You failed…so what next?

Failure is something a lot of people hate to talk about. When people share their success stories, there is a tendency to downplay their moments of failure and they place all the emphasis on the successful part. There’s nothing wrong with highlighting your success but that success will not be of any benefit to others if you don’t share the full story – that is, if you don’t share the parts where you failed.

I had a discussion with someone over the weekend. For the sake of this post, I’ll call the person Tade. Tade, to go straight to the point, feels like a complete failure. He does not have any tangible success that can be written beside his name. No outstanding academic achievement and no success in any area of his life. So he thinks by the way. Tade has lost the will to succeed in a particular project that he is doing. He wants to start all over again even and begin a new project. He doesn’t feel anything good can come out of this particular project.

I didn’t have an issue with Tade abandoning this project when he is so close to the end. My problem is Tade’s lack of motivation. What is going to motivate him to succeed in the next project? What happens when things get tough in the second project? What will make him go the whole mile and complete the project? Without that determination to succeed, I’m afraid the scenario will play itself again in Tade’s life and that’s exactly what I told him.

There was a time I failed woefully and I thought it was the end of the world. It was in secondary school. I wrote the Cambridge exams in September 2004 and when I saw my results a few months later, no one could stop my tears. I wanted to be a doctor at the time and I got an ‘Ungraded’ in Biology. Do you know what ungraded means? That what I had written was not worthy of a grade; that I had written absolute nonsense! And it’s not like I was not intelligent. A lot of things affected my focus during that exam period but I don’t think it was enough to warrant an ‘Ungraded’ grade. I had a ‘D’ in Physics and ‘C’ in Chemistry. My only ‘A’ was in Literature.

I cried the whole night after I collected my result. My dad had to come the next day to see me because I felt really hopeless. My dad just simply said, “This is not your result. Looking at your score in Literature, you have to decide whether you want to retake the exam as it is or go for art subjects.” My dad wasn’t bothered one bit about my grades. When I dried my tears and I reflected on the scores, I realised that under the same ‘tough’ conditions, I got an ‘A’ in literature. I loved literature. If you are familiar with O’ Level literature, you will know that you are given books to review for exam purposes. There was a particular book in the list we did not study in class but I answered two questions on it in the exam because I fell in love with the book when I read it. I also loved creative writing. That was one my talents.

So I decided to change direction and go for art subjects rather than struggle with science subjects. And I was determined not to fail. It wasn’t easy. While I was doing O’ Level courses at a sixth form school, my peers were doing A’ Levels but I didn’t let myself get carried away. I studied, I practiced questions and I learnt from my peers. I remember how I was getting 40% and below in my assessments in Economics. We took home a report every two weeks and if I judged myself based on that report, I was going to fail Economics. But you remember my motivation? I never wanted to fail again. So I worked extra hard and I ended up with an A in the final exam. Four A’s actually and two B’s. The success was sweet. I felt that my intelligence had been vindicated.

Since then, my confidence level has soared. There is no exam that I cannot pass. And when I don’t get the grades I want, I don’t kill myself over it. I either do it again or move on. I have taken that same confidence to every kind of work that I do. There’s nothing I cannot learn. I am not a failure so I cannot fail and when I fail momentarily, I pick myself up and run towards my success.

There are two things you can do with failure; you can let it hinder you completely or you can let it move you further along the path of success. Learn the lessons you need to learn and pick yourself up. Failure is not final. You are destined for greatness. One thing I love about God’s word is the way it describes me. It tells me that nothing will be impossible for me if I can only believe in God. It tells me that God will make a way for me when there seems to be no way. I mean, look at how He parted the Red Sea. I believe if Tade can just believe in himself once again and rely on God, he can turn his story around. You can do the same too.

My motivation to succeed comes from God’s word. I can never ever fail. I want you to believe that for yourself too and tackle that thing which you are afraid. Failed an exam before? Write it again. Applied for a job and got rejected? Apply again or apply to other companies. Don’t give up!


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