So youve failed Whatcha gonna do about it?
Waking up on results day is never fun. The summer holiday has flown by and exams seem an eternity ago, but now its mid-August and Im waking up in cold sweats just thinking about what that dreaded email is going to reveal. Have I worked hard enough? Probably not. Did I answer all the questions in the exams? I did. What about that third question in the second section? I think I left that out. SH*T! I cant remember. Oh well, on results day-eve I went to bed believing I had done the best I could and what will be, will be. After-all, how bad could it be?
As I lay in bed, THE email from school containing my AS-Level results pinged through on my phone. I was lucky enough to attend an extremely good school with a very strong reputation within the area. With a great set of GCSE results, confidence was high thus cruising through lower-sixth. This arrogance changed oh so quickly. Opening the email, hands shaking and mouth dry, there was a PDF displaying my four results in a table. Glancing at the whole page I was met with the grades;
B for History.
D for Economics.
However, below them were two letters seemingly displaying a U. I did not think Us actually existed. I had failed two of my subjects. Surely this was some sort of joke? Surely no one from my school has failed an exam? Surely I cant have FAILED two AS-levels. Well, this certainly was the case. Having driven to school for a meeting with teachers, it was deemed best that I look for a new school or college to continue my studies, thats if I should continue my education. In a hole of self-pity, embarrassment and disappointment for my parents, I was at the lowest point of my life. I did not know what to do. This was an experience I had never been in before. Although, rather than dwelling and wasting energy, I received a piece of advice from my late father, and one which I carry with me for the rest of my life. He simply said; Its happened now. But, what are you going to do about it?.
In a narrow-minded sense, many of us struggle to validate any mistakes we make. By not succeeding, doubt can be cast over us. Questions may arise such as, Am I good enough? or Should I do something else?. But it must be made clear that in order to succeed, we must overcome adversity. The Oxford Dictionary defines failure as, weakness, especially in a persons character, a shortcoming. Upon reading this, the word weakness can be screwed up and thrown in the bin. It is crucial to debunk the myth that failure is such a negative characteristic. As a society, we have traditionally viewed failure to be detrimental to our success. Throughout school we are driven to avoid failure at all costs, with examinations being a prime example of this. So much so that within the grading system A to F, the letter F is the only grade to correspond to what it actually means, a fail. We as humans instinctively compare ourselves to highly successful individuals, whether in business, sports or showbiz, admiring their status without being fully exposed to the hardships and immense struggles they may have endured. We are left, therefore, to compare ourselves alongside with their achievements.
Having messed up at school, I had a small amount of time to think and act upon what had happened. After finding a new school to join, I had less than a week until term started to prepare myself and to collect my thoughts. This was probably a positive step, considering I had no time to feel sorry for myself or questioning what I should do with my life. Rather than worrying, I acted upon it. Theres nothing you can do about failing, apart from picking yourself up and going again. Of course, you must learn from your mistakes.
The next two years at my new school were, probably, the best thing that could have happened to me. Having learnt from past mistakes regarding work techniques and revision, I was able to excel in my new environment. This is where the subjectivity comes into play. My previous school was renowned for academia and achieving high level results. The style of teaching deployed perhaps lacked the intimacy that I personally craved. Whilst I will forever be grateful for the opportunities the school gave me both academically and sports-wise, all in all it did not play to my personal strengths. Whereas, my new, smaller school suited me to the ground in every area, something I would have not experienced had I not failed. Ultimately after two years, I managed to achieve acceptance from my first choice university. Fast-forward another three years, I have now graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in my favourite subject.
It is important to understand how success and failure is relevant to each individual, and the magnitude of both characteristics is subjective to each and every one of us. From what you may see as a failure, may in fact be a success to someone else. Likewise, success and failure can go hand in hand. For example, if youre attempting to get a book published, just as J.K Rowling did back in 1995, you are likely to get rejected. The manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was submitted to twelve publishing houses, with a grand total of zero publishers willing to use her novel.
Now, instead of giving up Rowling used each experience as a learning curve, almost like a scientific experiment. She built upon lessons learnt rather than an indication of her self-worth. Having successfully managed her clinical depression and countless personal problems, Rowlings novel was finally accepted by Bloomsbury, London and the rest is, of course, history. Whilst Rowlings eventual success was built upon her foundations of failure, it gave her the ability to freely pursue her goals without the judgement of others. Its as though Rowling became immune to failure, so much so that she became wiser and stronger, thus securing her ability to survive.
In terms of the publishing houses, it backs up the point that in one situation it may be a failure, whilst another it may be a success. The same novel was used where multiple publishers deemed it to be unsuccessful, whereby Bloomsbury deemed it to have a huge amount of potential. This encourages the notion that success is not black or white. Where there is failure, there is success. Just as failure and success are subjective, this does not mean we must seek to improve, however it ultimately means we should not regard our entire self-worth upon someone elses opinions. We are all different and if something does not work out, it may elsewhere. Of course, Im highlighting that you should never give up, and when were dealt a bad hand of cards, its how we react and deal with it that is the most important factor. I would not recommend a repetitive approach if one was losing money every time they tried. Instead it is about adapting and not making the same mistakes.
What I must stress, looking back and being able to sit here now at the ripe age of 22, is that, what I thought to be the worst day / failure / cock up of my life, genuinely has turned out to be one of the best things that has happened to me. Of course, it is amazing what hindsight does, however, it was my first sense of failure and one which I carried with me for the rest of my education and life. From then on, I was driven to work hard and be as successful as I could, whilst almost having a sense of freedom, after all, the AS-level events had numbed me to any further sense of failure. You can either give up completely, or use these obstacles as a learning curve. You learn from your mistakes. I learnt that a change of environment teaches you to go out of your comfort zone, which is always a good thing no matter how successful it is. You adapt and you learn what you like, or makes you tick.
One can read about the experiences of the famous or successful business influencers, but until you fail, it is difficult to understand the complexities of the process. Depending on the severity of the failure and the impact it has upon you personally, it can lead to darker days and doubt in the mind, over your personal abilities. Rather than dwelling, it is vital to take a minute to accept where you may have gone wrong or possibly even change your direction completely until you find something you succeed and are happy with.
To answer my fathers question, I was going to get a good degree from uni. And that I did. Whether you are seeking a similar or different path, if it does not go to plan, I leave you with one question and that is; What are YOU going to do about it?