Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When failure = win

When I was in 2nd grade, I was that annoying goodie-goodie every class has at least one of. I finished all of my assignments early, my teacher regularly used my achievements to demonstrate excellence to the class, I never broke the rules, and I was good at everything.

Over time, my inner devil overruled my A+ student mentality, allowing me to slink around the rules a bit without drawing attention to myself. I learned to not take myself so seriously and to enjoy life a little more.

But, until college, one thing remained the same: I was still good at everything I tried. Part of this was due to my competitive nature and desire to master everything in my path, but it was mainly my talent to avoid all situations in which failure was possible that kept my track record clean.

Needless to say, entering the gilded halls of BYU was a bit of a shock. For the first time in my academic life, I was average. There was nothing that set me apart from the thousands of other piano-playing, 3.9 GPA-averaging students.

Little did I know that my launch into the adult world would also bring me face to face with something I had managed to avoid most of my life: failure.

Even though my little failures over the last five years have humbled, humiliated, and frustrated me, I've come to realize something that most people probably already know: failure isn't my enemy. Sometimes, the only way to learn something is the hard way.

Recently, I secured a freelance gig on Elance. It started off great; I only had to work 5-7 extra hours a week, I was making a little bit of extra money during my free time, and the work wasn't that difficult. But the bright beginning plummeted downward as the projects got harder, my client demanded more effort, and I started running out of writer's steam. Finally, after a tumultuous month and a half, we parted ways respectfully.

A few years ago, I would have regretted the experience ever happened and labeled it a big, fat Failure that would serve as a warning for future freelance projects. Today, however, I am able to see it as a win-win-win situation. I (1) earned a little bit of extra money that will cover most of my moving expenses, (2) learned a lot about how to improve my writing and work ethic, and (3) realized that I should be spending my spare time less selfishly, i.e., in pursuit of the doing good rather than cushioning my savings account. I wouldn't have gotten any of these wins without this "failure."

It's still hard to accept, but I'm learning that sometimes I simply have to unproductively bumble through something in order to learn something more valuable than the experience itself was. Failure is one of those tricky tools God uses to help guide us and make us stronger.

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