Overcoming Failure: Reflect on the past to face challenges ahead

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I am often faced with a simple adage in life: whether it be academic, personal, or career related, failure happens, but it is our ability to stand up and dust ourselves off that will drive us to success. The Latin phrase, “per Astra per aspera” or “through adversity to the stars” is emblematic of the challenges we face. Failure is a part of life, and however de-moralizing it may feel, there are lessons we learn by going through such scenarios. As an example, I recently lost an election in a race for a local Board of Education. But there are things I learned in my loss that have made me a better employee, student, and general member of society.

Reflect on your actions

Following my electoral loss, I faced the reality that the plan I had created for myself and had been following for years was disrupted. At that very moment though, I had to make a choice, either to continue the path I was headed down, unaware of what lay ahead, or reflect and figure out exactly what went wrong, and where. I created a timeline of my campaign and carefully analyzed my methods and strategy. I discussed tactics with some stakeholders in my campaign and had honest conversations with them on what I did right, but most importantly, what I did wrong.

It was here that I learned that it is a necessity for anyone, in whatever failure they may face, whether it be minor or large, that the ability to critically reflect on ones actions, and be open minded on the findings is crucial to overcoming failure. Without the ability to reflect on oneself, you are bound to repeat these failures, and as Mark Twain once put it, “There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule”.

Visualize your challenges

While the ability to reflect is essential to overcoming a failure, the ability to be visionary is another. No, I am not talking about wishful idealism or a vision that ignores the enormity of challenges before you. I am talking about a vision that allows you to see the challenges and how they should be tackled.

When it relates to my electoral loss, my reflection followed a major course correction, but this correction did not underestimate the challenges before me. However masterful of a plan you create, you must embrace the nature of life, where the unexpected may suddenly appear and you must deal with it.

Follow through on the process

The last, and perhaps most fundamental characteristic of overcoming a failure is the ability to follow through. This strenuous ordeal requires a great deal of devotion, organization, and perseverance. Without follow through, the ability to craft an expansive reflection and establish a vision for the future becomes meaningless.

Failure is an unequivocal aspect of life; however, it is our ability to learn and grow that is key to our individual success. Although each of us may face unique scenarios, we are united in our struggle to ascertain a better future.

McKinley Falkowski is a history major at the University at Buffalo and is a Pearson Campus Ambassador. In his free time, McKinley helps local historians research for books on the history of his hometown, Buffalo, New York.

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