before I graduated. It wasn’t because I wasn’t smart (I had a 4.2 gpa in high school and I had ‘A’ in every class I actually attended) it was merely that I wasn’t dedicated. I was lost, confused, and aimless thus I wasn’t committed to college. I wasn’t sure what my passion was and I quickly lost focus in class. I just quit going. I had a great job and I was quickly being promoted because I was smart and I had a strong work ethic. They knew I was enrolled in college but not that I had quit attending. I was just directionless and I didn’t have anyone guiding me or counseling me. Eventually I wasn’t allowed to register for classes and I was expelled. I had failed.

Failure is an event, never a person

A year later I thought I had found my purpose and I appealed to the school for reinstatement. They approved my appeal and I was allowed to return but I was on probation. I could only take one class per semester and I had to pass with a ‘C’ or better. It was slow going but I eventually earned my way back to good academic standing. I graduated with a 3.6 gpa and a degree in Business and Social Sciences. Even when I was struggling I knew it wasn’t permanent. I knew I could finish school and I knew I could graduate and I knew I could be a success. It was never a matter of “Can I do this?” It was a matter of “Why am I doing this?” I realized that what really helped me overcoming my failures and graduate was when I was forced to take one class at a time. It allowed me to slowly evaluate what I really enjoyed and what I really wanted to do. It slowed me down and forced me to reflect. It was slow-going but it was worth it.

There is no failure except in no longer trying

I moved to Atlanta and I secured a job as a writer for a software company. I love my career and I’m living a life I love. It doesn’t matter how long it took me to get here, what matters is that I’m here. The same goes for you. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for you to reach your goal, what matters is that you make it. Here are a few things I learned from my personal failures and how I finally turned my ship around.

Slow Down

As I said, being forced to slow down and take college one class at a time allowed me to really consider what I was spending my time on and what was important to me. Sometimes we need to slow down, step back, take a deep breath and move forward with more deliberate actions even if that means moving slower.

Learn the Lessons

Have you heard the quote from Einstein that says, “I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I kind of love that quote. That’s how I felt when I was struggling my way through college. I discovered a lot of interests and passions and I found a lot of things that don’t work for me. I discovered that I love archaeology, paleontology and anthropology. I discovered that I love physics but hate chemistry and biology. I learned that I love spacial math like geometry and trigonometry but I hated calculus. It might have taken me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up but I knew what absolutely did not work for me and those lessons are just as valuable.

Understand Failure is Temporary

The thing about my failure, and about yours, is that they are temporary. You can overcome. It may be hard (it may be extremely hard), it may be depressing, it may be lonely, it may be expensive but it is temporary if you want it to be. I wanted to give up so many times, especially after I was expelled, but I didn’t. I had to write papers pleading for reinstatement. I had to have meetings before the college board. I had to have one-on-one interviews. I was placed under extreme scrutiny and I had to pay out of my own pocket for all of my expenses. It was tough, but I did it because I knew that one day the challenges would be behind me and I’d be proud of myself.

Now, I don’t know what you’re struggling with right now or in what areas of life you feel like a failure but remember this, notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, “I have failed three times,” and what happens when he says, “I am a failure.”  

YOU are not a failure. You can turn it around. You can succeed.

Let’s Talk…

  • How have you overcome failure? Share a story and inspire us!
Ashley LaMar
Ashley bounces between Atlanta, GA + Charleston, WV with her husband and two small dogs for life and work. If she’s not writing or blogging, she can usually be found cooking, reading, or watching baseball. Follow her on Twitter @ashleyfromfbl

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