At high-achieving universities, there’s a constant pressure to be the best. This pressure tends to be even stronger at career-oriented universities like Drexel, where a primary objective of academic programs is to prepare students to beat the competition in the job market. We’re conditioned throughout our years here to believe that one of the most important measures of our personal value will be how many job offers or grad school acceptances we get as seniors. If we internalize this mentality too much, we may start to believe that every rejection or other kind of failure is something we have to be ashamed of because it means we didn’t work as hard as we were supposed to work. It’d be healthier to realize that we can’t be perfect all the time. Although we should always try to do the best we can, sometimes we will, inevitably, fail. Failure should be seen as a way to improve ourselves and lead to greater success. Instead of getting down on ourselves, we should take this as a chance to appreciate what we have done, learn from our mistakes and move forward.
Failure doesn’t mean you didn’t create something amazing. A large group of engineering freshmen attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the largest functional Rube Goldberg machine, consisting of over 350 movements. Unfortunately, the machine failed and was only able to complete its run with human assistance, not meeting world record standards. These students worked for four months on this project, and it could be easy to say that they failed. But not completely. The experience of attempting to break a world record is one that does not present itself too often and should be valued in itself. The lessons they learned during the project, from the technicalities involved to working together as a team, are invaluable. Because of their attempt, the College of Engineering is considering attempting to break the record every year with a new group of students as a team-building exercise for the Engineering Learning Community.
Failing may not be a good feeling, but giving up because of failure is even worse. Once you achieve your goal, it will mean so much more knowing all the time and effort you put into it. Putting the effort in demonstrates to outsiders that you are trying and willing to do what it takes to succeed, regardless of the outcome. Failure should be seen as an opportunity for reflection about what did and did not work as well as what can be improved. View what worked as a small success, and use that as a building block for your next attempt.
We can get so caught up in trying not to fail that we allow ourselves to settle, afraid to take a risk that could lead to a grand success. Don’t allow yourself to settle for mediocrity just because it will get you by for the meantime. If you are working toward something, put everything you have into it without the fear of failing. Allow yourself to realize that rejection or any kind of failure does not define who you are. Instead, view it as an opportunity to better yourself for the future.