The majority of personal successes in life are usually accomplished after the individual determines to not give up when they experience a failure. This reality should suggest that dreams and goals are absolutely possible, but most often aren’t achieved because we quit during the ascent up the hill, not realizing the prize is just a few more steps away. Likewise, this truth should also suggest that any dream or goal, in order to be accomplished, most certainly will be accompanied by temporary failures and requires consistent effort. Would you believe me if I told you that my personal journey to become the Student Body President of my high school actually demonstrates this very principle; and more importantly, should suggest to everyone what is necessary to become successful in anything in life.
It was the fall of 1994, and I was perhaps unlike most 7th graders who had just started middle school because I was absolutely determined to do whatever it took to accomplish one of my boyhood dreams and goals – and that was to become the Student Body President when I got to high school. You probably would not have found anyone who was more committed to and desirous to achieve their goal, and willing to do whatever it took to accomplish it.
However, like most of our dreams and goals in life, as we pursue them we inevitably face challenges, set backs, disappointments, doubts and fear, and even occasional failures. Such was the case in pursuit of my dream. I ran for 7th grade class president, anticipating that winning this election would only help me in the path that led to the accomplishment of my dream. However, little did I realize that I would be running against the star running back of the football team and undoubtedly the most popular kid in our grade. To say the least – I lost the election.
For whatever reason, in the moment of failure, we often wrongfully assume that we personally are failures, and we thus fail because we don’t recognize that our failings are a necessary step on the journey to our success. Within seconds after the election results were announced, I went from being the most confident, goal-oriented, success driven 7th grader ever, to an individual who had lost his self-esteem, no longer believed in himself, and essentially gave up on his dream.
Like we all do far too often, I allowed the losing results of the election to determine my potential and serve as the excuse as to why my dream was never achieved. For years, I gave up on my dream; and perhaps more detrimental, I didn’t even believe it was possible anymore. And yet, when these common situations in life occur, I don’t believe that our goals or dreams ever fully diminish. At one point or another, those who truly become great are the ones with enough courage to continue to pursue their dream no matter how many times they have failed, how difficult it has and will still be, how much money or time has been lost, and how impossible it may seem.
It was not until the 11th grade – 4 years later – that the initial desire and belief started to be revived within me again to pursue my dream. Although emotionally scared from the past experience years ago, I was still determined to achieve my dream, and I knew that time was running out. I decided to run for a Jr. Class Officer position. The difficulty of this task was not in campaigning so much as it was daily having to eliminate the voices of fear, doubt, and failure that constantly were screaming in my head. Thankfully I won the election; but I have often wondered as I reflect back upon the situation, if I actually won because of popularity reasons or because I believed in myself, overcame fear and doubt, worked extremely hard, and did not give up on my dream.
Perhaps the most amazing lesson learned and change that occurred on my journey to my goal was what happened during my Jr. year as I served as a class officer. For the first time in my life, I realized that in order to accomplish my personal goal, I actually needed to forget about myself (and even the goal), and seek to help and serve others. From organizing service projects, to supporting teams and clubs, to even having lunch with students who perhaps did not have too many friends, ironically I rediscovered my own self-confidence through serving and helping others. The right kind of popularity, I learned, was not found from success on the football field, in the classroom, or even because you are on student government – it was made evident in the character reflected from the mirror and the service rendered to others.
Towards the end of my Jr. year, the time came for the very election that I had desired and pursued for over five years. After a long and close race, and before the election results were announced, I distinctly remember reflecting on the past five years that led me to where I was at. I’ll never forget how as I sat there, a feeling of complete satisfaction and accomplishment came over me – and remember, the results had not been announced yet. I felt as though, in many ways, I had already succeeded because I never gave up on my dream and I had tried my very hardest to accomplish it. Perhaps more importantly, in the process I had learned what true success was in life. It wasn’t in becoming a Student Body President – it was discovered in losing myself for others’ sake. Thus, dealing with the potential disappointment from another election loss would certainly be easier than the disappointment that would accompany the dream being realized if I had failed in other more important areas of life.
Thankfully, the dream was realized, and I fortunately had another year to serve my fellow classmates as their Student Body President. So – what is your ‘Student Body President’ dream in life? Do you believe that it is possible to achieve – and are you willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it (regardless of the failures that probably will happen along the way)? Remember that my dream was not realized because I was more popular, talented, or ran a better campaign; I won because of the simple elements necessary to achieve success in anything: desire, belief, action, getting up after failing, and persisting until the dream was realized. More importantly, the true success came not because the dream was realized, but because of the character developed and the people helped along the journey.