Fueled By My First Failures

🎓 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

In my 5 years of university, the only time I skipped a class was to have lunch with Manjit Minhas from Dragons’ Den. Through rigorous time management, I took on 4 different leadership positions and was challenged by some of the smartest and most determined teammates I’ve ever met; together, we achieved excellent results and set records. These extracurricular experiences made it possible for me to land an 8 month internship at Husky Energy, which turned into 3 years of corporate experience thanks to supportive leaders who believed in me and gave me opportunities to grow. My managers and mentors were also the ones who pushed me to take the leap and go abroad on 2 international exchanges to Japan and Singapore which were a couple of the best decisions I made in my undergrad. Ultimately, I made the most out of my undergrad experience and ended up with some of my favourite memories and 1 Bachelors of Commerce with Distinction in the Top 10% in my graduating class!

In addition to the incredible support system that I had through these most challenging years of my life so far, I’ve developed the grit and tenacity to overcome these hurdles and moments of self doubt by facing and learning from 3 very important failures in my life.

The feeling of failure is hard to forget.

The prolonged sense of dread crawling through your brain and body doesn’t leave you. Every night, you’re tossing and turning with regret and resentment towards yourself. You keep replaying what-if scenarios in your mind and you question your purpose and existence.

Perhaps I’m more dramatic than most, but this was exactly how I felt when I saw the lowest grade I had ever received… a crushing 60% on the first math test I wrote in high school. I may chuckle about it now, but my Straight-A self was devastated and in tears. Going into high school, I assumed that my same efforts from junior high would suffice, but my overconfident mindset did not anticipate the possibility of failure. When my self-expectations were shattered, so did my mindset. I started telling myself that I would never succeed in high school or make it into university. It took a single outcome to make me doubt many years of hard work.

After a week of sulking in my fixed mindset, I became dead set on kicking math in the butt and proving my self doubts wrong. For the entire semester, I changed my study habits and became very focused on my new found life mission. I went from getting a 60% on my first math test to getting 100% on the final exam and ended up as one of the top 3 students in class. This was the first time I saw how I could turn things around with my own hard work and determination. Since then, I have conquered my academics with straight A’s throughout high school and university.

Lesson #1: you can turn things around if you put your heart and mind into it.

Then came my second failure…

In my first year of university, I ran for a VP Marketing position against another candidate who seemed much more outgoing and and experienced than I was. I worked hard throughout the campaign while assuring myself that it would be fine if I lost because I was new to the game and was only a 1st year student. When the votes came in… I lost by 4%… and somehow, this defeat felt more crushing than if I had lost by a landslide because I was so damn close. For a couple nights, I cried myself to sleep thinking that I was a failure in life. The devastation and self doubt consumed me once again and I regretted not trying harder. If I had pushed myself a little harder — maybe, just maybe — I could have been basking in glory instead of self pity.

Eventually, I got over my pity party of one and realized that I had self-handicapped my mindset the moment I told myself it was fine if I lost. On the third night of sulking, I vowed to myself that I would one day hold 2 VP positions. One year later, I realized this goal and by the end of my university career, I had proudly held and successfully executed a total of 2 VP and 2 Presidential positions.

Lesson #2: Don’t give yourself a reason to fail — give your 110% in everything that you do, so that you won’t have any regrets.

Bombing my interview…

Alas, the Rule of Three came true and my third failure came when I was applying for a FinTech & Innovation internship at the end of my 2nd year. Out of dozens of students, I had made it to the final round of interviews and I was nervous, but I believed that I had a great shot at making it until…

*MOMENT OF SILENCE AS WE COLLECTIVELY CRINGE*

To be embarrassingly honest, I thought that “millennials” referred to my parents’ boomer generation. In hindsight, I should have asked the hiring manager to clarify the definition, but I made an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. Ironically, I came out of the interview believing that I did super well… until I googled the definition of “millennial” and then proceeded to curl myself up into a ball of mortification. At this point, I determined that my chances at an internship were officially over for the summer.

Fatefully, I got my rejection phone call the same day I had one final interview with the only other company that called me back last minute. Considering how I did with the last interview, I didn’t have very high hopes, but I gave it my best shot…. and scored! Although I only had 1 day to prepare, I was the only candidate who followed up with a thank you note after the interview, and this gesture (along with my resume) stood out to my supervisor. Despite the economic recession, I secured an 8 month O&G internship, which ended up becoming 3 years of the best work experience I could’ve ever asked for… but that’s another story!

Lesson #3: Everything happens for a reason and when one door closes, another one opens.

What failure means to me today

By now, I wish I could proclaim that I’d gladly embrace big and fantastic failure with wide open arms… but failure still scares me a little bit. Despite proving to myself that failure can be fruitful, my ego still wishes to avoid the blemish of “failing”. Nevertheless, I’ve become more resilient in developing my growth mindset over the years. I know that a failure today does not mean a failure tomorrow, but is an opportunity to do better or try something different. Although failure can be inevitable in certain circumstances, at least I’ve learned 3 lessons about bouncing back! One thing I hope you’ll keep in mind is that failure starts off bitter, but ends up sweet… if you have the right mindset.


ConGRADulations to all of my Class of 2020 peers! Although we didn’t get our 5 seconds of fame walking across the stage because of COVID-19, here is to wishing that it can only get better from here! Wishing you all the best of luck and success as you follow your passions, ramp up in your careers, and accomplish incredible feats 🎓 🌟 🎉

One thought on “Fueled By My First Failures”

  1. Thanks for sharing Karen! We’ve all been there (failure) and still end up there every so often but the key is not to stay there. It’s the key to learning. Thanks for the reminder and the motivation. We all get in ruts too, especially these days when there is a new normal. We have to adjust , pivot and persevere.
    Apparently from a quiz I took, I’m a closet millennial. Looking forward to more of your fantastic articles!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s