There are a few valuable lessons I have learned and utilized in my eighteen years of existence.
Even though graduation is a celebration of the success of my fellow graduates, I would like to divert everyone’s attention from the success that has brought us here to the failures and setbacks that have led us here.
The advantages of failure, hardships and setbacks, and the value of goals and dreams.
Though you have considerable reason to wonder, I hope that I can influence your thoughts and make you reconsider your perception of what is often considered a “downfall of the individual.”
No matter how privileged one is, we all experience failure and setbacks in our lifetime. They are inevitable. In her commencement address to Harvard University, J.K. Rowling humbly said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
I say, do not be afraid to fail. Being afraid to fail means you’re afraid to live. On the other hand, being willing to fail means you’re willing to experience and embark on unknown journey with an unforeseen destination. That, in turn, symbolizes courage and automatic success.
Without failure, what constitutes success? The word “success” would be stripped of its very epitome without what we like to call “failure.”
Success would then be a shallow accomplishment or desired result with no adversity having been overcome or obstacle having been surmounted in the process. That is not success. That evokes no pride, no real triumph, nor does it furnish our beings with those qualities on which we can rely and be reassured. An accomplishment is not an accomplishment without having faced opposition.
That would be equivalent to a soccer player making a goal with not goalie. What would be the purpose? If it was easy getting to where we are at this very moment and had we encountered no obstacles, we would not need a ceremony to celebrate it, would we?
Robert H. Schuller summarized it best when he inquired, “What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
I stand before you today a success, and a failure alike, molded by my setbacks and hardships. One of my greatest – and I say greatest instead of worst – setbacks in my life has been my health. Persistent health problems have proved to be some forceful storms in my life. It was in sixth grade that I started experiencing these storms. In and out of doctors’ offices and the hospital, the cause of my problems still remains unknown, but the problems still remain. It came to a point where I expected to continuously experience my worst day every day. Waking up and seeing my mom cry beside me as I laid in a hospital bed, an unfamiliar, frail, ghostly person seeming to be consuming my body, I decided that I would not live my life feeling sorry for myself and resenting my illness because of what it took from me – my hobbies, friends, leisure time, my abilities, that light that had before been present in my eyes and in my mom’s.
Like J.K. Rowling, I decided that I would rebuild my life on that rock bottom which I had found myself. I encourage everyone to identify that unstable structure in which you may find yourselves, and build your foundation. Learn from your failures and setbacks and use them to your advantage. The true measure of who you are as a person is not founded upon your accomplishments and success, but instead, what is left of you after weathering the storms.
I find the words of Henry David Thoreau to be immensely helpful. “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Moreover, “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
I encourage you to remain steadfast in your goals and dreams. Whatever you do, do not change your goals – you set them for a reason. If you have to, simply change your direction to reach your goals – even if that entails taking many different directions. Ultimately, you will make it to your destination. Allow your goals to continually mold you into the person you will become.
In conclusion, I hope you take advantage of your failures, setbacks, hardships, and heartaches. Also, stay true to your goals and allow them to better you.