8 failures that Have Lead me to Where I’m at Today
Last week sometime I was having lunch with an old friend from business school who I hadn’t seen in the last 6 months. She asked me about what I’d been up to so I started to share some of my recent stories with her and she reminded me of the fact there had been a few things that I thought were the end of the world when they happened. It made me to start to think about all of the “failures” that have brought me to the place I am today.
Rejected By Northwestern School of Music: Some of you who are new to my blog may or may not know that I was almost a music major in college. I played the tuba for almost 15 years and I’ve included a video below of me playing a concerto in case you fancy loud sustained booming sounds. In high school, one of my dreams was to attend Northwestern University. I still remember the day of the audition. I was in Evanston in the middle of February and my audition was at 3pm. The weather sucked and I wandered around Evanston only to realize that a high school kid with no friends in this town couldn’t spend much more than 3 hours there. So, I went to the music building around noon after I was completely frozen and spent a few hours practicing. My audition was not a complete disaster, but I more or less knew I was not going to be attending Northwestern in the fall. In retrospect, considering I can’t stand the cold, it was a blessing in disguise. I also can’t imagine spending my life as a professional tuba player. Basically you have to wait for somebody to die for a spot to open up in an orchestra.
Graduated Berkeley with a 2.97 and Not a Single Girlfriend:I don’t know if I’m alone here, but I wasn’t very happy when I was in college. After the first year, the optimism I had entered school with started to fade. My dream of being a top student and getting straight A’s was more or less shot when I got a C in an economics class and finished the school year with a less than stellar GPA. The next 3 years were a battle of ups and downs. My sophomore year my roommate drank an entire bottle of scotch in one sitting and ended up hospitalized for depression and his depression rubbed off on me. Every attempt at a new major or new subject area resulted in less than stellar grades. By the time I was a junior I declared a major that I had no interest in as a means to an end. I was an environmental economics and policy major. I don’t know a damn thing about any of that today. My social life more or less centered around the Indian community at Berkeley and my senior year I was an officer for the Indian student club at Berkeley, an organization with over 1000 members. So that definitely shined a light on my social life. But, the idea that I was going to graduate college without ever meeting anybody absolutely terrified me. Then at the end of my senior year, my roommate of two years, some of my closest friends and I had a huge falling out. To add to all this I had taken on such a heavy course load, attempted to take 5 finals 4 days and got a D in a class, the sunk my GPA below 3.0. That ruled out almost any job that reputable companies recruited for. After 4.5 years, shitty grades, and no girlfriend I was more than happy to be done with Berkeley. Oddly, after all this I still love going back to Berkeley because there were alot of good times too, and I’m more fond of Berkeley now than I was when I was in school. It took this experience to make me realize I was completely dependent on other people for my happiness and that’s a really dangerous place to be. It was really the start of many of my life lessons from my 20’s.
Fired from my Very First Job Out of College: My very first job out of college was for a software startup. For 9 months I slaved away for 13 hours a day, generated sales for no commissions and got fired 5 days before Christmas. This lead to 5 more years of IBS, ADHD, and uphill career battles. I was pretty demoralized by the experience but like many things it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise.
Rejected by Every Business School I applied to: After all these year’s of working, I finally decided it was time to apply to business school. I hired a business school admissions consultant who decided to help me write an essay about what he described as “this crucible called a career.” I had far too many jobs for somebody that was under 30. How that was going to make a convincing case to a business school admissions officer that I knew what I wanted was going to be a challenge. I took the GMAT 3 times and finally topped out at 640. By the time April rolled around I had been rejected by all the business schools I applied to, so I submitted an application to Pepperdine 2 weeks before their deadline and got accepted. It was my last resort and I was not too pleased with that.
Turned down for a summer internship by Harrahs: I entered business school in the Fall of 2007 with the intention of working in the entertainment industry and “getting as far away from this internet bullshi3$# as possible(ironic huh).” I quickly learned that I had no desire to work in the entertainment industry and instead became convinced that my calling was to go and work in the gaming industry. After all I had mastered getting free drinks and getting treated like a VIP everywhere you go. So, it seemed this would be a natural fit. Harrah’s didn’t recruit at Pepperdine so I got on Linkedin in September and started building a network of contacts by conducting informational interviews. By the time February had rolled around I had built a small army of contacts in Harrahs. I went to their annual MBA poker tournament and by the end of it I was on everybody’s radar. 3 weeks went by and I didn’t hear a thing and finally I got an email saying that I had been selected for an interview. I was ecstatic and i aced the first two interviews and was invited to one of their properties for an on-site interview. When I got to the interview I had to take a standardized test similar to the GMAT that the company used to evaluate all MBA candidates. I aced the interview but bombed the test. That was the end of my shot at Harrahs.
Not Receiving a Job Offer After my Summer Internship at Intuit:With Harrahs no longer an option, I was blessed with the opportunity to be a social media strategy intern at Intuit. I figured if I couldn’t’ do Harrah’s at least I would make good money and have a great name on my resume. In the 3 months that I was at Intuit I took a deep dive into everything social media, started about 3 failed blogs and did a few other things. But at the end of my summer internship my boss informed me that they would not be making an offer because I didn’t demonstrate the leadership qualities they had hoped for and I was somewhat selfish. To his credit, he told me that he was doing me a favor and that I was an idea guy that needed to do things that enabled me to have more ownership of things. I guess he was right and I’m pretty grateful that he didn’t make me an offer. Personally taxes don’t excite me that much and if it didn’t involve jail time I would be glad not to pay them.
Not finding a job after business school: This is one that I think was the ultimate blessing in disguise more than any of my other failures. Last night I was at a networking event and ended up running into a few people who had interviewed me around this time last year, but did not make me job offers. When I look back at that, I realize it all happen for a reason. It all happened exactly the way it was supposed to.
So, what the hell is the point to all this? Is it that I want to share my sob story with you? No, not at all. In fact if anything I hope that you will see one lesson that I finally understand. Often, the path to success is paved with massive amounts of failure. Today I’m on a completely different trajectory. I’m happier than I’ve ever been and everything that I have been through has been a character building experience. Fail sooner, fail more, and you’ll succeed sooner and succeed more.
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