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Live and Learn

I was struggling with my first full time job while I was down in Hawaii. I was rounding the corner of the job in question, and starting to pull my own weight. I wasn’t there yet, and the superintendent of the golf course, my boss, was still dubious that I could be trusted to do the everyday tasks needed of his employees. I was 25 years old, living, and working in Hawaii, and doing a lot more living than working. In other words, I wasn’t taking my job that seriously. To critique myself even further, I was failing. The job and the lifestyle I was living was wearing on me heavily. I lined up another gig on the island and quit this course maintenance job where I was starting to prove myself and show promise. After taking my new role as a camera guy for a tourist snorkeling boat cruise, I was fired after the second day. I was left with no job and a mind on the brink of mania. Clearly, it was time to go home to Chicago.

As I already pointed out, I failed at making it on my own in Hawaii. After assessing what went wrong with my Hawaii excursion, I came out much stronger. I knew what it took to succeed. More importantly, I wasn’t afraid to fail.

They’ll often tell you, ‘take the road less traveled’. In my life I have done exactly that. There’s nothing cookie cutter about the path I’ve been down. I would argue that not only have I taken the road less traveled, but I’ve been busy creating a road that didn’t otherwise exist. With a Boston College education, I have never held a job with a salary. I have worked for minimum wage up and into my thirties. To this day, I have yet to take a job where a four year accredited college degree is required. Should I be better about using my connections to land an office job where I would find myself in a more suitable financial position? Sure. But I learned something from failing at that first full time job in Hawaii; I live for those life experiences that most people never take.

I’m reminded about a golf round I had with a coworker years ago. It started off on the wrong foot right away. The coworker I ended up golfing with made it pretty obvious that we were competing against one another rather than helping each other out in order to both have great scores. In all honesty, I was done playing with the kid after the sixth hole. I had packed it in because not only was I playing bad, but I wasn’t having any fun. I continued to play the rest of the round, but was more just playing for shots rather than for score. We get to the back nine, and on one of the par fives, I slice my ball into the woods. My playing partner is rolling his eyes because I want to go look for the errand shot. Sure enough, my ball has settled in the semi-deep woods on top of a dirty and sandy patch of land. I get behind the ball and see a clear opening between tree branches in the form of a triangle. I don’t hesitate, I grab a five iron and ask my ultra competitive playing partner if I’m allowed to ground my club before the shot. He shrugs as if to say that he could care less. I decide not to ground the club. I pure the five iron shot and shoot the ball straight through the small opening by which I was aiming. It was perfect. So we drive forward down the fairway where I should have a chance to get on the green in regulation. However, there was a two foot wide drainage creek cutting through the fairway. After taking even more time looking for my ball, I find it embedded in the bank of the creek. I was happy with the shot I had just taken, and was holding up play. I picked my ball up and was in my pocket for the remainder of the hole. The kid I was with shook his head at my terrible play. Meanwhile, I’m all smiles as I just hit the shot of the day and a shot that I would remember forever.

My playing partner kept score the entire time. I never played with him again. He treated me like I was terrible at golf -- I failed at proving to this guy that I was a worthy playing partner. Truth is, I was happy to not play with him again. He might have beat me that one time, but it was not a pleasurable round.

What I’m trying to point out by this story is that it is okay to fail. Whether you fail at a job or just fail at a round of golf, there is always going to be an important lesson or take away from your failure. Failing at my job in Hawaii I learned that I needed to pay more attention to my work in any job I was to undertake in the future. In golf, all I’ve ever done is fail. But each round you learn what you need to work on for the next round. Or, as is often the case, you have that one shot that you will never forget. The shot you hit through the trees on the screws. Failure allows you to grow so much more as a person. Although it's not ideal, failure should be anticipated and welcomed. It will only make you stronger as long as you can take a step back and reassess. I know I’m going to fail time and time again; I can accept it because the path that leads me through so much failure will ultimately be so much more original and undoubtedly unforgettable.

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